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How To Ask Someone To Be a Reference?

Written by:
Reviewed by: Paul McCoy
How To Ask Someone To Be a Reference?

Whether you’re applying for a job, seeking a scholarship or pursuing a new opportunity, having strong references can make all the difference. In today’s competitive job market, a glowing endorsement from a former manager or colleague can set you apart from the rest. But, approaching someone and asking them to vouch for your professional abilities can be a daunting task. Fear not, though! With the right approach and some careful planning, you can request a reference with confidence and get the best possible outcome. Here’s how to ask someone to be a reference without any hesitation.

1. Understanding the Importance of Professional References

What are Professional References?

Professional references are individuals who can vouch for a job applicant’s skills, work ethic, and character. They are often former managers, supervisors, colleagues, or clients that can provide valuable insights into an applicant’s potential as an employee.

Why are Professional References Important?

Professional references are an essential part of any job application process. They provide employers with a way to verify an applicant’s qualifications and suitability for a role. Managers and HR staff rely on references to provide them with objective insights into an applicant’s work history, their abilities, and their overall character.

Here are some reasons why professional references are crucial:

They help build trust: Having strong references can help build a sense of trust between the applicant and potential employer. Hiring managers often look to references to confirm that what they have read on an applicant’s resume is accurate and truthful.

They provide additional information: References can provide additional insights into an applicant’s work style, attitude, and interactions with colleagues. This information can be valuable in assessing whether an applicant is a good fit for a particular role or team.

They demonstrate professionalism: Providing strong references demonstrates an applicant’s professionalism and preparedness, and can set them apart from other candidates who may not have taken the time to secure quality references.

Overall, professional references are an essential tool for job seekers looking to land their next role. By cultivating strong references, applicants can build trust, provide additional information, and demonstrate their professionalism to potential employers.

2. Tips for Choosing the Right Person as a Reference

1. Choose Someone who Knows You Well

When selecting a reference, opt for someone who knows you well and can speak to your strengths and abilities. This could be a former employer, a colleague, or a teacher or professor. Selecting someone who knows you well will give the reference credibility and allow them to speak more authentically about your abilities and character.

2. Consider the Relevance of the Reference

It’s essential to select a reference who is relevant to the job or opportunity you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying for a job in marketing, it’s best to select a reference who has worked with you in a marketing-related capacity to speak to your skills and expertise in that field. Opting for a reference in a different field may not be as helpful.

3. Ask for Permission and Provide Context

It’s essential to ask for permission before using someone as a reference. Once you’ve secured their permission, provide them with context about the job or opportunity you’re applying for, so they can tailor their comments to that specific context. It’s also essential to give your reference ample time to prepare for any potential phone calls or emails they may receive and provide them with an updated version of your resume and cover letter so they can speak more specifically about your skills and experience.

Overall, choosing the right person as a reference can make or break your job or opportunity. Take your time and carefully consider who you select, ensuring they know you well, are relevant, and have provided permission and context for their comments.

3. How to Approach Someone to be Your Reference

1. Choose the Right Person

When choosing someone to be your reference, it’s important to select someone who has worked closely with you and knows your work well. Typically, references are former colleagues, supervisors, or managers. Before asking someone to be your reference, make sure to reconnect with them and confirm whether they’re willing and available to provide a reference for you. Additionally, ensure that the person you select will have positive things to say about you, your skills, and experience.

2. Make Contact Professionally and Mindfully

Once you’ve identified a person you’d like to act as your reference, reach out to them and communicate your request with professionalism and mindfulness. Consider sending a polite email or leaving a message with your request. Ensure you provide your contact information so that your reference can get back to you when they’re available. Additionally, explain how it will assist you in securing the job you’re seeking, and express gratitude for their willingness to support you.

3. Prepare Your Reference

Before an employer or recruiter reaches out to your reference, it’s essential to brief them on the job you’re seeking and provide a copy of your resume. It’s also helpful to remind them of your skills and achievements, so they can confidently speak about your abilities when asked. Make sure your reference is aware of any specific areas you may have highlighted in your interview or application, so they can prepare accordingly. Finally, send a thank you note to your reference for their time and support in your job search.

4. Crafting the Perfect Request for a Reference

Once you have decided on the person who you want to ask for a reference, now comes the crucial step of crafting your request. Keep in mind that this request can make or break the entire reference process. Here are some tips to help you write a request that is tailored, impactful, and professional.

Be clear and concise: You need to be clear about what you want from the person and why you are asking for a reference in the first place. Don’t beat around the bush – communicate your request clearly and directly. Explain that you value their opinion and their reference would mean a lot to you. Be sure to include the details of the job or opportunity you are applying for.

Give context: Remind the person about your relationship with them, including any shared projects, roles, or accomplishments. This will help refresh their memory and will make it easier for them to write a positive and tailored reference.

Provide instructions: Let the person know what they need to do and when. Specify how they should submit their reference – whether it’s directly to the employer or to you so you can forward it. Include the due date and any other important details you would like them to know.

Make sure to thank them for their time and consideration, and let them know that you appreciate their help. Always follow up with them to ensure they received the request and to thank them again for their time. With these tips in mind, you can craft the perfect request for a reference that is clear, concise, contextual, and professional.

5. Preparing Your References for Potential Employers

Choose the Right References

When choosing references, make sure to select people who are familiar with your work, skills, and strengths. They should also be able to speak highly of you and your performance. Ideally, these references should be individuals who have supervised or worked closely with you in a professional capacity. Additionally, it’s important to choose references who are reliable and responsive, as potential employers will likely want to speak with them in a timely manner.

Prepare Your References

Once you’ve selected your references, it’s important to prepare them for potential employers. This includes providing them with a copy of your most recent resume and highlighting any specific skills or experiences that you’d like them to focus on. You should also inform your references about the types of jobs you’re applying for, so they can tailor their feedback accordingly. Finally, make sure to check in with your references from time to time to ensure that their contact information is up-to-date.

Follow-Up with Your References

After you’ve given potential employers the contact information for your references, it’s important to follow up with them. This not only demonstrates your professionalism, but also ensures that your references are aware that they may be contacted. Additionally, it’s a good idea to give your references a heads up before they are contacted, so they can prepare to provide a glowing recommendation. Finally, make sure to thank your references for their time and assistance throughout your job search process.

6. Following Up and Expressing Gratitude to Your References

Once you’ve secured a few professional references, express gratitude for their assistance in your job search. Don’t forget about following up with them periodically to keep your relationship going. This section will help you understand how to follow up with your references in a professional and polite way, and express your gratitude to them for their support.

A few tips for following up could include sending a thank-you note or email after they’ve agreed to be a reference for you. If you have had a job interview, update them on the status of your job search or let them know when you receive an offer. Keep the conversation going by asking how they are doing and sharing any relevant updates in your life or professional achievements.

It’s also important to send a thank you note or email after someone gives you a reference, thanking them for their time and support. A sincere and specific thank you message can go a long way in solidifying your relationship with them. Be sure to keep their contact information up to date and let them know if you land a job, so they can share in your success. By properly following up with your references and expressing your gratitude, you will not only show your appreciation, but also maintain a positive relationship with them for future reference opportunities.

People Also Ask

1. Who should I ask to be a reference?

Choose someone who knows your work well and has a positive view of your abilities, such as a former supervisor, coworker, or professor. It’s best to ask someone who has worked with you recently and can speak to your current skills and experience.

2. What should I say when asking someone to be a reference?

Be polite and to the point. Tell them you are applying for a job and would like to use them as a reference. Ask if they are willing to be a reference for you and if they have any questions about the job or your qualifications.

3. When should I ask someone to be a reference?

Ask them well in advance of when you need the reference, to allow time for them to prepare. Give them adequate notice and provide them with the job description and your resume, so they can speak to your skills and experience related to the position.

4. Can I ask someone to be a reference if I haven’t spoken to them in a while?

It’s better to ask someone who you have spoken to recently, as they will have a better idea of your current skills and achievements. However, if you have maintained a good relationship with the person, they may still be willing to be a reference for you.

5. What if someone declines to be my reference?

Respect their decision and thank them for their time. You don’t want someone to be a reference if they are not enthusiastic about your abilities or if they can’t speak to your skills and experience. Find someone else who is willing to be a reference for you.


Asking someone to be a reference can be nerve-wracking. Make sure to choose someone who knows your work well and has a positive view of your abilities. It’s also important to give them adequate notice and provide them with the job description and your resume. If someone declines, don’t take it personally and find someone else who is willing to be a reference.

John Alexander

John Alexander

Digital Content Producer/EditorNovice 👶
Living in the vibrant city of Seattle, Washington, I thrive as a Digital Content Producer where the intersection of technology and creativity energizes me every day. With a passion for storytelling and an insatiable curiosity for innovation, I craft content that engages, informs, and inspires. My experience extends beyond content creation; I also excel in the role of editor, meticulously refining digital narratives and overseeing the editorial process to ensure optimal quality and coherence. This dual expertise allows me to not only create compelling content but also to guide and collaborate with fellow creators to elevate their work. Fueled by coffee, indie music, and the endless rain that defines my beloved city, I find the perfect backdrop here in Seattle to produce digital narratives that resonate across global audiences. When I'm not immersed in the digital realm, you can find me exploring Seattle's eclectic neighborhoods or attending local tech and creative events, always seeking new sources of inspiration for my next project.

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