Job Search & Interview

How to Ask for a Reference (Email Templates and Examples)

In today’s competitive job market, having a list of strong references can be the difference between landing your dream job and continuing your job search.

According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management, 87% of employers conduct reference checks as part of the hiring process. This article will guide you on how to ask for reference with practical email examples and templates.

Importance Of References In Job Applications

References play a pivotal role in job applications. They serve as a testament to your skills, work ethic, and character, providing potential employers and hiring managers with a more comprehensive picture of you as a candidate. 

A strong reference can validate the achievements and qualifications on your Curriculum Vitae (CV), giving prospective employers confidence in their decision to hire you. Moreover, references can provide insights into your ability to fit into the company culture, a factor that’s increasingly important in today’s workplace. 

Remember, by the time an employer is checking your references, you’re likely close to receiving a job offer. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure your references can provide information that aligns with the job you’re applying for. This will increase your chances to get the job.

how to ask for a reference

How To Ask For A Reference – 6 Critical Steps

Step 1: Research and Identify Potential References

Job seekers should consider two primary types of references: professional and personal. 

  • Professional references are individuals who can attest to your work-related skills and experiences. They can be current or former employers, supervisors, colleagues, or even clients. These references can provide potential employers with insights into your job performance, work ethic, and professional accomplishments. 
  • Personal references, often called character references, can vouch for your personal attributes and character. They can be long-term friends, mentors, or anyone who knows you well personally but is not a family member. 

While professional references often carry more weight, personal references can be valuable, especially for recent graduates or those with limited work experience. 

how to ask for a reference

How to choose the most appropriate references for your application

I have written a comprehensive guide on how to choose professional references in this article. In summary, here are key considerations when selecting individuals who can provide a strong endorsement for you:

  • Relevance: Choose references who can speak directly to the skills and experiences required for the role. A former supervisor from a similar job or a professor from a relevant course can provide valuable insights.
  • Familiarity: Select individuals who know you well and can provide detailed examples of your work and achievements. This could be a previous employer, a mentor, or a long-term colleague. These individuals can be a valuable addition to your list of references.
  • Professional Standing: Ensure your potential reference has a good professional reputation and is respected in their field. Their endorsement can carry significant weight.
  • Willingness: Always ask the person if they are comfortable to serve as a reference for you. This ensures they are prepared to give a positive and informed reference when contacted by a potential employer.

Read More: What To Do If I Don’t Have Three References When Being Asked In Interview?

Step 2: Establishing a Connection with Potential References

Establishing a connection with potential references is a crucial step before asking someone to be a reference. Here’s how you can build rapport with your potential references:

  • Assess Your Relationship: Evaluate your relationship with each potential reference. Do they have a good understanding of your skills and work ethic? Are you comfortable asking them for a reference? A strong existing relationship can lead to a more compelling reference. An effective way to do this is by offering to be a reference for them when they leave the organization. This gesture is often reciprocated, and you end up with a potential reference for the future.
  • Stay Connected: Even before starting your job search, it’s good to stay in touch with potential references. Regular check-ins, updates about your career, or even casual conversations can help maintain these relationships.
  • Reconnect: If it’s been a while since you last spoke, take the time to reconnect. You could send an email or a message, updating them about your current situation and expressing interest in catching up.
  • Build Rapport: Engage in meaningful conversations and show genuine interest in their lives. This can help strengthen your relationship and make them more inclined to assist you when you need a reference.

A strong connection with your references can lead to more effective and personalized recommendations, enhancing your chances of securing the job.

how to ask for a reference

Step 3: Crafting a Thoughtful Request

Crafting a thoughtful request for a reference is an art that requires careful consideration. It’s not just about asking for a favor; it’s about showing respect for the person’s time and expertise, and expressing your value for their opinion. Here’s how you can craft a thoughtful request:

The Importance of a Personalized Message

A personalized message shows that you value the individual and the unique perspective they bring. It’s not just a generic request; it’s a message tailored to them, acknowledging your relationship and their specific knowledge of your skills and experiences.

how to ask for a reference

Key Elements to Include in Your Request for a Reference

  • Introduction and Reminder of Past Connection: Start your message by reminding the person of your connection. This could be a project you worked on together, a class you took with them, or any other shared experience that they would remember.
  • Explanation of Why You Value Their Opinion: Express why you have chosen them as a potential reference. This could be because of their role, their understanding of your work, or the respect you have for their professional opinion.
  • Specific Information About the Position You’re Applying For: Provide details about the job you’re applying for, including the company name, position, and key responsibilities. This will help them tailor their reference to the specific requirements of the job.
  • A Clear Request for Their Support and Willingness to Provide a Reference: Clearly ask if they would be willing to provide a reference for you. Be respectful and understand that they may decline for various reasons.
  • Gratitude for Their Assistance and Willingness to Help: Always end your message by expressing your gratitude. Thank them for considering your request and for their support in your job search.

Read More: What Is Purpose Of References In Job Application?

Step 4: Following Up and Maintaining Communication

You’ve carefully crafted and sent your reference requests, eagerly awaiting a positive response from your potential references. However, as the days turn into a week, you find your inbox void of their replies.

It’s important to remember that people often get caught up in their busy lives, and emails can sometimes be overlooked or put on hold. This is a common occurrence, so there’s no need to worry.

When this happens, it’s time to consider a follow-up. Here’s how you can approach this effectively:

Timing Your Follow-Up Effectively

After sending your initial request, give your potential reference some time to respond. A good rule of thumb is to wait about a week before following up. This gives them enough time to consider your request without feeling rushed.

Handling a Delayed or Non-Responsive Reference

If your potential reference hasn’t responded after a week, it’s appropriate to send a polite follow-up message. Remind them of your request and express your understanding of their busy schedule. If they still don’t respond, it may be best to consider other potential references.

how to ask for a reference

Demonstrating Appreciation and Updates Throughout the Process

Regardless of their response, always express your gratitude for their time and consideration. If they agree to be your reference, keep them updated throughout your job search process. Let them know when you’ve submitted your application, if you’ve been called for an interview, and when you’ve been offered the new job. This not only shows your appreciation but also keeps them engaged in your job search journey.

Step 5: Preparing Your References

Preparing your references will ensure that your references are equipped to provide a strong and relevant endorsement of your skills, qualifications, and character.

When your references are well-prepared, they can provide specific examples of your work, highlight your strengths, and confirm your suitability for the role. This can significantly enhance your credibility and increase your chances of securing the job.

Here’s how you can do it:

Providing Necessary Details to Your References

Inform your references about your job search and ask for their permission to list them as references. Provide them with your contact information and the best way to reach you.

Educating Them About the Job You are Applying For

Give your reference details about the job you’re applying for, including the job description, key responsibilities, and why you’re interested in the role. This will help them tailor their reference to the specific job requirements.

Sharing Your Updated Resume and Relevant Achievements

Before you start your application process, ensure your CV is up-to-date, well-written, and clear. This document will provide your referees with a comprehensive overview of your skills, experiences, and accomplishments.

Read More: No News After Reference Check? Here’s What to Do

Step 6: Thanking Your References

After your referee has agreed to provide a good reference, it’s crucial to follow up with a thank you email or card. This gesture shows your appreciation for their time and effort. If you’re successful in your application, consider sending another note to let them know the outcome.

This ongoing communication helps to maintain a positive relationship with your referee, which could be beneficial for future reference requests.

You also can demonstrate your gratitude by expressing your willingness to reciprocate the favor. This could be as simple as, “Please know that I am here to assist you in any way possible, whether it’s providing a reference or any other support you might need.”

how to ask for a reference

Read More: 38 Unique Letter Of Recommendation Thank You Gift Ideas

How to Ask for a Reference – Sample Emails and Templates

Sample email asking for reference from a current employer

It’s important to understand that asking your current employer to be a reference while you’re still employed can be a delicate matter. Revealing that you’re planning to leave may not be well-received and could potentially affect the quality of the reference you receive.

Most employers understand that they should not contact your current employer for a reference until you’ve formally resigned. Often, job offers are made contingent on receiving a reference from your current employer.

This gives you an opportunity to inform your boss about your new position and ask if they would be comfortable providing a reference.

Here is a reference email sample you can use:

Subject Line: Request for Job Reference

Dear [Boss’s Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I am writing to inform you that I have recently been offered a new position at [Company Name] and have decided to accept this opportunity to further my career.

As part of the final steps in their hiring process, they have requested a reference from my current employer. Given our professional relationship and your understanding of my work, I believe that a reference from you would provide a comprehensive and accurate representation of my skills and experiences.

If you are comfortable providing a reference, I would greatly appreciate it. I am confident that your insights into my performance and abilities would be invaluable to them.

Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to your positive response.

Best regards, 
[Your Name]

Sample email asking for reference from a previous employer

Here’s how to ask previous employer for reference example:

Subject Line: Request for Employment Reference

Dear [Recipient’s Name],

I trust this message finds you well. I was employed at [Company Name] during the period of [insert dates]. Recently, I have been presented with an opportunity to work as a [Job Title] at [New Company Name], and they have requested a reference from you. Would you be able to assist?

Please let me know the appropriate person at [Company Name] to whom I should direct this request. They have asked that I furnish this information by [insert date]. If you need any additional details or have any queries, please feel free to reach out.

Look forward to your favorable response.

Best regards,
[Your Name]
[Your Contact Information]

Sample email asking for reference from a professor

If you are a recent graduate and lack professional references, you can ask your university or college professors for support. It’s important to ask professors who know you well enough to provide detailed and personalized references.

Here is a sample email asking for reference from professor:

Subject Line: Request for Academic Reference

Dear Professor [Professor’s Last Name],

I hope this message finds you well. I was a student in your [course name] class during the [semester/year] at [university name]. I greatly appreciated the knowledge and insights I gained in your class.

I am currently in the process of applying for a [job/internship opportunity] at [company name] and they have requested references. As a recent graduate, my professional references are limited.

Given my academic performance in your class, I believe a reference from you would significantly strengthen my application.

I’ve attached my updated resume and cover letter for your review. If you’re comfortable providing me a reference, could you please let me know the best contact details I should include in my application? The deadline for applications is (insert date).

Thank you for considering my request. I truly appreciate your support.

Best Regards,

(Your name)

How To Ask Someone To Be Your Reference Via Text

Asking someone to be your reference via text is generally less formal than other methods, but it can be appropriate in certain scenarios. If you have a close relationship with the person and regularly communicate via text, it may be acceptable.

This could be a former colleague, a mentor, or a supervisor with whom you have maintained a friendly relationship. It’s also important to consider the nature of the job you’re applying for. If it’s a casual or informal environment, a text request might be suitable.

However, even in these scenarios, it’s crucial to maintain a professional tone, clearly explain the situation, and express gratitude for their assistance. Always follow up with a formal email if they agree to be your reference.

Here is a reference request template you can use:

Hi [Their Name], I hope you’re doing well. I’m applying for a position as a global sales manager for a publicly traded company. We worked together in a similar capacity in the past. Would you be willing to be a reference for me and discuss my skills in this area?. Please let me know if you’re okay with this, and I can provide any additional information you might need.

Wrapping Up

As you continue your job search, remember that your references are an essential part of your job application. Learning how to ask for a reference effectively can be invaluable. They provide potential employers with a deeper understanding of your skills, work ethic, and character. So, choose your references wisely, ask them politely, and don’t forget to thank them for their help.

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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