How to Ask for a Reference for Employment

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When you ask for a reference, how you ask is really important. You need to be sure that the person who is recommending you for employment is willing and able to give you a good reference. That's really important because your references can be what makes the difference in getting - or not getting - a job offer.

In addition, you shouldn't give out anyone's name as a reference without their permission.

The individual who is giving you a reference needs to know ahead of time that they may be contacted regarding a reference for you.

How To Ask For an Employment Reference

You can ask for a reference by phone or by email. Email can be a good way to request a reference, because if the person isn't comfortable recommending you it can be easier to decline by sending an email message than by telling you in person.

When you ask for reference, don't just say "Could you give me a reference?" or "Could you write a reference letter for me?" Instead, ask "Do you think you know my work well enough to provide me with a reference?" or "Do you feel comfortable giving me a reference" or "Do you feel you could give me a good reference?" This way, your reference giver has an out if they don't believe they can provide a strong endorsement or if they don't have the time to write a letter or take phone calls from employers on your behalf.

When the person you are asking for a reference replies positively offer to provide an updated copy of your resume, to share your LinkedIn profile, if you have one, and to provide information on your skills and experiences so your reference has current and relevant information on your employment history and skills.

How to Ask for a LinkedIn Reference

It's easy to request a recommendation via LinkedIn's messaging system. When you request a recommendation, ask the person to recommend you if they can and if they have the time. This way they have an out if they aren't interested in giving you a reference, are precluded by company policy from giving references, or don't feel they know you well enough to recommend your work. Here's how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn.

Sample Letters and Email Messages Requesting a Reference

Not sure how to ask or what to say when requesting references? Review these sample reference request letters and email messages.

How Many References to Ask For

On the average, employers expect a list of three references, so have at least three or four references ready to recommend you. The extra one is handy, just in case the prospective employer can't reach the others in a timely manner.

Create a Reference List

Once you have your references set, create a reference list with the names, job titles, and contact information for each of your references. Print the list to bring to interviews and to send to employers who request references.

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