Create a message requesting to be a reference

How to Ask Someone to Be a Reference

Professional reference is a MUST if you want to succeed in a job search.

It gives your future employer proof that you are worthy of being hired, increases your credibility, and highlights your hands-on experience in the field.

But of course, this is only true if your reference is well-made and optimized.

(failing to do so can backfire and hurt your chances of getting hired.)

In this post, you’ll discover everything about professional references. We’ll also provide you with killer templates to maximize your chances of getting the best reference.

What Is a Professional Reference?

Professional reference is a recommendation from people who have experience working with you and can confirm your skills and capabilities.

There are two main types of professional references:

  1. Reference letter - a recommendation letter from a reference person.
  2. Reference call - hiring manager calls your reference person.

It’s “professional” because it refers to people who have professional relationships with you.

Why Are Professional References Important?

Professional references act as proof of your skills and capabilities.

It also shows hiring managers what working with you looks like and can help them decide whether you are a good fit.

If your professional reference is high-quality, it can help you:

  1. Stand out from other candidates
  2. Proof of your expertise
  3. Boost credibility

Referrals are one of the best ways to convince hiring managers you’re the right candidate.

Especially if it’s from well-respected professionals in the field.

How to Choose the Best References

It’s vital to align your professional reference to the job position you’re looking to fill in. Also, be very picky about the reference people you choose.

If you fail to do so, you might actually worsen your chances of the hiring process.

But what if you don’t know anybody or have no prior working experience?

Are you struggling to write a compelling letter of recommendation for a colleague or employee? Check out this article on how to write a letter of recommendation with the help of AI.

What If You’re a Recent College Graduate?

You can obtain very insightful references even if you’re just a student. The key is to know who to ask and what to ask them.

Here are some of the best people you can ask for a reference if you are a student:

  • Professor
  • Classmates
  • principal

This is referred to as a personal reference since these people haven’t worked with you.

However, even if they have no working experience with you, they can give more info about you. They probably spent a lot of time hanging out with you.

And can go deep about your strengths, weaknesses, school projects, and accomplishments.

If you're looking for ways to maximize your chances of getting hired, having a strong cover letter is essential. This article provides insights on how an AI cover letter generator can help you write the perfect cover letter that highlights your skills and experience, tailored to the specific job you're applying for. 

How to Ask for a Reference

There are a few tips to follow to make asking for a reference effective.

If you mess it up, you might end up with bad references or no references at all. Let’s now go over the most important tips to help you ask for professional references.

#1: Give Them Enough Time

Rushing your ex-colleagues into giving you a reference is the worst thing you can do.

They might not have enough time to fully express their working relationship with you or just give you a reference for the sake of giving a reference.

The authenticity and quality of reference are the most important.

But this does not mean that it should take ages for you to obtain the job reference.

Give your colleagues two to five days to prepare it, and follow up after a day or two to ensure they don’t forget about it.

#2: Briefly Recap Your Relationship

Your ex-coworkers definitely won’t remember your professional relationship in detail. 

Or they might forget about some great experiences you shared.

Either way, it’s important to prepare a bit more context and list out a few key things, such as:

  1. Your common successes
  2. How you overcame difficulties together
  3. How you helped them

This alone will set the tone right and prepare them to give you the best possible reference.

#3: Give them the Opportunity to Say No

You don’t want a sloppy reference or ask people who are not comfortable with giving one. The quality of the reference is vital.

That’s why you must form your request in a way that they can say no.

Avoid asking for a reference like this:

  1. “Provide me a reference”
  2. “I need you to help me win this job offer”
  3. “You must give me a reference”

This is too pushy and unprofessional.

Instead, be considerate and give your reference an opportunity to say no, like this:

  1. “Would you be so kind and help me by providing a professional reference?”
  2. “Do you mind sending me a job reference?”
  3. “Is it okay for you to share a professional reference for me?”

You might think this lowers your chances of getting a reference.

But it's a lot more effective and leads to higher chances of getting a solid reference.

#4: Describe Your Situation

You’ve experienced many situations with your reference, but not all of these are relevant. 

And that’s why you must give more detail about the job you’re applying for.

Give your reference more insights about things like:

  • Job role
  • Job responsibilities
  • Characteristics of the ideal candidate

Basically, tailor the reference perfectly to the hiring manager and the job application.

#5: Send Your Resume to Each Reference

The worst thing that can happen is that your resume does not align with your reference. This completely destroys a reference's credibility.

Send your resume to your ex-colleagues, employers, or coworkers.

Doing so will let them know what things you’d like to highlight about yourself. Plus, your reference can also give you feedback to improve your resume.

#6: Confirm Their Contact Information

Always double check the information like the email and phone number of your reference.

Make sure you connect with your reference and ask them about their contact details. They might have changed their details since you last spoke with them.

This is likely to happen, especially when you’re providing their professional details.

Only after you’re 100% sure you have the right info, include it in your reference list.

#7: Don’t Forget to Say Thank You

Being thankful is a great way to get a positive response from a reference. 

Be polite, communicate with your reference in a friendly manner, and say thank you. This will go a long way to strengthening the relationship with your reference.

And increase the overall quality of the reference.

How to Ask Someone to Be a Reference via Email

Let’s look at some practical tips to use when sending emails to a reference person.

These tips will help you get your emails read, boost the probability of getting a reference, and make you seem more professional. 

A well-crafted professional reference is a crucial component of your job search, but it's just one piece of the puzzle. To make the most of your potential and stand out from other candidates, it's also important to have a strong bio that effectively showcases your skills and experience. This article explores how an AI bio generator can help you write a perfect bio and make the most out of your potential.

Write a Clear Subject Line

The subject line is the most important part of your email.

It should clearly state your intentions and say what you are looking for. Avoid beating around the bush or an unclear message. 

It can be as simple as writing - “Reference request [Your Name]”

Phrase the Question Carefully

You are in a professional setting, and you should act like it.

Be sure to ask for a reference politely and avoid being pushy or too demanding. It’s a friendly request or a favor, not an order.

Also, find a way to make it mutually beneficial to maximize the chances of getting a reference.

It can be as simple as saying, “I owe you one”, offering drinks, or promising to do the same for the reference person in the future.

Attach Your Resume to the Reference Email

Attaching a resume coupled with your cover letter can improve the quality of the reference.

It will help the other side understand the situation you are in and give more detail about what your employer is looking for.

Also, it helps the reference person see key things you like to highlight about yourself.

Don’t Pressure People

Avoid spamming the reference person or pushing them to provide the reference. Following them up every hour is not okay.

Instead, give them time to prepare the reference properly, so it can be presentable.

Examples of How to Ask Someone to Be a Reference

In this section, you’ll discover some of our most successful templates that led to the most promising professional references.

We’ll also cover multiple reference sources so you can be ready for everything.

How to Ask Your Previous Employer for a Reference

You should definitely only consider ex-employers that have been satisfied with the results you brought to their business.

Having no reference is much better than having a negative one.

Here is a reference email template you can steal:

How to ask your Professor for a reference

Professors haven’t seen you work for money, which makes the situation a bit different. They can help you seem like a passionate and disciplined professional.

Even without any pay, you’ve delivered great results and always finished everything on time.

Here is a template to steal:

How to Ask a Former Client for a Reference

The best clients you should consider for a reference are those who you’d like to continue or plan on working with in the future.

You could highlight this in your email and show them you really enjoyed your partnership. 

Here is a template to steal:

How to ask for a reference on LinkedIn?

LinkedIn is a more friendlier setting than email, since you can chat with your references. It’s much more personal too.

You can leverage the LinkedIn built-in feature for getting recommendations.

Here is a template to steal.

Check out our guide on how to ask a girl out over text with AI and how to ask for a divorce over text.


Professional job references can act as a deal sealer for hiring managers. But, of course, it must be trustworthy, professional, and from the right person.

If you fail to do so, you might end up hurting your chances of getting hired.

Follow the advice we shared in this post, steal the highly successful templates we provided, and land the job you desire right now.