Adriana Herrera, Interview Destiny FounderUse this How to Ask Someone to Be a Reference article to help you impress your interviewer.

If you want everything you need to ace your interview, click here.

Adriana Herrera, Interview Destiny FounderUse this How to Ask Someone to Be a Reference article to help you impress your interviewer.

If you want everything you need to ace your interview, click here.

How to Ask Someone to Be a Reference (Tips + 2 FREE Templates)

by | Last updated Feb 24, 2022

How to Ask Someone to Be a Reference (Icon)

Are you trying to figure out how to ask someone to be a reference?

If so, you’re in luck! This article shares tips to learn how to ask someone to be a reference for you and provides examples of how to ask someone to be a reference via email.

It also shares strategies that help you ensure you get the letter of reference you want by ethically writing your own letter of reference. Yes, this can be done! To easily navigate the process you can use the sample work reference letter provided and/or work letter reference template.

Getting someone to agree to be your reference can feel like a daunting task. But with help from this article, it becomes easy!

If you’re ready to learn how to ask someone to be a reference, read on!

How to Ask Someone to Be a Reference (Icon)

What is a letter of reference?

A letter of reference is a statement written either by a company, previous employer, previous direct supervisor, or a reputable third-party individual with personal knowledge of a job seeker’s work history and capability, that is used when applying for a job. A letter of reference details how well the job seeker performed their duties and discusses the skills they possess that make them suitable for new opportunities.

A letter of reference is an important part of your interview process because it helps add to your credibility.


Why are letter of references powerful?

Proactively offering a letter of recommendation early in an interview increases your credibility and gives the interviewer confidence that what you are sharing throughout your interview is true.

A hiring manager is responsible for filling a vacant position with the best job applicant. Unfortunately, 78% of job seekers lie during the interview process. This leaves hiring managers at a disadvantage to identify and hire the right person. In addition, employment laws have made it illegal for employers to ask a previous employer or manager questions about a job applicant’s performance.

Who is ultimately hired will reflect positively or poorly on the hiring manager and their abilities (and in extreme cases can even cost them their job). Letters of reference are extremely powerful tools used by hiring managers to inform their decision-making process and mitigate the risk of hiring an unqualified and even problematic person.

How to Ask Someone to be a Reference

The process to ask someone to be your reference can feel overwhelming. Below are four steps that break down how to ask someone to be a reference for you.

How do you ask someone to be a reference?

  1. Identify a former employer or direct supervisor that would provide a reference for you
  2. Write a letter of reference that highlights your experience at the company, experience working with them, and achievements they can vouch for and speak to
  3. Email the person to ask for a reference and offer the reference you wrote as a starting point 
  4. When a letter of reference is provided make sure to say “Thank you”

The easiest way to get a letter of reference is to write your own. 

Yes, you can write your own letter of reference.

Why?

People are busy. 

I am always happy to write a letter of reference for a deserving team member, former colleague, mentee, etc., but I don’t always have the time. 

I will ask them to write the letter of reference, send it to me for review and a round of edits (if needed), and then I’ll sign the letter of reference (sometimes digitally) and include my personal contact information. 

Does this sound crazy?

It’s not. 

Writing your own letter of reference makes you honestly self evaluate your achievements and areas you need improvement.

It also is respectful of everyone’s time as you get the letter of reference you want and your former employer or supervisor doesn’t have another “to-do” added to their list.

If you’re just starting in the workforce or don’t have much work experience don’t worry.

You can also use this process to request a letter of reference from a school professor, from a leader at an organization where you’ve volunteered, from a neighbor you helped with a home repair, or other relevant person.

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How to Ask Someone to be a Reference via Email


As previously shared, “The average business professional receives 121 emails per day.” To break through the noise when emailing someone to ask for a reference your email should be:

  • Eye-catching (i.e. have a subject line that stands out and format that is easy to read/ skim)
  • Concise
  • Gracious  
  • Personalized

To help you ask your previous employer for a reference below you’ll find:

How to Ask Previous Employer for Reference Example

What you write in your email to your previous employer or supervisor will depend on your working relationship with them. It goes without saying that if you did not have a good working relationship and/or did not perform well resulting in you being laid off or fired you should not ask your previous employer for a letter of reference. Who you ask for a letter of reference and the content of what is in your email to your previous employer should reflect your best professional judgment.

To assist you in writing an email to ask a previous employer for a reference below is an example and a template:

How to ask Previous Employer for Reference Example

 

Subject Line: Reference letter (Request)

 

Hi Sandra, 

I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with you.

I was able to grow my project management skills and learned to:

  • lead a small team. 
  • Accurately develop SOWs.
  • Deliver projects under budget, saving an average of 18%, without compromising quality. 

I am in the process of seeking a position where I can meaningfully apply my experiences.

It is a very competitive landscape. A letter of reference from you would be very helpful.

Would you be willing to provide a letter of reference?

If so, to be respectful of your time I drafted a letter of reference to serve as a starting point.

Here is a link to a draft that you can review and edit (if you like): Reference Letter Draft.

I sincerely appreciate all that you have taught me and your consideration of this request.

I can easily be reached at (323) 123-1234 if you have questions and/ or would like to discuss.

Thank you in advance,
Ronaldo


Ronaldo De Leon
(323) 123-1234
RonaldoDL@gmail.com

 

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How to Ask Previous Employer for Reference Template

 

Subject Line: Reference letter (Request)

 

Hi [INSERT NAME], 

I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with you. 

I was able to grow my [INSERT SKILLS] and learned:

  • [INSERT BULLET POINT OF SOMETHING YOU LEARNED]. 
  • [INSERT BULLET POINT OF SOMETHING YOU LEARNED]. 
  • [INSERT BULLET POINT OF SOMETHING YOU LEARNED]. 

I am in the process of seeking a position where I can meaningfully apply my experiences.

It is a very competitive landscape. A letter of reference from you would be very helpful.

Would you be willing to provide a letter of reference?

If so, to be respectful of your time I drafted a letter of reference to serve as a starting point.

Here is a link to a draft that you can review and edit (if you like): [INSERT LINK TO EDITABLE GOOGLE DOC] .

I sincerely appreciate all that you have taught me and your consideration of this request.

I can easily be reached at [INSERT PHONE NUMBER] if you have questions and/ or would like to discuss.

Thank you in advance,
[INSERT YOUR NAME] 


[INSERT FIRST NAME, INSERT LAST NAME]
[INSERT MOBILE PHONE]
[INSERT EMAIL]

What does a letter of reference have in it?

Now that you have an idea of how to ask someone to be a reference let’s dive into what a letter of reference should have in it.

A letter of reference provides information on how you did your job, lists the specific skills you possess, and details why you are a great candidate for new opportunities. A good letter of reference is specific to the job and industry you are in and include details on:

 

  • How well you did you job
  • How you added value to your team and the company
  • How you used specific skills in your work
  • How those skills make you a strong candidate for new opportunities

The information provided should indicate that you possess the right skills for the job(s) that you are interviewing for. A good letter of reference provides more than just a description of what you did in your previous position but the value of your contributions. Here’s a sample work reference letter (it is the letter of reference linked in the example above):

Sample Work Reference Letter

 

Dear Hiring Manager, 

It is my pleasure to recommend Ronaldo De Leon.

I am the Director of Engineering at Digital Ocean. Ronaldo worked under my direct supervision from November 2017 until December 2021 as a Project Coordinator and Product Manager.

As a Product Manager on a daily basis Ronaldo was responsible for:

  • Establishing the key themes, objectives, and key results for the lifecycle of new client products 
  • Driving cross-team collaboration and standardization of engineering, design, research, and analysts processes 
  • Turning user research and data insights into meaningful plans to build the best customer experience throughout the lifecycle of a client’s product

Ronaldo was an asset to our team. 

He exhibited talents in project management, translating user feedback into product roadmaps, and speaking both “engineer” and “sales”. Notably Ronaldo helped our company: launch a new client app that ranked #1 in the app store for 8 weeks, increase client revenue by 11%, and eliminate misunderstanding between the engineering and sales departments. 

When Ronaldo started with us his JIRA knowledge and skills were in the beginning stages. Ronaldo was quick and persistent to conquer JIRA and took it upon himself to take a course to master the tool. His contributions had a meaningful impact on projects and resulted in no missed project deadlines and his promotion to Project Manager. 

Ronaldo De Leon would make a great addition to any company and its product management team. 

I am happy to connect to discuss my experience working with Ronaldo and his contributions to our products and company. 

I can be reached anytime via email at SandraE@digitalocean.com or by phone at (808) 123-1234. 

Regards, 

 

Sandra Escobedo
Vice President of Project Management at Digital Ocean
E: SandraE@digitalocean.com | P: (808) 123-1234
DigitalOcean.com

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Work Reference Letter Template

 

Dear Hiring Manager, 

It is my pleasure to recommend [Insert your First and Last Name]. 

I am the [Insert the Title of the Person Recommending You] at [Insert the Company’s Name]. [Insert your First and Last Name] worked under my direct supervision from [Insert the Month and Year you started to report to them] until [Insert the Month and Year you stopped reporting to them] as a [Insert your previous job title].

On a daily basis [Insert your first name] was responsible for:

  • [Insert primary responsibility]
  • [Insert primary responsibility]
  • [Insert primary responsibility]

[Insert your first name] was a [insert adjective] to the team. 

[He/ she/ they] exhibited talents in [Insert skill], [Insert skill], and [Insert skill]. Notably [Insert your first name] helped our [select team/ company] [insert measurable accomplishment], [insert measurable accomplishment], and [insert measurable accomplishment]. 

When [Insert your first name] started with us [her/ his/ their] [Insert skill you improved on] were in the beginning stages. [Insert first name] was [Insert adjective] to improve their [Insert skill you improved] and did so by [Insert how you improved]. This improvement had a meaningful impact on [Insert a project with measurable accomplishment].

[Insert Your First Name and Last Name] would make a great addition to any [Insert team/ company]. 

I am happy to connect to discuss my experience working with [Insert first name] and their contributions to the team and company. 

I can be reached anytime via email at [Insert email] or by phone at [Insert Mobile Phone Number]. 

Regards, 

 

[First Name, Last Name]
[Recommender Job Title]
E: [Insert Email] | P: [Insert Phone Number]
[Insert Company Website]

How to Ask Someone to be a Reference (FAQs) 

How do you ask someone to be a reference via email?

To ask someone to be a reference via email:

  1. Contact them and ask them for their permission to be a reference in email
  2. Share how why they came into your mind
  3. Tell them why you are looking for a letter of reference and provide a starting draft
  4. Share how you will make the process of providing a letter of referenece easy for them
  5. Offer your contact information so that they can call you
  6. When they provide a letter of reference send a “Thank you” email

How do you ask someone to be a reference via text?

To ask someone to be a reference via text send them a short text such as:


Hi, [Insert name], this is [Insert your name]. I’m interviewing for a job and want to offer the hiring manager a letter of reference. You have been a great influence on me. I thought of you for this. Would it be possible to get a letter of reference? I just sent an email with more details. Thanks in advance!


Send your text after you send your email requesting a letter of reference

How do I ask an old boss for a reference?

If you want to ask an old boss for a reference, you want them to be enthusiastic about providing a reference. To do this make the process easy for them by sending them a short email that:

  • Expresses gratitude for what you’ve learned from them
  • Directly asks for a letter of reference
  • Includes a drafted letter of reference you have written to make the process easy for them
  • Provides a phone number where they can call you to discuss your letter of reference needs

When your old boss provides a letter of reference make sure to send an email saying “Thank you.”

Conclusion

You’ve secured the job interview, have the experience required for the role, and have just learned how to ask someone to be a reference. Use the tips, templates, and tools provided in this article to get the letter of reference you want.

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