How To Request A Professional Reference

Whether you’re dealing with a layoff, making a career change, or applying to your first job, chances are that you’ll need a reference letter. Being able to request professional references courteously and confidently is an important skill. Although it may seem like a simple task to request a recommendation, many job seekers have a mental block about it. After all, requesting a reference can be awkward if you’re asking someone for a favor and you haven’t talked to him/her in a long time. Thankfully, there are some straightforward steps to follow to make it easy every time.

Instead of overthinking what type of references you need, try following some basic best practices to make it a smooth process. For example, before asking, consider how closely you worked with the person and whether or not they’ll actually have something valuable to share. After you decide who to ask, be sure to give him/her context on the position you’re applying for, including the job’s title, company, and other key facts. Most importantly, give your reference plenty of time to write the recommendation letter. Don’t bombard them with follow-ups, and always send them a heartfelt thank you note.

Below is an email template to help you get started the next time you have to request a professional recommendation:

Subject Line: Professional Reference Request?

Hi [First Name, Mr./Ms./Professor Last Name]

I hope you are doing well! How are things at [Company/School]? 

I know it’s been a while since we last talked, but I was hoping you could help me out by providing a professional reference. I’m applying to be a [position] at [Company] and thought you would be the perfect person to ask for a recommendation because we worked so closely together on [project/task].

The position entails tasks like:

  • [Task]
  • [Task]
  • [Task]

And the hiring manager will want to know about my skills concerning:

  • [Skill]
  • [Skill]
  • [Skill]

If you wouldn’t mind [speaking with a hiring manager/submitting a letter], could you send your preferred contact email and phone number? They should be contacting you by [this week/specific date].

Thank you so much, and please let me know if you need any more details from me. And of course, if you don’t have time to submit the reference I definitely understand.

Appreciate your time!

[Your Name]

Depending on the stage of your career and your industry, you’ll want to ask different people for references. Unfortunately, some job candidates default to asking previous employers who aren’t equipped to speak to their strengths. It seems obvious, but don’t rush the reference request process and ask someone who might not have 100% positive things to say about you. The next time you have to send an email to request a reference, refer to the helpful graphic from the LiveCareer team below:

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