How to Ask Someone to be a Reference

6 min

A reference request has become a popular requirement for applying for a vacancy among leading companies. The reason is simple — a strong candidate will have no problem finding people who can positively speak about the candidate's skills and traits. Therefore, knowing how to ask for a reference by email or other means is useful for job seekers, even if they haven't found their desired vacancy yet. has collected the most effective recommendations on how to ask for a reference and write a reference request letter which will make people more likely to help you get the dream job.

How to choose the right person

An average working experience includes working or communicating on professional matters with many people. To make the most reasonable choice, follow these steps:

  1. Create a broad list of people that could be a reference. Such a list is necessary to ensure a pool of options you can pick from. For example, include your colleagues, mentors, managers, team leaders, and other professional connections, such as people you've volunteered or studied with.
  2. Set priorities. For this step, you want to think of which experience would be more applicable for the job position (e. g. how recent it was, how it matches the job description, how successful the cooperation was, etc.), and therefore, outline the people with whom you've shared this experience. 
  3. Assess relationships. From the shortlist, pick people you would be more comfortable communicating with. This step will solve many problems in how to ask for reference. Also, the rest of the options would be helpful in case someone is unavailable to be a reference for you.

How to write a reference request letter: 5 key tips

  • Make sure you ask for a reference in advance and include a person in your list of references only after their positive response to avoid embarrassing situations and negative feedback.
  • Always provide information about yourself and remind people where they know you from (yes, there is always a chance they could forget you, so be respectful and polite).
  • Never force them by inaccurately formulated requests. Instead, it's more friendly to give them a refusal option if they need to say no.
  • If they have agreed to be your reference, give thorough descriptions and kindly encourage them to ask questions so that there are no misunderstandings when communicating with a hiring manager.
  • Always thank your references for helping you, and keep them updated on whether you have received the job.

Reference request email examples

In trying to understand how to ask a previous employer for a reference, examples are necessary to see the structure of a letter and make it more polite and professional. You can use any reference request template from the following, but make sure you customize it to your specific situation.

1. To a former manager

Dear [name],

I hope you are doing well! It has already been almost 2 years since our work together at [previous company]. How have you been? I heard of your recent successful presentation at the [name] event, big congratulations! 

As for myself, I've been working at [current company], which was a great addition to my career path. However, I have recently decided that I would love to try myself in new job opportunities, particularly as a [job title]. So, along with my research, I've been thinking of a person who could be a perfect reference for my application. I have warm memories of working with you on [project], so I felt that I could reach out to you.

Would you be willing to become my reference and confirm my skills and working experience? If you are comfortable with this, I will be happy to provide you with the necessary information and answer your questions should you have any. Also, feel free to let me know if this is not a good time for you to help out.

Thank you for being so considerate, and looking forward to hearing from you!


[your name].

2. To a former colleague

Hi [name]!

It's been a long time since we last saw each other! How have you been? I've been following you on LinkedIn, and your career development is truly impressive. I sincerely wish you continued success!

I have also been trying new job opportunities, and now I am seeking to move up to a senior position as a [job title]. For this position, I am expected to invite a reference who could describe my professional skills from their perspective. Considering our productive and pleasant work together for 3 years, I was wondering if you would be available to serve as my reference for this job opportunity.

I would be grateful if you had a chance to support me with your positive recommendation! I will send you my CV and the job description then. But I will totally understand if your schedule is too busy — please let me know!

Also, I would like you to know that if you ever need to reach out to me for the same reason, I will be glad to provide a recommendation for you.

I appreciate your consideration and look forward to your response!

Warm wishes,

[your name].

3. To a former client

Dear [name],

Since working on our last project, I have been following your social media, and it warms my heart to see you [recent successful project]. I wish your company further growth!

The reason for this letter is that I am going to move up to a new role as a [job title], and I am looking for a person who could serve as my reference. I consider [project] a perfect example of my work to mention, so I would like to ask if you could describe my skills and expertise as a reference. I have attached the project description and my CV to remind the details of your cooperation. Also, I am open to sending you any information you would like to clarify, so just let me know. I would be very thankful if you had a chance to provide positive feedback on my role there! However, I will understand if you are not able to assist — it will not be a problem.

I look forward to your response. Thank you for your time!

Best wishes,

[your name].

We hope that the article helped you learn more about how to ask someone to be a reference! For the best job opportunities, check — a cool job searching site where all salaries, vacancies' range, and candidate expectations are shown to everyone.

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