How to Ask Someone to Be a Professional Reference (+ Email Example) [2020]

how to ask someone to be a reference

Building a reference list can be impactful to a job search as a job seeker. Combining references with a recommendation letter (or reference letter) can provide a potential employer and hiring manager with the right information they need to validate work history, skills, qualifications, and other key attributes in your job application.

A reference list or job reference list is of work references to professionals who can speak to and validate what it was like to work alongside the job applicant. This should be composed of colleagues or managers from a previous employer or past employer rather the job seekers current employer.

Tip: When a hiring manager is going to contact a professional from a reference list, they will inform you, the job seeker, that they intend to perform a “reference check”. From here, job seekers may want to contact their references and inform them that they may be contacted by a hiring manager or recruiter. Job seekers may want to schedule a “reference call” with their contact to guide them through what skills and qualities to highlight to the recruiter or hiring manager.

References can be useful for hiring managers during the interview process. For example, after an interview is complete, if the team or hiring manager felt parts of the job seekers' resume were not communicated effectively, they may rely on the references to help clarify. This can be impactful to increasing the odds of receiving a job offer for a new job if the job interview didn’t provide enough detail.

How to Ask Someone to Be a Reference

Before asking a professional to be a potential reference, determine whether or not the professional will be a good reference. This is someone who is willing to speak to you in a positive fashion. This is a possible reference that is willing to be a positive reference.

Some of the professional’s that job seekers may want to consider to ask to be a reference:

A bad reference for a job application would be someone who:

Tip: When asking a professional to be a reference, it’s helpful to provide the recommender a copy of the job seeker’s resume, cover letter, a link to the job posting, and other job application details.

As a job seeker, to create a reference request, choose the right person from your professional history and send them an email informing them of your job hunt. Provide the professional with details of your job search, like the job application and job posting information. Inform the recipient that a future employer may contact them to ask questions. Confirm the recipient is willing to assist.

Reference Request Email Example

Below is an example asking a colleague or manager to be a professional reference.

Subject Line: Reference Request

Dear Mr. Smith —

I really enjoyed the time that we spent together working at Apple. There are many situations I can recall where you were a mentor to me as well as a manager. Situations that were challenging for me but taught me great lessons.

One of the situations that stands out is when we were trying to deliver on the iOS 11 build and I was able to motivate the team through some of your guidance. It was at that moment that I felt as though I educated myself on having great verbal communication skills. And I felt as though I achieved the next level of my career in that experience.

I would really love it if you could be a professional reference of mine and speak to that situation when a hiring manager calls you. Of course, I understand this is a big ask as speaking with a hiring manager can take time. If you’d prefer not to, I would understand and this will not impact our professional relationship.

Thank you so much for considering this ask for me,

Recommendation Letter Templates

More recommendation letter resources.



References Resources

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is an experienced executive who has spent a number of years in Silicon Valley hiring and coaching some of the world’s most valuable technology teams. Patrick has been a source for Human Resources and career related insights for Forbes, Glassdoor, Entrepreneur,, SparkHire, and many more.


Help us by spreading the word