How to Ask Someone To Be a Reference (Example Email)

how to ask someone to be a reference

Having professional references to include as part of your resume or job application can be especially impactful for your hiring manager to see. With more resumes, cover letters, and job assets containing achievements instead of job duties as part of their previous work history coverage, having references can help the hiring manager confirm your work.

These references are professionals that you’ve had a relationship with who can validate your prior achievements, work history, academic achievements, or other professional qualifications. This could be a professor, a previous manager, a close family friend, or a mentor.

Asking someone to be a professional reference isn’t a complicate task. But it’s something that should be executed with professionalism, grace, and simplicity that ensures the recipient chooses to become your reference.

Before Asking for a Reference

Before you decide to ask someone to be a reference, you should think through who you might want to ask. This should be a person that you feel is going to strongly complement the characteristics that your future employer is seeking.

This might be a previous manager who you feel confident will speak to a soft skill, competency, or achievement that you could list on your resume. Think of this person as a validator.

If you don’t believe the professional you’re about to ask will be able to speak about your past in a positive manner, you shouldn’t ask that person to be your reference.

A reference is only going to be effective when the discussion he or she and the future hiring manager might have, will be positive.

Preparing “Your Ask” to the Reference

Before you ask someone to be a reference, you should have an idea in your mind as to what the reference could speak to your future employer about. For example, let’s say you are about to ask a previous manager. And you shared an experience at work that showed you had great communication skills. When you prepare your letter to that reference, you should phrase your request in a way that asks them to speak to that prior experience when or if they happen to communicate with your future employer or hiring manager.

When you use a template, like the ones provided below, be sure to customize your asks so that you and your reference can be on the same page regarding what will be communicated to your future employer and how your reference can help you. For example, telling your reference to speak to qualities about your verbal communication skills.

Prepare for a Decline

Your future reference may decline your request. Most commonly, this occurs when the professional feels they won’t be able to properly respond to a hiring manager who calls them regarding your reference.

hen writing your letter, be sure to provide them an easy opportunity to decline your request. This will ensure that your relationship with that professional stays intact even when they aren’t able to facilitate the request you’ve made to them.

Always Be Nice

It goes without saying, but when communicating with your reference, keep them in mind. Not everyone is going to want to be a reference. And they may decline politely. This doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy working with you or don’t respect you.

As a professional, you want to keep your professional network in mind. And this is a situation where you could easily damage your professional network by communicating poorly.

Choose Your Reference Request Format

Choosing to request a reference by written letter might take more time than you need. Writing a request for someone to be a reference by email can be much easier. And can increase the chances that you’ll receive a response quickly.

The two ways to ask for a reference would be a formal written letter that is sent through postal mail or by email. In this writing guide, it’s recommended you focus on writing your request by email.

By writing your request by email it will be easier to follow up with your reference if you don’t receive a response as well as provide them a thank you note if they decide to accept your request to be a reference.

How to Ask Someone To Be a Reference (By Email Example)

Below is an example of asking someone to be a professional reference. Please remember to customize your request and the story which you feel would position your professional career in a strong light.

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,

Reference 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.


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