April 13, 2017 TruPath

Asking Someone To Be A Reference: What You Should Know

When applying for a job, it’s likely you will need someone to provide a reference for you. After spending hours strategizing your resume, interview talking points, outfit and handshake, it’s easy to neglect the “references” portion. Don’t worry — we have some tips about how to ask someone for a reference and what you should know in the process. Use these reminders as a guide when asking someone to be a reference to help you land the job you’re seeking.

Asking Someone To Be A Reference: Tips To Keep In Mind

Don’t Choose Your Best Friends

Choose people with whom you’re friendly but not too friendly. Your employers are inevitably scouring your social media accounts to make sure your online presence is professional and appropriate. But they will also probably check to see if you’re overly close with people you list as professional references. Your prospective employer won’t value biased feedback from a reference who appears to be a close friend. You should try to keep your references strictly to direct supervisors and professional mentors. Furthermore, this is a great reminder to clean up your social media accounts while embarking on your job hunt.

Approach It Professionally

While email is often a perfectly acceptable form of communication in the modern business world, when asking someone to be your reference, it should be in person. Talking to your reference face-to-face improves the chances you get a great reference. Openly discussing your reference with whomever you select can also be a good opportunity to remind that person of the successes you achieved when you worked together. Plus, it’s more fun, engaging and positive to do so over lunch or coffee. Invite him/her out, discuss your professional past, ask for career advice, and engage in brainstorming.

It helps to make the reference feel personally invested in your success, and will thus yield a better reference letter. You might also pepper in an extra nicety: send the reference a handwritten thank-you note (or an email) after submitting your references to a potential employer. (See the last tip for more advice on this practice after asking someone to be a reference.)

Make It Easy

You want to make the process as easy as possible for your reference.  Provide details. What position are you applying for? Who might be contacting your reference from the company? Then, recommend some of your personal and specific skills that you’d prefer your references highlight. It’s also a good idea to ask the references what their preferred method of communication might be, so you can specify with the hiring manager at the company you’re aiming for.


Once you have reached out to and solidified references, prepare a list separate from your resume. Keep it neat and cleanly formatted in the same font as your resume, and for each, include a name, title, organization, division or department, telephone number, and email address, as well as a sentence briefly explaining the relationship between you and your reference. That way, you have a comprehensive, polished list ready if your recruiter asks for one. If not, it’s not taking up valuable space on your resume.

Always Follow Up

Even though you are not working for your reference anymore, he or she just potentially helped you land a new job. That’s why you want to keep the relationship healthy and professional by expressing your gratitude. Your reference has supported your journey with a prospective employer, and you should send them a personal thank-you note to reflect your appreciation. Keep your references updated on the outcome, too, as they’ll appreciate staying involved in your professional endeavors.

Good luck searching for and securing a new job! Remember these tips as some of the most important things you should know when asking someone to be a reference.

What tips for asking someone to be a reference would you add to this list? Let us know! Contact TruPath today for further help.

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