During your job search, you may be asked to produce a list of referees who can speak to your experience and character. Employers tend to seek this information early in the hiring process, either during the application or during an early interview.
References are a crucial part of the hiring process. You don’t want your coworker to get a call asking for a reference without expecting it as they may be caught off guard. They may wonder why you listed them as a reference without asking first, which will reduce the likelihood of them providing a positive and detailed reference.
In this guide, we discuss how to ask someone to be your referee. We’ll talk first about why employers seek references and then outline some steps you can take to request a reference from a former coworker.
Why Do Employers Seek References?
Your reference check can make or break your candidacy for a position. This is because reference checks are often the final factor used to evaluate whether you are the right candidate for the job, especially if two candidates have similar experience.
Employers ask for references for a couple of reasons.
A reference check helps employers screen for any potential red flags that could disqualify you, such as not having a certain trait, or having very little experience using a specific technical skill on the job.
Second, a reference can provide crucial information to the employer from the perspective of someone who actually has experience working with you.
Interview questions help an employer get to know you better, but there is no substitute to learning about you from the people who have actual experience working with you. These people will be better positioned to provide an honest account of your work and traits.
How to Ask Someone to Be Your Reference
Asking someone to be a reference is an essential part of the job application process. You should inform them in advance that you intend to list them as a reference. But, how do you go about asking someone to be your reference?
To ask someone to be your personal reference, you should follow these steps:
Step #1: Select your referees
Before you even start asking for references, take some time to carefully choose who you want your referees to be. Write down their contact information.
Choose people who can provide a good account of who you are as a worker. These are people with whom you have had positive work experiences.
The best people to ask for references are those who have worked with you recently. This is because your character changes over time, and so a two-year-old reference is very unlikely to reflect your current personality.
Step #2: Ask your prospective referees for a reference
Reach out to each person on your list of potential references and submit a formal professional reference request. This is where you ask them if they would be willing to serve as a reference.
You should tell the prospective referee why you are seeking a reference from them. Do you think they have a lot of useful information about you that your prospective employer would find valuable? Or did you work with them a lot and build a good rapport?
If they decline to provide a reference, move on to the next person on your list. The last thing you want to do is push someone to give you a recommendation, as this may backfire and they may end up providing a harmful reference.
Step #3: Share your expectations and needs
Your prospective referee has agreed to give you a reference—congratulations! Now take some time to tell them about the job you are applying for and the skills and aptitudes you want them to mention.
Don’t tell them exactly what to say. Rather, give them a few talking points—such as a list of projects you have worked on that you think are really impressive. This makes it more likely that they mention the things the hiring manager who is evaluating your application wants to hear.
You should also notify the referee of when they need to give the reference. If you have already given the employer a list of references, give the referees a heads-up so they can prepare. If you haven’t been asked yet to provide a reference by the hiring manager or recruiter, make it clear to the referee that they don’t need to do anything yet.
Step #4: Follow up
Once your referee has provided a reference, thank them for their time. If they have given multiple references, send a thank-you note each time.
Following up is a great way to show your appreciation for the time and effort a referee has invested in giving you a reference. If you get offered the job, the referee will want to know. They will be delighted and will want to celebrate your success!
Example Email to Ask for a Reference
You may ask someone to be a reference either in person, over the phone, or via email. If you choose to contact them via email, you can use the following template:
Subject: Referee request for [Company Name]
Dear Mr. Richards,
I am currently being considered for the position of [Position] at [Company Name], and I was wondering if you would be able to provide me with a reference.
I worked with you at [Former Employer] for [Number of years employed] years, and I believe that you are in a unique position to provide my potential employer with the relevant context about my skills and character traits.
Here attached is a copy of my current resume, which highlights my career progression since I worked with you. Let me know if you need any other information in order to provide me with a reference, or if you are unable to do so at this time.
References are an important part of the hiring process, and you’ll want to make sure that you ask the right people to give you a reference.
Before you reach out asking for references, make a list of the people you believe will make the best referees. Choose people that can give a positive account of your abilities and character. Then, politely ask them if they can provide a reference. Remember to be specific regarding what you expect from them.
By following the advice in this article, you’ll be on your way to getting the references you need to stand out as the best candidate for the job.