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How to Ask a Reference for Permission to Contact for a Job Offer

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Asking for permission from a reference to receive contact from a prospective employer is not just a formality -- it's a necessity. An unprepared reference can deliver an unconvincing assessment of your skills and abilities, which won't score you any points with an employer who's looking for the best candidate to fill the job. Learn how to ask a prospective reference if he will speak positively on your behalf and know what to provide him with to bring you a few steps closer to a job offer.

Contact the person you would like to use as a reference by phone, email or in person. Keep your communication brief and professional.

Explain why you are calling, such as that you are planning to apply or you have applied for a new job. Give the job title you are applying for and the employer, so that the person is aware of who might call him.

Explain why you want the person to be contacted as a reference, then give her the option of refusing. You don't want to choose a reference who can't or won't speak positively on your behalf. For example, ask, "Because you know my skills and work ethic in the human resources field, would you feel comfortable giving me a positive reference?"

Ask the reference for the contact information -- phone number, email address, mailing address -- he prefers for you to give to the employer. As a courtesy, ask him how he prefers for employers to contact him.

Give or send the reference a copy of your current resume, so he can refresh himself on your experience and skills. You can also provide each reference with a copy of the job description for which you're applying. This can help them tailor their recommendations to fit the job.

Thank your reference for her time when you make your request, whether she agrees or refuses to serve as a reference. If she agrees, follow up your request with an email or handwritten thank-you note to show your appreciation.


Double-check the contact information for your references so there's no confusion for the prospective employer.

Contact people each time you want to use them for a reference, so they can prepare.


Avoid asking people for references when they are busy or preoccupied or you might not get the answer you want.

If you call a reference's number and connect with his voice mail, leave a simple request to call you back. Do not ask for the reference on the message.