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How to Ask a Co-Worker for a Job Reference

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Looking for a new job can be extremely stressful. In addition to updating your resume and going to interviews, deciding whom to ask for a job reference can make the process a little tricky. If you're concerned about tipping off your boss by asking for a letter of reference, ask a co-worker to provide a job reference instead. Remember, you're asking for a favor, so make it as easy as possible for your co-worker to provide a job reference!

Ask Your Co-Worker for a Reference

Choose a co-worker who has similar duties and shares your work ethic. He will be able to provide a more credible recommendation than someone who doesn't understand how you work or what you do. Also, make sure you trust your co-worker to be discrete enough not tell others about your job search.

Approach your colleague privately. You can speak to her in person, send her an email or call her on the phone. No matter how you choose to ask for a job reference, allow her the opportunity to refuse gracefully. Putting a co-worker on the spot can be uncomfortable for both of you.

Tell your co-worker when you need the job reference. It's always better to give as much notice as possible, as it allows your co-worker to write a thorough and well-thought out recommendation without feeling time-constrained. If he will be speaking to someone on the phone, let him know the general time frame when to expect a call. Let him know whether the reference is for a specific job or as part of an ongoing portfolio.

Provide Your Co-Worker With Information

Provide your co-worker with details of the job for which you are applying. Explain the duties and responsibilities of the new job and explain why you think you would be good at the job. The more information she has, the easier it will be to provide a job specific reference.

Supply a current copy of your resume and any other pertinent biographical data. Talk to your colleague about the skill set you would like him to emphasize. When asking multiple people for job references, it's wise to have each reference speak to a different skill set you possess.

Give your co-worker an envelope labeled with the name and address (if appropriate) of the contact for the job. Ask her to make a copy for you if she will be mailing the original.

Write a thank-you note to your co-worker for going out of his way to do something nice for you!


Keep your co-worker updated on your job hunt. You should inform him of all situations in which you will be using him or her as a reference.

  • Keep your co-worker updated on your job hunt. You should inform him of all situations in which you will be using him or her as a reference.

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