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How to Ask Someone to Serve As a Job Reference

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Even if you've written a flawless resume, potential employers will want to know more about you by speaking with your references. Job references serve to let employers learn about your work history and accomplishments. One glowing reference might land you the job, while a bad one could quickly disqualify you. With references carrying so much weight, it's important to choose people who have something positive to say. Your references are more likely to say good things if you request their help with respect and gratitude.

Determine who you want to serve as your reference. People who know you well and have worked closely with you make the best references. Ideal potential references include former supervisors, co-workers, teachers, religious leaders or coaches. You shouldn't ask someone who has a poor reputation in your industry or who might say something inappropriate to employers.

Notify the person several days to a week before you supply him as a reference for employers. This will give him time to prepare before the employer calls him. If you need a letter of recommendation, contact your reference at least two weeks in advance.

Ask the person if he feels comfortable enough to give you a positive reference. If he isn't very familiar with your work, he might not want to provide a reference.

Write down the phone number or email address employers should use to contact the reference. Ask him which communication method he prefers. Also note the person's business address, full title and company name.

Send your reference an updated resume or list of skills if he was formerly your manager or supervisor.

Tell your reference about the position for which you're applying. Describe the skills you'll need for the job. Talk about how you've used those skills in prior jobs so the reference knows what to say when asked about your abilities.

Discuss questions that the employer might ask your reference so he can prepare a response ahead of time. For example, the employer might ask the reference to describe your attitude, integrity, strengths, weaknesses and leadership or teamwork skills.

Agree with the reference on the reason for leaving your job, if he's a former boss. Find out what your ex-boss plans to say about your departure so you can ensure that your explanation matches his.

Send a letter or an email to your reference thanking him for helping you even if you don't get the job. If you show gratitude, he's more likely to serve as a reference for you again in the future.


Social networking sites for professionals, such as LinkedIn, allow you to find and connect with potential references such as former co-workers, employers and other people you know in your industry.


Never list someone as a reference without her permission.


Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.

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