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How to Ask Someone to Be Your Reference

Last updated February 27, 2024

During a job application and interview process, an employer will likely ask you to provide professional references. But what are references and how can they help you land a job? Here’s what you need to know about professional references and how to secure them!

What is a professional reference?

Professional references are people in your network who can speak positively about your skills and qualifications for the job you're applying for. Though employers typically ask for a list of references after you've gone through the interview process, some may ask for them at any point.

Who should be on your reference list?

Who you choose to put on your reference list will depend on the job you're applying for and how much previous work experience you have.

For first-time job seekers, your teachers, professors, counselors, and coaches are great people to list as references. For job seekers with previous work experience, your previous boss, supervisor, or coworkers could be on your reference list.

The key to selecting strong references is to make sure you choose people who have seen you in action and can speak positively about your skills and ability to do the job.

Can a family member be your reference?

Yes, but only if you have worked with them in a professional capacity. For example, if you work for your family’s business on the weekends, it is totally valid to list a family member as a reference. If you don’t have formal work experience but have done work for family members, like watching younger relatives or dog walking, these family members could also be a potential reference. Ideally, though, it is best to try to find references who are not related to you.

Two people shake hands - How to Ask Someone to Be Your Reference

How to ask for a reference

Before you list anyone as your reference, make sure you ask for their permission! Not only is this the right thing to do, it will also give them enough time to reflect on your working relationship to give you the strongest recommendation possible.

Start by reflecting on and making a list of people in your network who would be willing to provide you with a reference. Reach out to them ASAP if you plan to begin applying for jobs soon. We recommend choosing people who can speak positively about how well you work, your accomplishments, and why you would be a great fit for the job. You can ask someone to be your reference by sending them an email, calling them (with their permission), or speaking to them in person. Be sure to give them enough time to say yes or to decline.

Once you’ve secured two to three references, provide them with details of the jobs you’re applying for. Some references will also find it helpful to review your brag sheet, resume, or cover letter to understand what skills you’d like highlighted and if they’re the right person to speak about them.

After an employer reaches out to your references, be sure to follow up and thank them for their time and willingness to help you out. You can also keep them updated on whether or not you got a job.

How to send your references to employers

References are typically shared with employers as a list of people with the following information:

  • First and last name
  • Job title and company name
  • Phone number
  • Email address

Example Reference:

Have any questions about securing job references? Text #Jobs to 33-55-77 to chat with one of our advisors. If you're using a mobile device, click here to have the text message set up for you!

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