How to Ask for a Reference Letter (with Email Examples)

While the interview process is often stressful and full of uncertainties, providing employers with excellent reference letters will get you one step closer to landing the perfect job.

During the recruitment process, most employers will ask for a reference letter. A reference letter, also known as a letter of recommendation, is often submitted by a candidate when they apply for a job. A reference letter is usually created to demonstrate a candidate’s skillset, experience, character and/or achievements to an employer.

A well-written reference letter provides future employers with some insight into your performance and network. In addition, an exceptional reference letter will allow you to stand out within the applicant pool.

1. Who to Ask?

Asking someone within your network for a reference letter is not always easy.  In order to choose quality references, choose references based on people who you know well in a professional capacity. For example, managers and coworkers who can reiterate your positive work habits, skills, and abilities. If you plan to ask a colleague, consider asking colleagues with more years of experience than you.

2. Ask Early

In addition to asking the right people, make sure you ask them as early as possible. At least two weeks before you need the letter is standard.

3. Provide Details

Make sure you provide the reference with a reason for the letter of recommendation, details of the new job, relevant work accomplishments and/or skills, why you are qualified for the position, an up-to-date resume, and what you are doing now. Sometimes people will offer to draft their own reference letter therefore you could briefly mention this to your reference as an option. If your reference prefers this method, use these templates for guidance. Here are some benefits of providing your reference with a template:

  • Gives your reference guidance
  • Receive the reference letter you want
  • Consistency between your narrative and what is included in the letter

4. Give Your Reference An Out

Keep in mind that everyone has their own set of obligations, therefore, provide the writer with an out. Let them know that if they cannot meet the deadline or feel as though they cannot complete the task for you, that it is okay and you understand.

5. Be Polite

Do not forget to end the email with a polite closing. Thank your reference for their time and consideration and make sure that you are polite and kind throughout the entire email. People are much more likely to do you a favour if you are polite.

6. Follow Up

Follow up with your references either through a thoughtful email or a written note. If you do land the job, make sure to let them know and thank them again for their help.

Need Help Asking for a Reference Letter?

Click here to access email templates to simplify the process and receive quality references!

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