Whether you’re applying to a new school or a new job, at some point you may need a reference. This could be a written reference submitted with an application or a contact a potential employer will reach out to. In either case, there are guidelines to follow when asking someone for a reference.
Make sure you ask. If you’re asking someone to be reference that a potential employer is going to call, make sure you remember to actually ask! Otherwise, they may be totally unprepared for the phone call. This can reflect poorly on you on both ends and you may not get the shining reference you were hoping for.
Ask the right way. For a professor or past employer, an email is a sufficient way to ask for a written reference. However, make sure you ask the right way. Tell them about the school or the position you are applying for, how the opportunity will help you build your future and make sure you emphasize how grateful you are for their help. Sign the email with “Thank you for time and I look forward to your response” or something similar. If the reference is going to be called, you may want to consider asking them to be a reference with a phone call as well.
Give enough notice. Start asking for references before you start applying for jobs, internships or schools. Especially when you’re looking for jobs, the hiring process can be quick, so it’s good to nail down references ahead of time.
If you know you a need a written reference by a certain time, it’s good to give the person you ask a minimum of two weeks to write it but typically don’t give them longer than four. You want to give them enough time to write a good reference, but you don’t want to give them so much time they forget. It’s also a good idea to give them a deadline of a week or two before you actually need it, giving you a little extra time just in case.
Follow up. After your written reference has been submitted or you’ve submitted your application, send a note or email thanking your reference once again for their help. Also make sure you tell them each time you use them as a reference so they can be prepared. When you land the job, are accepted to your dream school or receive an internship, make sure you follow up once again telling your reference the outcome. This is a great way to maintain a relationship and they’ll love to hear how they helped you achieve your goals.
Before you send an email asking for a reference, brush up on your professional writing skills with Next Step Academy’s “Business Writing” course!