Asking someone to vouch for you through an employment reference isn’t always easy. Sometimes, you don’t know who to ask, and other times, you know the people you want to ask but are unsure of how to do so.
In this post, we offer four tips to help you ask someone for a job reference while hunting for a new employment opportunity.
1. Ask After Having a Positive Work Experience
You may have luck asking someone for a reference after you’ve had a good experience learning from or working with them. Making this request after a positive encounter can help you snag a reference from someone who can offer credible and high-quality comments about your skills and behavior.
For instance, if you’re taking a program to get you into a specific career, such as accounting, and you did exceptionally well on a test or an assignment, consider asking the instructor to provide a reference since they can elaborate on specific instances where you exceeded expectations.
2. Ask for a LinkedIn Endorsement First
Asking for a reference from someone, especially when you’re unsure what they think about you, can be nerve-racking.
However, a great way to gauge a person’s response to a reference request is to ask for something similar, but less important, like a LinkedIn endorsement.
To get an endorsement, you add skills to your LinkedIn profile, and, with a simple click, your connections can begin to authenticate your abilities. These endorsements are useful in showing employers that the skills on your resume, like communication or event planning, are indeed legitimate.
Asking for an endorsement can be a good warm-up for a reference request because endorsing a skill is a much easier (and less time-consuming) action than writing a reference letter or providing one over the phone to an interviewer.
This means if, after asking for an endorsement, you notice the person you asked is dodging your emails or calls, you know you probably shouldn’t follow up by asking them to be a job reference.
3. Ask for a Reference by Email Instead of In Person
Though some of us may not like how disingenuous a conversation over email can seem, using email may still be better when asking for a reference. This is because, for some people, saying “no” to such a request in person—even if they want to—can be very awkward.
And, if this is the case for the person you ask to provide a reference, it could mean they’ll agree to provide a reference to your face but then won’t answer their phone when the hiring manager calls. Even worse, they might end up providing a mediocre (possibly even poor) reference that could cost you a job opportunity.
Your references can really influence an employer’s decision. So, by using email, you can hopefully avoid supplying someone who feels obligated to give a reference but doesn’t actually want to and instead give the name and number of someone who will help you stand out among the other candidates.
4. Ask for a Reference Letter
Asking for a reference letter (sometimes called a recommendation letter) is especially helpful for times when you want a reference from someone who is typically busy or hard to reach.
Though an employer will likely still want to speak to this person to confirm the information they’ve included in the letter, a letter can save time by reducing the number of questions your potential employer may need to ask during the phone call. It can also help remind the referrer of all your remarkable skills and qualities so they are able to provide a thoughtful and accurate recommendation.
Preparing to Ask for References
Finding the best references can be difficult and time-consuming, but by using these tips to ask for references, you can hopefully track down people who will provide a terrific testimonial of your character and help you to snag your dream career.