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Asking for References

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How you ask for a reference is as important as you who you ask.

You need to be sure the person is willing and able to give you a solid recommendation for the position you seek. You need to ask BEFORE you list someone as a reference so you can ensure they are the best fit. Here are some tips to help you not only ask in the most apporpriate way, but to ask for the recommendation you want.

  • Pick an appropriate place and time to ask. 

Ppick a time that when you can tell they are noticably relaxed and have time to chat for a minute about the position and your work. Find a private location, in case they feel they cannot provide the recommendation and feel comfortable telling you so.

  • Ask the right way.

Ask "Do you feel familiar enough my work to give me a reference?" or "Do you feel you could give me a good reference?". It is good to verify they can write you a GOOD reference.

  • Give them time to write!

As well as asking them at a good time, make sure you give them time to complete the task. Ask for the reference at least 2-3 weeks before it is due.

  • Provide job description and updated resume.

Give them all the information they might need to touch on relevant points. If they don't know what you have done and what you are applying for, how can they recommend you for the job.


Will your reference be able to answer these commonly asked reference check questions:

What strengths and weaknesses have you identified for _______?  Is he/she aware of these strengths/deficiencies? 

How would you rate the professionalism and integrity of _______?  Please give your opinion and cite examples.  (fairness, trustworthy, loyal, ethical).

How do you think this person would fit into an organization committed to cultural diversity and customer service?  Please give an example or explain how.

Would you hire this person if you had a similar opening?