Recruiters are always looking for a tell-tale sign that will allow them to understand how a candidate will fit in at a company, and there’s no better way to find out than through their references. For that reason, it is vital to keep potential references in mind as you expand your network through your educational and professional lives!

How to Ask:

  • Plan Ahead: If you know you need a reference letter by a certain date (ie: by the time you apply for your next position), make sure to ask the person ahead of time. That way, they will have ample time to create a meaningful, valuable letter highlighting all of your expertise. By asking last minute, you risk the chance of a rushed, insufficient letter.
  • Think it Through: If it comes as a surprise to the person you are asking, you may be asking the wrong person. Make sure your references come from those who have strongly impacted your life. These relationships may be built throughout a duration of months or years, and may very well extend years into the future.
  • In Person or Formal Email: It is always meaningful for an employee to ask for a reference in person. Unless your location permits you from doing so, you should try to take the time to visit the person you are asking and have a face-to-face conversation. In addition to showcasing that you care, you will have the ability to explain exactly what your reference letter is for, and what it should entail, without risking any miscommunication. However, if you cannot do so, as we all have busy schedules, send an email! Make sure your email is formal, polite, and sufficient. 
  • Explain Why You Chose Them: Just as your professor, boss, or mentor is highlighting all of your fantastic qualities, you should do the same for them! Explain exactly why you chose this person, how they have positively affected you, how they have helped shape you, and why they would be the best person to vouch for you. When you make them feel valued, they will make sure to explain why they value you in return!
  • Help Them Out: In order to receive your letter quickly, make sure to supply whoever you’re asking with whichever materials they may need, information they may seek, and guidelines they must follow. This will help you avoid future questions, email chains, and the chance of a reference letter that you may not be able to use.

Showcase Gratitude:

We cannot stress enough how important it is to thank the people who write your references! They are taking time out of their schedules to help you secure your next position, strengthen your LinkedIn profile, and add to your reference portfolio for the future. Make sure they know the extent of your appreciation. An additional way to thank this person is by maintaining relations. Aside from the benefit of maintaining a network, you may even want to return to this firm someday. Whether you meet with this person on a monthly or yearly basis, exchange phone calls, or email back and forth every so often, this will show them that you care and value their relationship.

Pass it On!

Always remember, if you were once in the position of seeking references, so is someone else! As you climb up the professional ladder, attain a management position, achieve a career as a professor, or one day become a mentor to someone else, pass on your gratitude by writing references for others.

Not sure what to include on a reference? Find out here what recruiters are looking for!

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