Tips for Sending an Email to Request a Reference

Sending email to colleague requesting a reference
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How you ask for a job reference can be as important as who you select as a reference for a job. It's important to choose references who can portray your qualifications in the best possible light. You may write a letter or make a phone call, but it’s often most convenient to send an email message to request a recommendation for a job.

How to Choose the Best References

You probably know many people who would be willing to act as a reference for you, and it’s a good idea to give some thought as to who will be the best at endorsing you for the position for which you're applying. It’s also important to have a list of references who will respond to reference requests in a responsive and timely manner.

Professional and employment references are a good choice, mainly because they have seen you in a corporate or work environment. They can attest to your work skills, and how you interact with colleagues and supervisors. They may even have a contact at your target company.

Of course, there are times, especially when you don't have many professional references, when using a character or personal reference might be a good choice. Academic references are also an option to choose.


If you don’t have a lot of experience in your chosen field, or if your last supervisor wasn’t your biggest fan, you may want to seek references from alternative sources. If someone you know personally has a contact at your target company, that can be very useful as well.

Ask for Permission From the References

After you've narrowed down your list of the best possible references for your job search, it's time to ask for permission to include them as references. It’s not a good idea to list someone as a reference on a job application if you haven’t asked them about being a reference for you.

What to Include in Your Email

Remember, people are busy, and most of us get tons of emails every day. Make sure the recipient knows this is a priority by utilizing the subject line of your email. Put your name and what you’re asking for in the subject line of the message.

For example, “Subject: Jeff Doe Reference Request” will let the reader know who the message is from and what it is about, which will increase your chances of it being opened and read in a timely manner.

Start with a greeting: Begin your request with a salutation and the person’s name, followed by a comma or semicolon.

Request the reference: On the next line, begin the body of the letter, where you ask for the person to be a reference. This is also where you should mention the nature and duration of your relationship, especially if the contact isn’t one you are frequently in touch with.

Explain the details: You should also provide some details about your job search, such as what the job is, why you’re asking for their endorsement, and how this job is a good career move for you.

Mention attachments: To conclude, mention any additional materials you have attached, such as your resume and a copy of the job description or posting.

Relay your thanks: Be sure to thank them for their time and consideration.

End with a closing and your signature: Your email closing should be followed by your name and contact information.

Tips for Writing a Reference Request

Explain why you're writing: When writing to ask someone to provide a recommendation, be sure to reference your connection and explain why you feel they would make an ideal reference.

Include your resume and a job description: Include a copy of your resume and details on the types of jobs you're interested in. This will provide the reference writer with some of the information they need to write an effective recommendation letter for you.


The more information you can give the potential reference, the easier it will be for them to write a compelling letter endorsing your qualifications.

Provide the deadline: If you need the reference by a specific date, be sure to mention It in your email. Give the person you're asking as much notice as possible. It can be time-consuming to write a good reference, and you don't want them to have to rush to get it done.

Include your contact information: Be sure to include your contact information, so they can easily get in touch if they need to ask additional questions. 

Reference Request Email Example

Review an example of an email asking for a reference.

Email Requesting a Reference for a Job Example

Subject: Paul Katcher - Reference Request

Dear Joan,

I am in the process of seeking a new position as a software architect and am hoping that you will provide a reference for me.

Having worked with you for many years, I believe that you can provide potential employers with information about my skills that will enhance my chances of getting the job.

I have enclosed an updated copy of my resume. Please let me know if there is additional information that you would need to act as a reference on my behalf.

Thank you very much for taking the time to consider my request.


Paul Katcher

Remember to Follow Through

People generally like to help others, and showing your appreciation is always important. When someone agrees to give you a reference, make sure you send a thank you message right away.

It’s important to let the people in your network know that you appreciate their support and that you are willing to reciprocate if asked. 

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  1. CareerOneStop. "References." Accessed June 4, 2021.

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