10 Tips for Asking Someone to Be a Reference for a Job

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By Lorna Faires

Topics: Job Search, References, Interviewing


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10-tips-for-asking-someone-to-be-a-reference-for-a-job-thumbAsking someone to be a reference for a job can be pretty daunting. You probably already know that having strong references on your resume can make a big impact on your job search. They provide potential employers with a window into who you are and what you can do. But that doesn’t make it easy to approach the right people and make that request: Will you be a job reference for me? 

Did you know that a staffing agency can serve as a kind of reference? When we vouch for you to our contracted employers, that support goes a long way. If you’re not sure where to start on your job search, reach out to us at Liberty Staffing. We can help! 

Looking for a job? Let Liberty Staffing connect you to the jobs you want. Apply  today!

Let’s take a look at 10 strategies for asking someone to be a reference for you. Although the process can seem intimidating, we can help you navigate this important part of your job search. 

1. Choose Wisely

First of all, you have to choose your potential references wisely. Identify individuals who have firsthand knowledge of your work performance and can speak positively about your strengths as an employee. These include your achievements, skills, and work ethic. 

Your ideal references may include former supervisors, coworkers, or even customers who have worked closely with you in the past. If you are just starting in the workforce, consider coaches, teachers, team leaders, and others from outside the workplace to serve as your references. 

We recommend that you try to find someone who has a leadership role and a good relationship with you. Combined, this is the perfect reference. 

It’s best to avoid personal connections like family or casual acquaintances who may not have a good understanding of your professional capabilities. 

2. Ask with Plenty of Time in Advance 

We know that you don’t always have weeks or months of planning before applying for a job, so you may not be able to get a reference far in advance of applying. However, the last thing you want to do is beg someone to be a reference right before hitting “submit,” and then find yourself stalled out during the application process until they get back to you.  

Respect the other person’s time, and ask them to serve as a reference as early as possible. 

3. Explain the Situation

When approaching someone to be a reference, provide some context about the job you are applying for, and why you believe you are a good candidate for the role–and why they would make a strong reference. 

Share some details about the position so they can anticipate the questions they may need to answer about your performance and potential. If you would like them to highlight a specific skill set, go ahead and let them know that. You aren’t going to tell them what to do, but you are going to make it easy…which brings us to our next piece of advice. 

4. Make It Easy

The easier it is for someone to be your reference, the more likely they are to say yes. 

Some of the best ways to make it easy on them include offering them a copy of your resume, the job description, and even your cover letter. All of this information will help them understand your qualifications for the role. 

Remember, they won’t have pored over the job description like you have; you are the one who knows why you are a great fit for the role. Make it easy for your reference to see the same thing. 

5. Respect Their Decision

Sometimes, people hear “no” when they ask for a reference. Respect that “no,” as it may be for important reasons. Maybe the person is just too busy to serve as a reference right now. They should say no rather than give a rushed, half-hearted endorsement of your work. 

Sometimes, your potential reference has reasons for saying no that would be uncomfortable to share with you. Perhaps they do not have a positive impression of you, or they don’t feel they can confidently recommend you for the role. That is unfortunate, but again, wouldn’t you rather that this person say no instead of giving you a less-than-stellar endorsement? 

If someone declines, thank them for considering your request and move on to your next potential reference. Begging or pressuring them to reconsider is almost always going to damage your relationship. 

6. Follow Up

During your job search process, follow up with your references periodically to keep them informed of your progress. This shows them courtesy but also helps you make sure they are prepared in case a potential employer contacts them. 

Sometimes, job searches take a long time, and you don’t want the reference to forget that they agreed to vouch for you. 

7. Return the Favour 

When someone agrees to serve as a reference for you, it may be appropriate to offer to return the favour in the future. This reciprocity strengthens your professional relationship and acknowledges the value of their time and effort. 

If they ever find themselves in a similar situation, they may consider you a great person to serve as a reference. This is especially true for colleagues and coworkers. 

8. Consider a Staffing Agency 

If you’re having trouble finding suitable references, or if you are concerned about potential conflicts of interest, consider using a staffing agency as a reference source. 

Many staffing agencies can provide professional references for their candidates, based on their experience working with you on previous assignments or projects. Even if you are new to the agency, they may be able to vouch for you based on your resume, interview, or skills assessments. 

9. Express Your Gratitude 

Don’t forget to say thank you. A handwritten thank you note or a small gift can go a long way in acknowledging their contribution to your job search. This also reinforces your appreciation for their time and effort. 

Not only does this gesture solidify your professionalism, but it also strengthens your relationships with the reference, making them more likely to provide positive and enthusiastic recommendations in the future. Additionally, this provides you with a more meaningful professional network for more opportunities in the future. 

10. Maintain the Relationship

What should you do after landing a new job? We recommend that you maintain the relationship with your references. Keep them informed of your progress and success, as you may have opportunities to work with them in the future. 

Collaboration is so important in the workforce, and relationships like these often become more meaningful over time. 

Liberty Staffing Can Help With Your Southern Ontario Job Search

It may be true that asking someone to be a reference can be a delicate process, but following our 10 tips will help you find a reference with confidence and professionalism. 

Liberty Staffing Services is ready to step in and support you in your job search in Southern Ontario. Whether you are brand new to the job market, or you are looking for a new position, we are here to help. 

Reach out to our team of experienced staffing professionals today to find your next great job opportunity! 


Lorna Faires

I’ve been employed with Liberty Staffing since 2006. As a Director of Regional Service Operations, I use my years of experience in the staffing industry to build strong relationships with new and existing clients, ensuring they are receiving the absolute best service that we can provide to them. I am the go-to person for any issues that may arise and can help to troubleshoot and come up with a variety of custom solutions for any situation. I love all animals, but especially my 3 dogs. Hiking and canoeing are my passions, and getting out into nature and being unplugged is my favourite way to spend my vacations.

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