How to Ask Someone to Be a Reference?


how to ask someone to be a reference

The advancement of technology has done a lot for the employment industry. It’s now easier than ever to find positions and companies that are hiring. However, it doesn’t mean that getting hired is actually any easier. Competition is fierce, and when you’re looking for work you’ll likely fill out countless applications in hopes of finally landing that dream job. 

With that being the case, providing the right professional references to potential employers is an essential step to landing the job. But how do you ask someone to be a reference? 

There are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to collecting your references, and this article will walk you through how to ask someone to be a reference.

How to ask someone to be a reference


Asking someone to be a reference starts with selecting the right people to be a reference for you. 

Generally, you want to build a list of at least three people that can be references for you. And you want those to be people that can speak credibly to your ability to perform the duties of the job. To that end, former bosses, colleagues, or people that you’ve collaborated with in a professional capacity are good candidates.

If you’re struggling with who to select, we have a complete article about who to select to be a reference. We also have an article about what to do if you don’t have any references.

Now, when you go to ask someone to be your reference, you want to be polite, direct, and appreciative. Get to the point quickly, and be sure that you provide all of the necessary information they may need to accurately speak to your new potential employer. Finally, follow up with them afterward, thanking them yet again, and asking how it went.

Can you list someone as a reference without asking?


While you technically can list someone as a reference without asking, it is not recommended.

If you don’t ask the person first, they won’t know that a company will be contacting them and are more likely to miss the call and not respond.

Additionally, while you may think that someone would make a great reference, they actually may not be as positive of a reference as you would think, and you may miss the chance for them to communicate that to you when you ask them.

With all that being the case, you should always ask someone to a reference first. Because a bad reference can absolutely cost you a job

If you want to read more on this topic, we have a full article that provides a deeper discussion of if you can list someone as a reference without asking.

How to ask someone to be your reference via email (with template) 


One of the easiest and most acceptable avenues to collect references would be via email. Email is a great way to ask for references, as it’s convenient for everyone as well as professional. Most people also check their email daily, meaning it’s less likely they’ll miss your request.

To ask someone to be your reference in an email, you may find that something like this would do well:

Dear (reference),


I hope that this email reaches you well. I’m writing you today to ask for a small favor. As you may know, I’m looking to advance my career. As such, I’ve applied for (X position) with (company.) I’ve recently completed my interviews, and I’m seeking individuals that I view in a high regard to be a reference for me. I understand that your time is valuable, but I was hoping that you would consider being a reference?


(Company) is expected to contact references sometime (time frame) and I was hoping you’d feel comfortable enough to speak to them on my behalf. If you’re able, please provide me your current contact information that I can pass along. I truly appreciate your consideration, regardless of your answer. 


Thank you for your time and consideration. 


All the best, 


How to ask someone to be your reference via text (with template)

can employers contact references without asking for permission first

Technology is outstanding, and it now means that we’re able to ask for references in new ways. Asking for a reference via text is easy and quick, making it one of the preferred methods to ask. When you ask someone to be your reference via text message, you may want to write something like:

Hey (NAME), I hope you’re doing well. I was wondering if you’d do me a small favor? I recently applied for (job information) with (company) and I’m hopeful that I’ll get the position. I’m in need of a few references, and because I value your opinion, I was hoping that you would feel comfortable being a reference for me?


I understand if you’re unable to, but I thought I’d ask since I feel you know me pretty well. If you would, is there a certain number you’d prefer them to contact you on?


They would likely contact you sometime (time frame). Thanks for considering this, it means a lot to me! Let’s get together soon! 


Is it awkward to ask someone to be a reference?

thinking person

While it may seem like it would be awkward to ask someone to be a reference, it’s really not that awkward. Everyone has asked someone for a reference at some point. In fact, it’s sort of flattering that you would trust someone enough to ask! 

So don’t worry too much about it and go ahead and make the ask.

How to follow up on a reference request?

phone call

Following up on your request is just as important as making one. When you follow up on your request, you’ll want to use the same method as you first did when contacting them. Always thank them for their time, and use this time to ask any questions you may have.

Try to keep the same tone that you used to make your request, and always be humble, kind, and thankful. This is best a few days after the expected contact date. 


Everyone will need references at some point in their career. Collecting your references may seem awkward and nerve wracking, but it’s a natural process that most workers will go through.

Before you ask someone to be your reference, be sure that they’re trustworthy, and that they also know enough about you to accurately provide correct information.

You’ll want to try and provide at least three references, as it provides a well-rounded scope of who you are as a person and as a professional. Get your references in as soon as you can, and always follow up with a thank you a few days afterward. Most importantly, try to relax, as whatever will be, will be. 

Hopefully, this article has been helpful in showing you how to ask someone to be a reference. Good luck on your job search!

About the author

ted wilson
Ted Wilson

Ted Wilson is a writer and marketing specialist with over thirteen years of experience. He has worked with clients of all types, including major brands like Bed Bath & Beyond. He has years of experience writing for career management and education websites and often tells clients seeking to advance their career that passion and consistency are key.

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