All About References (Part 2): Asking Them to Be Your Reference

So now that you’ve given it some thought and know who to use for your references, it’s time to seek them out. Here are some things to consider before reaching out to them:

1) Make a list of potential contacts you think you’re on good terms with:
This is a no brainer – obviously you’re not going to ask someone you don’t get along with to be a reference. Firstly, it’s awkward to ask them when you know they aren’t very fond of you and secondly, they probably wouldn’t put in a good word for you anyway.

2) Make sure they know you:
There’s no point in asking someone you’ve never spoken to or worked with. For example, if you worked under two bosses at your previous job and only reported to one of the bosses while doing a few things here and there for the other, don’t ask the boss you didn’t really interact with if they can be a reference. They may be nice enough to say yes, but when your potential employer calls them, he/she won’t have anything of substance to say about you, thus making it seem as if you didn’t do anything at your previous job.

As for students, only ask professors and TAs you interacted with on a regular basis. Again, don’t ask the professor to be your reference if you sat quietly in the back of the class for a whole year. The professor will definitely not recognize you.

3) Email, text or give them a ring:
Emailing someone is usually the way to go when you are asking a former employer or professor to be your reference. If you’ve been out of touch with them for a while, politely remind them who you are and anything you might have done to trigger their memory (people will usually remember you). Most will respond quicker to email or text nowadays than to phone calls or voicemails.

Your message to them should sound something like this:

“Dear Mr./Ms. Jones,
Hope you’re doing well. I worked for [previous company’s name]
a few months ago as [previous position title] and was wondering
if you’d be willing to be one of my references for a position I am
applying for at [name of potential company]. Thank you.

[your name]

4) Give your references a heads up:
If they say yes, let them know who your prospective employer is and when they are expected to call. You don’t want your references to be caught off guard and unprepared to vouch for you.


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