Whether you’re dealing with a layoff, making a career change, or applying to your first job, the chances are good that you’ll need a professional reference letter. Although it may seem like a simple enough task to request a recommendation, many job seekers find requesting a reference letter to be an intimidating concept. To help make the process easier, here are some steps to follow each time you ask for this type of document.
Determine who to contact to request a reference
The next time you need a recommendation, be sure to consider two main things before asking your contact to write a reference. Ask yourself these questions:
- How closely did you work with the person?
- Would they have concrete positive feedback to share?
Obviously, you want to choose someone who thinks highly of you. But you might be surprised to learn that many job candidates make the error of requesting a reference letter from people who don’t have much to say about them. Worse yet would be selecting someone who has plenty to say but the details aren’t all favorable.
Avoid making that mistake and be intentional when choosing your references. Depending on the stage of your career and your industry, who you ask for a job reference will change over time.
Approaching your contact the best way
Once you decide who is ideal to ask for the letter, call or arrange to an appointment with your reference. During this meeting, make your reference’s life as easy by giving them the following details:
- Provide them with context on the type of job you’re applying for, including the title of the position (if it’s not confidential)
- Tell them who the prospective employer is, or at least explain the type of company. Prep them on any industry-specific things they could highlight in the reference letter
- Allow them more than enough time to write the letter. Don’t overdo it with following up. Remember they’re doing you a favor
Say thank you
After receiving the completed reference letter, send your contact a thank you note. One way to do so is to send them a handwritten card in the mail to their office or home; depending on the level of personal contact you have with them, determine which location is most appropriate.
Another option is to send an email expressing your gratitude. You might also phone them to give thanks.
Takeaway on requesting a reference letter
Your references won’t remember your time working together in the same way you do, especially if a lot of time has passed. Mention some specific highlights of projects you worked on together to jog their memory. Remember to express your gratitude for any business wisdom they shared with you.
Being able to request references politely and confidently is a valuable skill to master, and the graphic below from LiveCareer below can help:
Requesting a reference (Infographic)
Infographic Design by LiveCareer