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The Best Way to Ask for a Professional Work Reference

Reference checks are a standard part of the hiring process. Potential employers typically request referee details after interviews. But sometimes, you are asked to supply references upfront as part of your job application.

Ask early

It is a good idea to contact your referees as soon as you start thinking about looking for a new job. That way, there is no delay to securing your next role. It is also common courtesy to let people know in advance that you would like to use them as references, and they will be better prepared to speak about you.

Choose People Who Will Speak Positively About Your Experience

Reference checks are often the final hurdle for potential employers to determine your fit for the role. Most employers and recruitment agencies will only accept people that you have reported to as referees, so keep this in mind. You want to select line managers who are professional, articulate, and can speak about you with enthusiasm. That’s why you should invite individuals to be your referees. For example, “Would you be comfortable being a reference for me?” You know those who say they would be more than happy to help will be positive when talking about you, while those who would be more apathetic can politely decline.

Be Respectful With Your Request

Feel free to pick up the phone and call your referees if that suits your style and theirs. However, you still want to provide them the opportunity to agree to act as a reference with a follow-up email or text message, so they don’t feel put on the spot.

If your working relationship was more professional than personal, an email, text, or message via LinkedIn is a suitable way to get in touch. For example, “Hi Tom, I hope you are doing well. It’s been a while since we last worked together at ABC Company. I see you have moved into a new role recently. Congratulations! I’m looking for a change myself and wanted to know if you would be comfortable acting as a reference for me? I’d be happy to send through my CV and further details. Looking forward to hearing from you.” 

If they agree, confirm the best email and phone number to reach them on, along with their availability. Having their preferred contact details will make it quick and easy for potential employers to get in touch.

Prepare Your Referees With Relevant Information

Send useful information such as the company name, a copy of your resume, and the position description so they can best highlight your suitability. It will also be helpful for them to know who will be ringing them and when, so they don’t ignore the call. Let them know to check their email (and spam folder) if the reference request will be received via email or online reference check platform.

Even though you have selected referees who are enthusiastic supporters, they can still be busy people. Assist them by also including a summary of the key challenges and opportunities of the role, along with your relevant skills and experience. If they don’t have time to read and digest your CV and the PD, they’ll still be able to provide a relevant and compelling reference check.

Ensure You Provide a Prompt Update and Follow Up With a Thank You

Don’t leave your referees wondering. Even if you didn’t get the role or decided not to switch jobs, they will appreciate an update and thank you. Staying connected will help when you are looking for a new opportunity and require a reference again. If you land the position, acknowledge their efforts, and make sure you send a sincere thank you. Take them out for a coffee or lunch to show your appreciation and celebrate! A good referee is invaluable for your career so take the time to invest in the relationship. All the best with your next career move. For more job-seeker advice, subscribe so you don’t miss out!

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Clicks is an award-winning IT recruitment specialist. As Australia’s favourite IT recruiter, we help candidates in Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, and Sydney find great opportunities each day.

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