How to Request a Reference via Email (With Sample)

Requesting a reference is important if you're changing jobs. A reference letter supports your claims and testifies to your skills and accomplishments in your previous job.

Requesting a reference via email is a very common occurrence in a professional/working environment.

Sometimes you might be asked to provide a reference of people that can testify about your skills when you apply for a job at an organization.

Having these references ready in advance can help speed up the hiring process and avoid any last-minute scrambling to find people who can attest to your qualifications.

Having a person attest to your skills and achievements is a great way to leverage your professional experience. 

It might just be the thing that sets you apart from other job applicants.

Who you ask, and how, will help ensure that you get strong, supportive references.

In this blog post, I will discuss what a reference is, who to ask for a reference and how to ask for a reference via email.

What is a Reference?

References are usually people who can speak highly of you and your character and testify to your work experience, job qualifications, and skills.

Most resumes don't usually include a reference, rather it is listed on a separate document which you send along with your CV. 

Having a third party vouch and provide a reference on your behalf is a great way of maintaining your professionalism, integrity, and reputation. 

References will let your future employer or professor know how you performed in your previous jobs and throughout your studies respectively.

Who to Ask When Requesting a Reference

When it comes to choosing whom to ask for reference it is important to think carefully and choose wisely whom to ask. 

First, consider the purpose of the references to an employer. Most employers check references to gain insight into your skills and former work performance.

Therefore a reference needs to come from someone who can speak about your skills and work experience in a professional setting. 

A reference should not come from a family member, relative, or friend unless you’re providing a character reference.

Make sure your reference is coming from your former employers, business partners, professors, and any other person that can speak about your achievement.

A Reference Can Come from 

  • A previous employer
  • Your project/thesis supervisor 
  • A professor in a related field
  • A former work colleague
  • Current employer

A Reference Can't Come from 

  • Family members
  • A close or distant relative
  • Professors who don’t remember you
  • A former employer you didn't get along with

How to Write an Email Requesting a Reference

After you have compiled your list of potential references, it is time to ask them for the reference and how to do it the right way.   

In the past, sending a formal letter was the norm for requesting a reference. 

And since we live in the age of the internet coupled with the Covid 19 pandemic which has restricted human movement.

The best way to request a reference is via email. 

Below are a few tips for requesting references:

1. Ask Early  

It is very essential to inform your referees in advance before using them as references. That way, they can expect to be contacted and will be prepared to discuss your qualifications for a job.

It would also give them much time to write you a killer recommendation before your application deadline. 

Aside from being more considerate, giving advance notice also gives your recommender more time to make sure they incorporate all of your great qualities.

2. Introduce Yourself

When asking for a reference from a former employer or professor, you need to introduce yourself.

Don't just start by asking them to be your reference, start with an introduction.

Remember these people are busy people and have worked with a lot of people. 

Remind them of who you are and how you knew each other. Stating some of the significant things you achieved with them.

This should bring them up to speed as to why they’re reading your email in the first place. 

3. State Why You are Choosing Them 

It is also important to let your referees know the exact reason why you have chosen them to be your referee. 

Explain the position you’re applying for, and that you’re asking their permission to be a reference for you. 

Considering all the professors, supervisors, and mentors you’ve had in your career journey, there has to be a reason you’ve decided on this particular person to use as a reference. 

Let them know why you think they’re qualified to speak on your skills and work performance.

Asking for a reference should be direct, but friendly. Mention the opportunity that you’re submitting the letter for, and explain how their input would be valuable.

4. Keep it Short and Make Sure to Thank Them

Like I mentioned earlier, people are busy nowadays and don't have time to engage with long texts.

Make your request short and straight to the point, taking note of spelling mistakes and other grammatical errors.

A sentence or two for every point you want to get across will probably do the trick.

Make sure you thank them for the experience you've had with them and everything you learned from them.

Close your letter by thanking them for considering your request, and sealing it with a professional signature.

An Email Template on How to Ask For A Reference 

Subject Line: Professional Recommendation for Mack James

Dear Stone,

My name is Mack James, I’m reaching out to request a reference letter from you regarding the time I spent working under your supervision as an assistant logistic officer at Grey's Logistics Company between 2015 to 2018.

I am reaching out because I’ve been interviewing for the heads of operations at Queens Industry, and I would love to list your name as a reference if you’re willing.

I thought of you because your insight on my work ethics, skills, and reliability could improve my chances of being offered the job.

Your opinion is very valuable to me because of how long we worked together and how much I learned under your supervision.

I have attached my current resume and the position description for your reference.

The hiring team is particularly looking for someone with the skills and experience I learned under your supervision which I am hoping you can talk about.

I will very much appreciate it if you can find the time to write me a recommendation and can speak to my skills as a logistic officer.

I would be happy to send you any additional information you need.

Thank you for your favorable consideration.


Mack James 


Requesting a reference is important if you're changing jobs. A reference letter supports your claims and testifies to your skills and accomplishments in your previous job.

Opeyemi Olagoke
Opeyemi Olagoke
Olagoke Opeyemi Dare is a writer, digital marketer, and researcher with over 2 years of experience as a researcher. He is currently an intern at Spark Connect where he focuses on the fundamentals of digital marketing, social media marketing, and copywriting. He has written different articles and papers for various blogs and academic research projects respectively.

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