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Home > Emails > How to ask for a reference in an email (5 samples & templates)

How to ask for a reference in an email (5 samples & templates)

Lawrie Jones
Written by
Lawrie JonesProfessional Tech Writer
Updated on:Jan 04, 2024

When getting a new job, you'll need to find the opportunity, complete the application, and ace the interview. Don't forget to line up references! Your chances of landing the job rest on a good reference from a colleague, friend, boss, or manager. How are you going to get one? Ask in an email, of course.

Reference request emails are a call for help from someone you trust to say nice things about you. Who do you ask? Here are 5 samples we're going to cover in this guide:

  • Reference request email to boss
  • Reference request email to a colleague
  • Reference request email to a friend
  • Reference request email to Professor
  • Professional reference request email

We also provide an explanation of the reference request format and build a friendly example that you can use as a template. We start by exploring what a reference request email is and, more importantly, who to send it to.

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What is a reference request email?

People make all sorts of claims on their resumes or during interviews. Of course, we're trusting people – but employers will always check out references.

Before your job offer is confirmed, they'll contact your nominated references with some set questions. Will they be ready and prepared to answer?

Yes (if you've sent a reference request). Reference request emails are sent to those people you're asking to back up your experience, career, and competencies.

Who you choose is up to you, although most people have a personal nomination (a colleague or friend who has known you for a long time) and your current manager or boss. You can also nominate a professional (a professor, or doctor, for example).

Have you got the names in your head? Here are 5 email reference request messages to get you started.

5 reference request emails

Before we break down the reference request format, we'll show you 5 completed messages for you. This will help you get to grips with the structure, the style, and the purpose of them.

Reference request email to boss

Your boss is going to be the first name on your reference list in most cases. While they're duty-bound to provide a reference, you still need to do the right thing and ask – so use this example.

Dear [Boss's Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to reach out and request a reference from you for my future job applications. As you are aware, you have been an integral part of my career growth and have extensive knowledge about my skills and capabilities. I would sincerely appreciate it if you could provide a positive reference for me.

Please let me know if you need any further information or if there are specific areas you would like me to highlight for the reference. Your support in this matter would mean a lot to me.

Thank you for your attention.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

Read also: How to Reply an Email from Boss? (12 templates)

Reference request email to a colleague

It's fair to ask current or formal colleagues for a reference. Unlike your boss, they don't have to provide a reference, so you'll need to ask them (nicely) to do so. How? See our sample.

Dear [Recipient's Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to kindly ask if you would be willing to provide me with a reference for a new opportunity I am pursuing.

Your insight into my work ethic, skills, and accomplishments would greatly contribute to my application. I truly value the experience we had working together and believe your recommendation would carry significant weight.

If you are comfortable providing a reference, please let me know and I will provide you with any additional information you may need.

Thank you for your attention.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

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Read also: How to Ask for a Raise via Email

Reference request email to a friend

The previous emails have been formal, but this email to a friend is all about personality. You can engage them however you want, but don't forget to spell out in simple and clear terms what you want (a positive reference, obviously!).

Dear [Recipient's Name],

I hope this email finds you in high spirits. I wanted to reach out to you to ask a favor. I am currently seeking a positive reference for my upcoming job application, and I immediately thought of you. Considering our shared experiences and the close bond we have developed over the years, I believe your reference would greatly enhance my chances of securing the position.

If you feel comfortable and would be willing to vouch for my skills, work ethic, and character, I would be extremely grateful. Having known you for so long, I trust that your reference would carry significant weight. Please let me know if you would be open to providing a reference for me.

Thank you so much for your attention and support.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

Read also: How to request something emails (5 samples & templates)

Reference request email to a professor

If you're fresh out of college with limited professional experience, ask your Professor. You'll need to explain who you are and what you're asking them to do. It won't harm your chances to provide a reminder of your key skills.

Dear [Recipient's Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I am a recent graduate from [College/University] and had the pleasure of being a student in your [Course Name] class. I wanted to reach out and kindly request your assistance with a reference for future job applications.

During my time in your class, I greatly admired your dedication to teaching and your ability to foster a positive learning environment. Your expertise and guidance have been invaluable in shaping my skills and knowledge in [Subject/Area of Expertise].

I believe that your reference would greatly enhance my job prospects as I enter the professional world. Your insight and recommendation would attest to my academic performance, work ethic, and potential for future success.

Thank you for considering my request. I appreciate your time and support. Please feel free to let me know if you require any additional information or documentation.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

Learn more about how to email a professor.

Professional reference request email

Want to ask anyone else not covered in our list? This professional reference request email is suitable for any situation or circumstance.

Dear [Recipient's Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to request a professional reference from you. I have recently applied for a [job/position/opportunity] and I believe that your recommendation can greatly enhance my chances of being selected.

Having worked closely with you for [number of years] at [company/organization], I feel that you are well acquainted with my skills, work ethic, and achievements. Therefore, I kindly request you to vouch for my abilities and provide a positive reference. Your support would be highly valued and greatly appreciated.

If you require any additional information or would like to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

Best regards,
[Your Name]

How to write reference request emails – expert guide

Reference emails can quickly start with a list of what you want. "I want you to provide me with a reference." That's great, but where's the gratitude?

Remember, when you're requesting a reference, you're asking for someone to vouch for you. They're putting their professional reputation on the line, so you could at least say please very, very nicely.

There are some critical things you need to include in reference messages, and we will show you what they are and how to tackle them.

Every reference email has a standard format, which 3 parts:

  1. Subject line
  2. Body copy
  3. Sign-off/next steps

Get them right, and you'll give yourself the best chance of getting a great reference – and securing the job!

Reference email subject line

Ever struggle with subject lines? In our experience, in many cases, that's because you're trying to be too smart, funny, or formal.

The key is to strip the subject line back to the basics. The best subject lines are:

  • Short – keep it to 7 words or less
  • Say what you want – don't beat around the bush
  • Personalized

Here are some reference request subject line samples…

  • (Your name) – Reference request
  • (Your name) – Could you be my reference
  • Reference request from my good friend!
  • Could you provide a reference?
  • (Your name) – (Course) – Can I ask for a reference?
  • Would you act as a reference for me?
  • Reference needed – Would you help me?
  • Urgent: Reference needed by (insert date)

Reference email body copy

In this section, we're going to build a message. You'd expect us to start with demand, but you're wrong. When asking for a reference, you're asking for a personal favor from a friend. So treat with some respect in your request, as we do in this sample reference request from a former manager.

You've got their attention, and they know you want a reference. But always start the message politely and drop in a compliment or two.

"Hi (person's name),"

"How are things at (company name)? I hope you and the old team are working as hard as ever! I still miss working with you guys."

You're building a personal connection (and reminding them who you are!). Now we can ask for what you want.

"I'm currently in the process of applying for a new post at (company name). I need to include two references, and I wanted to ask if you would provide one?"

Great, you've asked for your reference, but we need to provide some context (and a compliment).

"You're a well-respected figure in the industry, and I would value your support."

This is now a very positive-sounding message. It's a good idea to include some details about the job itself.

"The role is (insert details). The main responsibilities will be (insert details)."

The body copy is built, and we need to push on to the next steps!

Reference email sign-off/next steps

When you're applying for a job, time is tight, so you're going to need an answer. Don't be too pushy, but include a deadline and ask what you need.

"I'm going to submit my application on (insert date). Would you be able to let me know if you can provide a reference before then?"

"If you can provide me with a reference, please can you send me your contact details for the form?"

This is a warm, friendly, and focused message. We can provide a warm sign-off.

"Thanks in advance for your help. You can contact me anytime if you need to discuss anything."

Now, add a polite sign-off ("Many thanks," "Thanks," etc.), and send!

Check here for more closing lines for emails.

Tips from the pros – write better emails to request reference

So far, we've shown you how to ask for a reference via email. These are going to be suitable for use in all situations. While they won't wow anyone, they won't lose you any friends. You can also learn more about how to request something via email here.

If you want to take your reference request emails to the next level. Here are 5 pro tips.

  1. Explain what the job is and its key requirements – It can be a good idea to explain what the role is and the key requirements. You'll want the person providing your reference to include these key points. If the advert is still up, include a link, or attach the job spec.
  2. Remind your skills – OK, your current boss should have no problems with knowing what your key skills are, but everyone else may benefit from a breakdown. You can list them out (and link them to the job spec), or attach your resume.
  3. Offer to return the favor – If the person ever asks for a reference, who are they going to ask? You, of course! Offering to provide a reference in return is a pro tip that demonstrates class.
  4. Don't take them for granted – Sometimes, we can assume people will help us out, and this can come across in our emails and messages. Don't be this person.
  5. Use HIX.AI Email Writer – Writing reference requests can be time-consuming and tough, so ask AI to do it for you. Nobody will be able to tell that you're using technology. The requests are professional, proofread, and perfect for every situation. Try it today!

Conclusion

You want that job, and we want you to get it, so you should follow our advice on asking for reference via email. Use our format as the basis to build your own professional and personalized messages. Always focus on the skills of the role and how you meet them. Remember, a reference is a favor, and you should never take a positive response for granted. Now, go get them!

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