3 Steps in Asking for a Referral/Reference

In job searching and business building there comes a time when you need some help.  Actually, throughout the whole process you could use some assistance, but that is a whole other story.


Let’s just focus on one aspect today: asking someone to speak on your behalf.


Oh yes, the often dreaded “May I use you as a reference/referral?” part of job searching/business building.


Relax, it isn’t as hard as it seems; however, that being said, it isn’t as easy as one and done.


There are three simple steps, but where most people fail are stopping after the first.


  1. Ask for Permission
  2. Inquire about Content
  3. Follow Up




Ask for Permission


When asking someone to serve as a reference or referral be prepared before you approach them.  Make sure you are clear in your mind why you are asking them to do this for you.  Can they speak to your strengths and abilities or it is because it is your best buddy?


Choose people that can help you in your current pursuits and are relevant to what it is you are pursuing.  Choosing a neighbor, relative or co-worker from 20 years ago may not be your best options in a professional sense.  Sure they will support you because they like you, but can they really speak to the business value you have to offer today?


Most people will complete step one and think they are done.  Far from it!  Steps two and three are very important and should be included for each individual.


Inquire about Content


Once someone has agreed to serve in this capacity for you it is vital that you know what they are going to say about you.


This may seem contradictory since I just suggested that you know the reasons for asking them in the first place, I mean, wouldn’t they think the same thing that you do?




We all have our own way of communicating.  They may tell a prospective client or employer something about you that is a positive but the way they tell it or describe it can actually hurt you rather than help you.


You want to be able to help coach your references/referrals into supporting your mission statement.


The easiest way to accomplish this is to say something as simple as, “Thank you for helping, I really appreciate it.  What do you think are my strongest skills or things I should emphasize when I am job searching/networking?”


This will do two things:  give you an idea of how they will present the information to others and secondly, perhaps give you insight into things you had not thought of on your own.


Maybe they valued you for something you had not even thought of before or had forgotten about.  It is an opportunity to build on your profile.



Follow Up


The third and often forgotten step – the follow up.  Once you have gathered some very valuable information now is the time to bring it all together.


For job seekers I suggest that you update your resume and then contact your reference again to ask their permission to send it to them – with the intent of getting their opinion.


Again, this serves as a valuable step for you.  It gives you the opportunity to get feedback.  Even more importantly it serves as a script for your reference.  Having your resume now allows them to have your selling statement in their hands so they are on the same page with what you are presenting to prospective employers.


If they happen to get a call and are caught in the middle of something – i.e. not quite prepared to toot your horn – then they can pull your resume up and have a guided value statement right there in front of them reminding them of all your wonderful qualities.


Asking for referrals and references – as easy as 1 – 2 – 3!


Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.




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