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.




Bad Blind Date Or Dream Job – References Can Make All The Difference

Often times in job searching we forget about the power of communication, not in our own, but others. Specifically – our professional references. These individuals can help you in securing that dream job or they can shoot your chances in the foot. It is important to know what others would say in giving you a recommendation. It is kind of like setting you up for a blind date – it is really important to have the right information.

I love my friends, but I often wondered what I have done to some of them that they feel some secret need to pay me back in the most abhorrent way – a blind date. This is when you really find out what your friends think of you – let me tell you! Or it is an exercise in the importance of some very simple questions. Here are a few examples:

I’m in my early 40s, my son will be 19 in two weeks, the baby factory is closed, I do not want any more children. Why on earth would someone set me up with a man who wants to START a large family? (Will your reference infer that you will not work beyond the 9-5 hours no matter what?)

I’m blond. Combine this with the fact that I am a girl does not naturally lead to the conclusion that I am an idiot. Why on earth would you think someone that feels the need to explain everything from which fork to use to what was being discussed on tv in great detail as though I’m five would be a good night for me? (Will your references infer that you are unable to learn new tasks, duties or responsibilities?)

For the most part I am a very positive person, I look to enjoy life and love to laugh. Anyone that knows me pretty much knows this about me – I think one of the most, if not the most, attractive features of a man is the ability to make me laugh and to laugh at himself. So setting me up with no humor at all is a receipt for disaster! No humor – none, zilch, nada, no sign of life call it. (Will your references infer that you are unable to see the bigger picture?)

I’m a tomboy. I had a real homerun by being set up with a guy who assumed since I was a girl I knew nothing about sports so he felt the need to explain baseball to me – seriously. (Will your references infer that you are not well versed in your field?)

Let’s not forget the guy that continually flexed while he talked, laid out the ground rules that he doesn’t call if I want to see him it’s my job to contact him, he doesn’t believe in showing a girl he likes her until he knows she’s all into him that way he isn’t going to get hurt…oh, sign me up. (Will your references infer that you do not take appropriate steps to go above and beyond?)

Oh and then there was the guy who insisted all women were the same and we all liked frilly wallpaper, cheated on their boyfriends, only looked to see how much a man made and were always looking for someone to take care of them. This was in the first half hour of meeting him that I was treated to his staunch views of women. Gee, I wonder why he was single…. (Will your references infer that you are unable to work within a diverse environment?)

At first after these “experiences” I think to myself: where is that great guy? The one that has a great sense of humor, is comfortable with himself, has a conversation with me, if he likes me actually calls me, doesn’t mind trying new things, gives romance a try and above all can be my friend as we figure anything else out. I think I’ve created this guy in my mind.

The more I start to ponder this it then hits me – what the heck do my friends think of me to set me up with the above cast rejects? I think back to how they described these unfortunate candidates compared to the person that actually showed up. The two do not match – at all, not even in the least. Okay, maybe the height, but not always then.

If someone is going to give you a referral it is in your best interest to know what they would say about you. Oh sure, blind dates are great excuses to have wine with your girlfriends, but when it comes to a job – a bad referral is no joking matter.

Sometimes people want to help, and they do their best; but the way in which they deliver their message is not received in the way it was intended. I had one guy tell me that my friend’s husband told him I was adamant that I never wanted to get married so not to even mention it. (Which makes me wonder why he was even mentioning it if in fact it were true…). When I talked to the husband and told him what was said he laughed and told me that was not even near what he said. Messages get mixed up and confused.

Make sure your professional references are speaking to your best qualities and do not be afraid to ask them what they would say if contacted for a reference. If you feel uncomfortable in doing so, simply tell them that you are working on your resume and maybe there is something that they would say that you should highlight more within that resume.

No matter what just find out what they would say and if need be, gently coach them. It is fun to laugh at the single girl’s bad blind dates but loosing a dream job due to a miscommunication is no laughing matter.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW
Career Coach-Strategist
Certified Professional Resume Writer
Career Polish, Inc.