Job-hunting doesn’t just come down to having a great resume or personalized cover letter. Nowadays, networking is the primary source of landing new opportunities, or at the very least, getting your foot in the door at major companies.
Aside from the other components of standing out—like having an awesome website, portfolio, or online presence portfolio—nothing is more powerful than having contacts vouch for you.
Here’s the best way to approach someone you’ve worked with, whether that be a professor, old boss, current supervisor, or career counselor—and ask to use them as reference for years to come.
Step 1: Choose the right reference
Picking the right person is crucial. If you’re going to depend on someone to vouch for your work ethic and accomplishments, you want that person to be someone that you’ve built a solid relationship with—or at least kept in touch with. The last thing you want is to have HR call your contact and have them respond with “who?” at the mention of your name, or worse yet, an anecdote about that time you showed everyone how to dance to “Thriller” at a company happy hour.
Our advice? Stick to a trusted professor or advisor, or a mentor that’s been an integral part of your professional development.
Step 2: Ask nicely—using this template
Can’t find the words to ask for such a simple, career-defining favor? This is the format you need to use if you want to get the best response and truly stand out as an all-start candidate:
I hope that all has been well! I’m reaching out because I’ve been interviewing for a [position] at [company], and would love to list your name as a reference. I thought of you, specifically, because of [experience of working together] and how you could vouch for [skills that this role requires].
I’ve attached an updated resume and the position description for your reference. If you’re contacted, it would be great if you could mention [1-2 skills that you’ve demonstrated and are key to the position] or [specific project you worked on that’s relevant to the role].
Please let me know if you feel comfortable serving as my reference. Thank you for your time!
Note: Once they respond, make sure you note down their contact information, and ask if they’d prefer to be contacted via phone or email. You should also make sure you list them properly, by including their name, title, company/organization, department, contact number, email address, and a sentence about your relationship with them.
Step 3: Thank them for their time
After properly following up and getting a yes, you don’t want to just email back a quick thanks and let that be that! If you want them to keep a positive perception of you, show your gratitude through a heartfelt, hand written “Thank You” note—those are the kinds of things that’ll take you far in your career, aside from having awesome references to utilize!
Have any good reference stories? Any outreach tips we missed? Share in the comments!