Many job seekers focus on the more “obvious” elements of a job search: the cover letter, resume, and interview. But once you’re getting near the end of the job search process, you may encounter an employer who asks for a number of job references to get an objective view of your skills and expertise.

This can throw many job seekers off guard, so it’s best to be prepared. You should compile a list of potential references before you even start applying for jobs. Still, asking for a reference can be a potentially awkward process. It can often be difficult for job seekers to gauge the most appropriate way to ask their former colleagues, managers, or bosses to endorse their work. Here are three foolproof ways job seekers can ask for a job reference:

Start with LinkedIn. Some job seekers get nervous asking for references because they’re afraid of getting rejected. LinkedIn can be a great buffer zone for job seekers who need to connect with professional references but are timid about asking. If you’re feeling apprehensive about asking a contact to endorse you to an employer, try asking them to recommend you on LinkedIn first. If they agree, this can be a good way to
gauge whether or not you should reach out to them to see if they’ll agree to be listed as an official reference for your job search.

Reach out traditionally. If you sense your potential reference is a busy person, it can be best to simply touch base with them in an email or quick phone call to ask if they’d be willing to endorse you. Remember, you should never list a reference without asking them for permission first! The last thing you want is for your potential employer to catch your reference off-guard, or have them be ill-prepared to speak about your abilities. Consider sending a handwritten thank you note after the fact to show your appreciation.

Record a video. While emails and phone calls are fine for getting in touch with potential references, recording a short video can be a kind gesture that shows you’re willing to put in the extra effort to get their endorsement. Create a short video explaining details of your job search, including a general overview of what type of position you’re vying for and specific reasons why you’d like their endorsement. Upload to YouTube — make sure to set it to private, so only those with the link can see — and email to contacts. Ask them to shoot you an email back if they agree to be one of your references. They’ll appreciate the extra time and effort you put into snagging their endorsement.

Asking for a job reference can be intimidating and nerve-wracking, but it’s often a crucial element to landing a new position. Employers want to know that others have had a good experience working with you in the past. Follow these quick tips, and you’ll be well on your way to landing your new position. Good luck!


Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.