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Requesting Letters of Recommendation

Requesting References
By Alison Doyle, Guide

If you're interviewing for a new job, expect to have your references checked prior to getting an offer. Having good references can be the clincher to getting that new job. Plan ahead and compile a list of references and some letters of recommendation now, so you're prepared when a prospective employer requests them.

Review sample reference letters so you know what to expect from your reference writer.

Who To Ask For References

Who should you ask to provide references? On the average, employers check three references for each candidate, so have at least that many ready to vouch for you. It's important to know your references, to select the right people, and to get their permission to use them. You need responsive people that can confirm that you worked there, your title, your reason for leaving, and other details.

It's also very important to have a good idea of what they are going to say about your background and your performance. It's perfectly acceptable to use references other than your employer. Business acquaintances, professors/academic advisors, customers, and vendors can all make good references. If you volunteer consider using leaders or other members of the organization as personal references.

When leaving a position you should ask for a letter of recommendation from your manager. As time passes and people move on, it's easy to lose track of previous employers, so with letters in hand, in advance, you'll have written documentation of your credentials to give to prospective employers. If you haven't done so already, it's never too late to go back and ask for letters from previous employers to include in your personal files.

How To Ask For a Letter of Recommendation

Don't ask "Could you write a letter of reference for me?" Just about anyone can write a letter. The problem can be what they are going to write about. Rather, ask "Do you feel you know my work well enough to write me a good recommendation letter?" or "Do you feel you could give me a good reference?" That way, your reference writer has an easy out if they are not comfortable writing a letter and you can be assured that those who say "yes" will be enthusiastic about your performance and will write a positive letter. Offer to provide an updated copy of your resume and information on your skills and experiences so the reference writer has current information to work with.

If your recommendation writer asks you to provide a sample, here are recommendation letter samples you can use.

In addition to references, you may be asked for contact information concerning your supervisor. However, prospective employers should get your permission before contacting your current supervisor to avoid jeopardizing your current position.