How to Ask Past Supervisors if you can put them down as a Reference (the right way!)

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By: Kaljah Adams

In 2022, it is very common for recruiters to ask potential candidates for a list of references as they progress through the interview stages. 

What is a list of references?

It is a list that contains the contact information of current/former supervisors and colleagues that have worked with you in a professional setting and have seen you in action! 

Recruiters often ask for a list of references as a way to:

  1. Get an outside perspective of your character and work ethic from someone who has worked with you
  2. Verify your work history 
  3. Confirm that you will be a good fit for the organization

How do you to choose references?

When choosing references, I recommend reflecting on your relationship with current/former supervisors and colleagues. Ask yourself: Am I confident that he/she will speak highly of me and provide an accurate depiction of my work ethic in spaces where I am not present? Remember, you want to make sure that your references have your best interest at heart, so if the answer is no, then find someone else to ask! 

Have you identified who you would put down as a reference? Great! Now it’s time to ask them! Always ask! Don’t assume that someone has the capacity to be your reference. 

How to make the ask: 

I recommend requesting a reference letter via email. This format helps keep you organized and allows you to have a digital paper trail for future reference.

Below is an outline that you can customize when requesting a recommendation. This outline will help you effectively:

  1. ask current/former supervisors and colleagues to be your reference for a new position, and 
  1. highlight 1-3 projects that you worked on to showcase the tasks you completed, the value you brought to the company, and the results you’ve achieved (BONUS: this will help them remember what you’ve done, which they may mention to recruiters)

⬇️ Check out the outline below (and feel free to copy + paste it in an email + use it) ⬇️

____________________________

Hello/ Good Morning/ Good Afternoon {Person’s Name}:

I am currently interviewing for the {position title} position at {company’s name}, and the recruiter requested that I provide a list of references that he/she can contact on my behalf. 

I am reaching out to you because I would like to put you down as a reference. As my supervisor, you have seen me grow within my role as the {position title}, while successfully tackling new projects, such as:

  •  (briefly describe project #1 that you’ve successfully completed, if applicable, in bullet point form). 
  •  (briefly describe project #2 that you’ve successfully completed, if applicable, in bullet point form). 
  •  (briefly describe project #3 that you’ve successfully completed, if applicable, in bullet point form). 

As a result, I believe you can accurately depict my work ethic, leadership skills, and results-driven mindset to potential employers.

Please let me know if I can put you down as a reference. If it would be helpful, I could also send you a copy of my resume and the job description. 

Thank you for your time!

Best,

(Your name) 

_____

Now, here is an example of how the email should read when the blanks are filled in:

_____

Good Afternoon Ms. Hub: 

I am currently interviewing for the College Counselor position at ABC School, and the recruiter requested that I provide a list of references that he can contact on my behalf. 

I am reaching out to you because I would like to put you down as a reference. As my supervisor, you have seen me grow within my role as the advisor, while successfully tackling new projects, such as:

  •  Planning 11th and 12th grade parent night to inform parents about the college application process.

As a result, I believe you can accurately depict my work ethic, leadership skills, and results-driven mindset to potential employers.

Please let me know if I can put you down as a reference.

Thank you for your time!

Best,

Kaljah

_______

Feel free to copy and paste the outline in an email, fill in the blanks, and send the email off to your potential references!

What to do when they respond: 

As former/current colleagues and supervisors respond to and give you permission to put them down as a reference, you want to make sure you compile their information in a professional document. Not sure how to do so? I strongly encourage you to check out The Career Advising Hub Reference List Template, which will help you capture all the necessary information recruiters ask for. This template has a professional layout that will help you make a great impression! 

Purchase your template today!