How to request a reference from a former employer

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How to request a reference from a former employer
Most prospective new employers will require a reference from someone you've worked for. (Getty Images)

A good employment reference can clinch that job offer you've worked so hard for. Make sure you have what you need by following some simple guidelines.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Thank you notes
  • CV paper
  • CV software

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  1. 1

    Get references before you need them. Managers make job changes, too, and time can erase the memory of even the most outstanding employee.

  2. 2

    Offer to write the reference letter for your former employer to review and sign. This saves him or her valuable time, and it allows you to highlight the accomplishments you consider most valuable to future employers.

  3. 3

    Contact former employers and other references before offering their names to potential employers. Beyond simple courtesy, this gives you the chance to supply these people with important information such as who might be calling, the type of job you're applying for, and which of your skills you would like your reference to emphasise.

  4. 4

    Acknowledge a reference with a thank you note, even if you didn't get the job. If you did, offer a celebratory lunch.

Tips and warnings

  • If you encounter an unhelpful policy, such as one that restricts managers from giving reference information beyond confirming job title and dates of employment, ask the manager if he or she will give you a personal (rather than professional) reference.
  • Consider co-workers and department heads with whom you've had significant interaction. They can be good references, too.

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