How to Ask Your Employer for a Reference

If you're looking for a new job, you should try to get as many good employer references as you can. This can be tricky if you've recently left a position with your employer. While you may feel this is awkward, the reference will bolster your job search efforts and will be well worth the effort to obtain.

Contact Your Old Employer Personally
As long as you believe your ex-employer will say good things about you in a reference letter, you'll want to contact him personally and ask for the reference. This can be awkward if you were let go or fired, but, if one of your managers saw your value, you will want to contact her with a personal e-mail or phone call requesting a reference. Show an interest in your employer as a person, asking how things are around the office since you left, making small talk and then asking for this important favor. Be sure to express gratitude throughout the interaction.

Make Sure the Reference Will Be Positive
If you're not sure if your ex-employer feels positive enough about you to give you a reference, give him an easy out. Pose the question as "Do you feel comfortable writing a reference letter for me?" or "Do you feel you know my work well enough to refer me?" Allow an unsure or less-than-enthusiastic employer turn you down: A bad reference is worse than no references at all.

Make It Easy to Complete
Follow up a phone call with an e-mail to help facilitate the delivery of the reference or send a reminder letter via snail mail with a self-addressed, stamped envelope enclosed. If you can, initiate lunch or coffee for sometime in the near future; this way you can follow up on the reference letter without looking obnoxious. Your ex-boss may realize his reference is key to your employment situation, but he is most likely busy with many things. By scheduling a follow-up meeting or providing easy ways to get the letter to you, you will make this process simpler for both of you.

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