How To Ask For a Reference Letter

February 23, 2021


Reference letters are probably the last thing on a jobseeker’s mind when putting together their job application.

But few realise the value of a well written reference letter from a former employer.

Unlike your resume, a good reference letter vouches for your abilities from an objective standpoint.

However, it’s tricky to get an employment reference letter. It often causes much anxiety.

How do you ask for it the right way?

Here are six steps to help you get that referral letter!

Step 1: Explain where you are today and what you need

It might have been a some time since you last spoke to your former boss or mentor.

As such, it’s always important to be upfront about your current situation and help you are requesting for.

A great way to start off could be:

Hi Martin!

How are you? I am writing to you because i need a massive favour. I’m considering applying for a senior consultant role at IBM and would really appreciate it if you could write me a reference letter to aid in my application.

Step 2: Explain why you are approaching them

You’ve probably had many bosses in the past.

Therefore, it is important to explain to your former boss why you are picking him/her to write your letter of reference.

We had a really good working relationship back in Oracle and I feel you had a good grasp of my skills and abilities. Furthermore, given your credible status in the industry, I feel you would be the perfect person to give an objective opinion of me to my new employer.

Step 3: Highlight some of your achievements

Your former boss or mentor is probably really busy.

It would be great if you could provide him with a guide of sorts that highlights your achievements, to help him with writing your reference letter.

I’ve included a short list of my tasks and achievements during my time in Oracle. Please feel free to take the attached sample letter and use it as a template. I have tried to address my strengths as a hardworking and driven team player. Please do feel free to make changes to my sample how you deem fit. Also, please do not hesitate to remove certain sections you are not comfortable commenting on.

Step 4: Give them a chance to say “No”

At this point, it is important to give your former boss or mentor an option to say no without feeling uncomfortable.

If you do not feel comfortable writing a reference letter for me, I completely understand.

Step 5: Close with a warm thank you

At the last stage, thank your former boss for their time.

Once again Martin, I really do appreciate all the mentoring and guidance you’ve given me over the years. I owe you a huge debt of gratitude.

Step 6: Sign off

Sign off with a joke or memory from the old days.

Something to put a smile on your referee’s face.

We should definitely catch up some time. You still owe me that ice bucket challenge!

Follow these 6 tips, and you could be receiving a brand new reference letter soon!

Free CV Feedback Form


Not sure your CV is up to task?

Fill out the form below, and our team of HR Experts and Recruiters will get in touch to review your CV for the Malaysia job market. We’ll take a look at your resume, assess the roles you’re applying to, and let you know how your CV compares against other applicants. We’ll also give you tips and strategies to improve your CV, advance your career goals, and increase your interview call up rate.
Don’t hold back. Talk to us. This consultation is
100% FREE and non-obligatory.