How to get a good reference letter?

In order to prove your qualifications for a new job, you sometimes need the testimonies of others to give you an advantage. A reference letter from a past employer can be crucial for tipping a hiring manager’s decision in your favor. Here are some tips for asking for and getting a good reference letter.


Ask the right person

Whoever you ask to write a reference letter about you should be considered carefully. It should be someone you worked with professionally that you believe would speak positively on your behalf. If you ask someone with whom you regularly butted heads with or who let you go, they’re very unlikely to do so.


Ask politely

Even if you’re absolutely positive that the person you’re asking would write a positive reference letter, you can’t assume it to be a 100 percent sure thing. Call or e-mail them to let them know you would appreciate them writing a reference letter for you, but make it clear they’re under no obligation to do so. If they feel like you are pressuring them to write a reference letter, they probably won’t feel compelled to write a particularly glowing assessment of you.


Don’t try to control them

If they agree to write you a reference letter, let them do so. You might feel the urge to tell them what to include about you or how to format it. You are very likely not the first person they’ve written a reference letter for. Let them write it on their own terms and trust that they will write a positive letter on your behalf.


Ask early

If you are still with your current employer but anticipate leaving in the near future to pursue other opportunities, you should ask as soon as possible. You can request that your reference leave their letter on their computer or in cloud storage as a document and send it upon your request to other potential employers.


Be a great employee

Having a positive record at your workplace is a surefire way to get a good reference letter. If you carved a reputation of being reliable and hardworking, people are bound to jump at the opportunity to write a reference letter that makes you look great.


Remember your references at the interview

When interviewed for a job, you might be asked about your references. If you are, make sure to be as specific as possible. Talk about how your references have helped you along the way to become as professional as you are now. You want to give them your due like they gave you yours.


A good reference letter is not a right – it’s a privilege, one that comes with being a great worker. By following these steps, you can help ensure you receive the best reference letter possible.

Eileen O’Shanassy

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