Skip to main content

Applicant Request For a Reference

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

During your job search, a prospective employer may request a list of references prior to or during an interview. This request may take the form of a response to a written job application, a question on a company application or as an addendum to your resume. Your reference sheet should list the names, addresses and relation to you for each reference. For more information, see the OWL handout on writing a reference sheet.

As a courtesy, you should get in touch with the people you wish to include on your reference list and ask permission to use their names. This contact will allow them to prepare adequate answers to questions about you so they will not be caught by surprise when prospective employers call or write. Also, those contacted can decline you permission, if they wish. You may find it worthwhile to reintroduce yourself to the people on your list, particularly if you have not spoken to them for a while. The suggestions below will be helpful if you need to write a letter to contact your references.

What do you include?

  • Reintroduce yourself. Be sure that your reference remembers the situations the two of you were involved in.
  • If you have not spoken to your reference in awhile, it is extremely important to provide a summary of your most recent qualifications and experience.
  • Be sure to let the reference know where you are in your studies. List your year in school, your field of study and possibly your career aspirations.
  • Formally ask to use the person as a reference and state how the reference will be used.
  • Be sure that the reference understands that if you do not hear from them you will assume they do not mind being used as a reference.
  • Include a copy of your resume.

Model for Writing a Reference Request Letter

February 10, 2001

Louie Lab
1234 University St.
University City, IN 12345

Dear Mr. Lab:

You will need to write a reference request letter before you create a reference sheet to distribute to potential employers. It is meant to give the reference some warning that an employer may be contacting them. It also insures that they have the most up-to-date information about your qualifications and education. In the first paragraph, your primary goal is to reintroduce yourself to your potential reference. Simply give a quick review of the relationship and situations the two of you shared. This opening should be courteous and polite. Provide a little information about yourself. This is especially important if you have not spoken with your potential reference in some time. State your field of study, year in school, and/or career aspirations.

Next, you should formally ask to use this person as a reference. Briefly discuss the position for which you are applying and how the reference will be used. Will it be utilized as an addition to your resume or presented at the interview? This information will give your reference a better understanding of the information that would be expected from them if an employer contacted them.

Finally, close the letter with a sentence that assumes you have permission to use the reference unless you hear otherwise. You may wish to include a self-addressed stamped card so that the person may send you an answer. Also, include a copy of your resume with the letter. This will provide helpful information about your qualifications and allow the reference to speak intelligently to potential employers. Thank the reference for allowing you to use them in your job search and end with a friendly closing.


Lucy Letter

123 Winner's Road
New Employee Town, PA 12345