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Alberta Supports Contact Centre

Toll Free 1-877-644-9992

Look for Work

“How do I ask someone to be a reference?”


Having good references increases your chances of landing a job. That’s why it’s important to ask the right people. It’s a good idea to ask for a reference or letter of recommendation each time you leave a job.

You may need 2 types of references over the course of your career: professional references and personal references.

Professional or work references should be people who have worked closely with you. They should know you well enough to answer specific questions about your skills, experience, technical abilities, accomplishments, and work ethic.

If you’re just starting out, you may not have professional references yet. In this case, you may need to provide personal references. These can be teachers, coaches, elders, neighbours, landlords, or people you’ve volunteered with. Don’t use family members as personal references unless you have worked for them.

The 3 to 5 people you choose as references should be good communicators who can express themselves clearly and say good things about you. They should know you well enough to say what you’re like as a person, what it’s like to work with you, and why you’re the best person for the job. They should be able to speak to your core strengths and skills. And they should be able to recommend you wholeheartedly, without reservations.

The ask

When you’d like someone to be your reference, you can ask in person, by email, or by phone. When you make contact, ask the person if they are comfortable giving you a reference. Do they feel they know you well enough? Can they say positive things about your work?

Be sure to give your references a few days to prepare for a phone call from your prospective employer, and 2 weeks to prepare a reference letter. Help them get ready by sending them your current resumé and a copy of the job posting. Describe the position you want and the skills you need. Sum up your skills and achievements in the work you did for them. And tell them about steps you’ve taken to improve your performance in case a prospective employer asks about your perceived weaknesses.

The aftermath

After your interview, let your references know how things went. Be sure to say thank you—whether or not you got the job. And be sure to ask for permission each time you use your reference in looking for work.

Ask a Question

What would you like to know?

An alis staff member will review your question and respond via email. If it’s something that can help others look for work, explore careers, or succeed on the job, a version of your question and answer may even be added to the site.

Your privacy is important. If your question is published to alis, your identity will remain anonymous. Your email address and any other personally identifiable information will not be posted to the site.

If you require immediate assistance, please call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre at 1-877-644-9992.

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