Do You Need a Reference Letter from an Employer? Everything You Need to Know About How to Ask

Getting a reference letter from an employer can be a challenge. Here are some tips to make your life easier, as well as some pitfalls for you to avoid.
Reference Letter From Employer

When gathering materials for a new job opportunity, we know to get resumes and various forms of identification. Usually, most of these required documents are easy to obtain and don’t require much work. But what about reference letters from previous employers? When do we need them, and how do we ask our previous employers for them?

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Why Employers Need Reference Letters

Reference letters may seem like a burden for job applicants, and almost worthless for the hiring company, but nothing could be further from the truth. Reference letters from employers are used to gauge how trustworthy you are as an employee. Especially for job seekers with little experience, they are invaluable for showing that you are a team player, accomplished at your job, and are willing to learn. These are all factors that are difficult to judge by interviews and resumes, so employers ask for reference letters to understand your abilities.

6 Tips to Easily Get Letters of Reference from Previous Employers

Although getting reference letters from previous employers may seem like a difficult task, and the job seeker may inwardly groan when a company asks for one, this is an excellent situation to be facing. A company requesting a reference letter is interested in you as a candidate. Otherwise, they wouldn’t bother to ask for the document! So, with that understanding, here are a few ways to easily obtain letters of reference from your previous companies.

1. Always Behave Professionally Towards Your Previous Employers

This tip helps in so many situations and may seem obvious, but it bears repeating here. Always give at least two weeks’ notice before you leave a position, be kind to your fellow employees, and generally leave a good impression. Make sure that you have tried every avenue of compromise within a company before you decide to leave. Try to collaborate within the company, unless the work culture makes it impossible for you to do so.

Following these rules will help everyone within the company, and when you ask for a reference letter, your previous employer will be more likely to honor it. For better or worse, people remember what you do when you’re an employee. The trick to an effective job search is making the people around you feel better when you have a job – not waiting until you need help in seeking employment and then trying to network with the community. Having a good reputation is vital to success in any field.

2. Keep in Contact with Your Previous Supervisors

You may not have gotten along well with your supervisors in previous positions. However, if you did have a positive working relationship, make sure to obtain contact information and keep it current. Reference letters aren’t written by companies, they’re written by supervisors. Having a former supervisor in your corner writing positive reference letters is invaluable. Don’t squander this opportunity by not staying in touch.

3. Use Online Networking to Stay in Touch with Former Coworkers

Modern technology has truly given us some benefits as well as drawbacks. The negatives are when we do something like accidentally post something inappropriate to a workgroup, which should always be avoided, of course. The benefits are when we use social media to keep in touch with peers who can write excellent reference letters for employers.

While reference letters written by employers are preferred, letters written by coworkers are not without merit. Remember, one reason that companies ask for reference letters is to ensure that you are somewhat social. A reference letter written by a former coworker may help a company decide to hire you. Don’t ignore this opportunity.

As a matter of fact, LinkedIn even has space for testimonials, and everyone should take advantage of this feature. With a little foresight, you may not even need to contact anyone for a letter of reference. You may already have one!

4. Volunteer Work is Never a Waste of Time.

Suppose you’re applying for your first job out of college or dipping a toe back into the workforce after a long hiatus? You may have no business references to contact for a reference letter. In this situation, volunteer work can come in handy.

While not a substitute for true employment, volunteer work can provide contacts and references for a job applicant, as well as looking good on a resume. A motivated organization may even provide a reference letter.  In other words, doing volunteer work is a win-win situation. So, get out there and do your part for the community!

5. Give Your References Notice to Prepare for an Interview

Make sure to contact your references before submitting their information to hiring companies. These companies can and will call your reference for interviews, and you do NOT want your references to be caught flat-footed.

Instead, reach out to references two or three days before submitting their information. Your references will have time to plan their responses and avoid any surprises. Also, make sure that your references have the latest information about your career and understand exactly what position this interview is regarding.

 Incidentally, make sure to thank your references after they take the time to be interviewed on your behalf. It’s just good manners, and they will be more inclined to help you again in the future.

6. Make Sure to Plan Ahead

Sometimes companies aren’t allowed to give references. In this situation, the only information you can obtain is a statement confirming that the employee worked at the company for a specific length of time. This won’t be very useful if you’re looking for a letter of reference.

The easiest way to ensure you won’t find yourself in this situation is to plan ahead. Your company’s reference letter policy shouldn’t be a surprise. Make sure to allow time before you look for a job to gather and notify your references.

Some Mistakes Can Be Easily Avoided

While it’s very easy to make mistakes when trying to obtain reference letters from an employer, with a little effort the most obvious traps can be avoided. Simply remember to treat everyone with the same respect that you personally would like to experience. Finding the perfect reference from an employer for your situation may be a challenge, but the effort isn’t insurmountable. Take charge of your career. Hunt for the perfect reference today!

If you’re a supervisor looking for the perfect reference letter template, contact us at Mapertunity! We’re here to help.

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Lonnie Ayers

On a mission to help every job seeker find a job. Co-inventor of mapertunity, the most advanced graphical job search tool in existence. A 21st century tool for jobs and businesses.

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