How To Ask A Friend For A Reference

By Justin Parker
Nov. 25, 2022

Find a Job You Really Want In

Checking references during the hiring process is a way for employers to learn more about your work-ethic and qualifications based on your professional relationships. By having someone that can vouch for you and attest to your skills, it makes you more valuable in the eyes of the hiring manager.

There are many people that you can ask for a reference, but using a friend as a reference is often the first place many job seekers look.

Having some close to you write a letter of recommendation or speak to the recruiter is one of the best ways to ensure a positive outcome.

There are a few tips to keep in mind when having a friend provide a reference, all of which will help both parties be more prepared.

Key Takeaways:

  • Avoid asking a family member or a significant other because they can often be seen as biased by recruiters.

  • Make sure you ask the person for permission before using them as a reference, and make sure they have plenty of notice.

  • Go over the timeline with your friend and give them the details of the position you are applying for.

How To Ask A Friend For A Reference

Personal vs. Professional References

You should first understand the difference between a personal reference and a professional reference.

  • A personal reference is also sometimes called a character reference, and as the name suggests is someone you know personally. This will not be in a professional capacity, which means a personal reference could be a neighbor, mentor, or even your childhood best friend.

  • A professional reference is a person that knows you from a work environment, such as a supervisor or coworker. If you made friends while working on the job or have an existing friend that works with you, they would be able to serve as a professional reference.

The main differentiator between the two reference types is one comes from a strictly professional capacity, the other does not.

Who to Ask for a Reference

Now there is the question of who you should ask to get that glowing reference that will help seal the deal. While you might consider your partner, sibling, parent, or extended family member a friend, you want to stay away from requesting references from these sources.

Though a recommendation letter or reference is always meant to be favorable toward the job applicant, hiring managers still want a truthful and realistic view of the candidate. Family members and significant others present too much bias in the eyes of recruiters.

Instead, when considering who to ask, just focus on those who know you well enough to give examples of your ethic but also fall outside your family circle.

If you still need some help deciding where to look, here are people that might qualify as friends and solid job references:

  1. Co-workers. Whether part-time or full-time, the majority of us spend time interacting with co-workers on the job. As such, it’s common to develop genuine friendships with the people we work with. Being that they have first-hand experience of how you work, colleagues can make excellent references.

  2. Project members. If you have ever worked on a semester-long or very important group project, you spend plenty of hours connecting with your team members. If you made friends from the group, they will be good references as they can also highlight how you collaborate with others.

  3. Volunteer groups. Not only does volunteer work make you a more desirable candidate overall, friends you meet through your efforts can serve as an excellent reference for a job. You all may have bonded over a common interest that could be relatable to the job that you are applying for. It will be easy for them to discuss your dedication to a cause in addition to your character and drive.

  4. Recreational and professional groups. If you are part of any recreational leagues, alumni groups, or professional organizations, you likely have made friends through networking. These types of friends serve as helpful references because they have seen how to navigate different situations, whether its professional development, leadership, or teamwork.

How to Ask a Friend for a Reference

You have a person in mind, and now it is time to ask your friend to be a reference. Being that you know them, it should already feel like less pressure than perhaps asking a former supervisor or professor.

That being said, there is still proper etiquette to follow regardless of who you ask.

  1. Ask for permission. The first thing you need to do is ask if this person would be comfortable being a reference. Even though this is your friend, they are in no way obligated to take on the responsibility. Aside from this, having a heads up will allow the person to have more time to prepare rather than being put on the spot when the employer reaches out.

    After your friend agrees to be your reference, this is when you ask for their best contact details. Obtain the best telephone number(s) and the email address where they will be able to respond promptly.

  2. Discuss the position. Give your reference background information on the position being applied for. Discuss the skills and qualifications covered within the job posting, highlighting which you believe are the most pertinent. Then, go over specific examples of how you have demonstrated these traits that your reference can discuss. It is always good to urge your friend to have two or three skills and examples ready for the recruiter.

    These should be situations that your friend witnessed and will be able to speak to truthfully, it is just helpful to refresh being that time may have passed since you worked together. Again, touching base on details also helps with preparedness.

  3. Review the timeline. Let your friend know when you start applying for jobs so that they will have an idea of when the time clock starts. Once you start going on interviews, it is a good idea to let them know that they may be hearing from a hiring manager regarding the position you applied for. If possible, you can let them know exactly who might call and what area code or email address to keep an eye out for.

  4. Give options. It is entirely possible that your friend may want to write a letter of reference rather than committing to phone or email contact. You can also offer this as an alternative if you know this person may be hard to reach, or, just want to have a letter as an added bonus to your application packet. In this case, you follow the same steps but also provide them with a copy of your resume. Have your friend look at reference letter samples to help them craft a quality letter.

  5. Say thanks. Show gratitude for the favor by expressing thanks. Sending a thank you note or email is the perfect way to let your friend know that you appreciate their efforts and time. Being thankful may also encourage your friend to continue to be a reliable reference in future job pursuits.

What’s A Backdoor Reference Check?

There are many ways to conduct a reference check that fall outside these two categories, which are called backdoor reference checks. This is when an employer conducts a search of a potential candidate by using the information gathered from those not listed as a professional or personal reference.

When executing a backdoor reference check, the employer may check social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter, or other social networking sites such as LinkedIn.

They may also reach out to other individuals, whether those obtained from speaking with references or those found by mutual connections.

Of course, there are legal and ethical boundaries that a hiring manager must stay within while conducting these checks. But overall, backdoor checks are commonplace in today’s job market with the widespread use and availability of information on the internet.

How to Tell if They Will Be A Good Reference

It is important to consider which friends will offer the best representation of you are to a potential employer. A friend that can only discuss topical traits without any explanation would not be an appropriate choice. Any trustworthy friend that can speak to your character and professionalism will be a good reference.

To help you narrow that down, here are some questions that you can ask yourself as you compile your reference list:

  • Does this person have knowledge of my job performance?

  • Can this person provide specific examples and scenarios of how I have excelled?

  • Will this person be available to communicate with the recruiter?

  • Is this person reliable enough to handle any necessary follow-up?

  • Does this person understand the position that I am applying for?

  • Can I trust that this person will only speak to my strengths as they relate to the position?

If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then you have found a perfect reference to use. If not, reconsider and continue to move down your list.

Remember that a bad reference can have a major impact on your chances of securing a position, and a neutral reference won’t tip the scale in your favor. Don’t aim for a satisfactory reference–aim for excellent references.

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Justin Parker

Justin Parker is a dynamic and driven writing professional in advertising, film, and web-based content. He has over 10 years of experience as a professional writer in these realms, having written for commercials, music videos, feature screenplays, and content for Zippia. Justin holds a bachelor's of fine arts degree in film and television from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

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