Resume References: Letters to Ask Permission

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Whether you need a list of resume references before, during or after an interview, contacting references for permission to use them is a must. Not only is this a courtesy, but it ensures your references are prepared to talk to your prospective employers and that they have an idea of your career goals. Writing a reference letter seeking permission before creating a list of references or a reference sheet is vital to using references to your advantage in any job search.

The main points of a permission letter to resume references

A permission letter to your prospective resume references can make a difference in getting the job you want. There are three main points of sending permission letters to your references.

  • Secures permission—The worst thing that can happen when a prospective employer calls one of your references is that person being unwilling to serve as a reference, which does not put you in a favorable light.

  • Familiarizes references with you—If you have not spoken to a resume reference in a while, a letter seeking permission allows you to get reacquainted and to remind references about when, where and how you interacted.

  • Informs references of your most recent achievements and your goals—A letter asking permission to potential resume references provides a way to keep references up-to-date about your most recent accomplishments related to work or school.

  • Allows resume references to think about what they want to say in advance—Any time potential references have plenty of advance warning that one of your prospective employers is likely to contact them, they make a stronger reference because they are prepared.

The format of a permission letter to resume references

Permission letters to your resume references should follow a traditional business letter format. Keeping text left-aligned, you start by including the current date. Double space, and follow with the name and address of the reference to which the letter is addressed. Double space, and use a salutation to open the letter. The body of your letter should include single spaced paragraphs with double spaces between them. Aim for three paragraphs that loosely follow the below structure.

First paragraph:

  • Re-introduce yourself to the resume reference with a brief sentence or two about your previous relationship and interactions.

  • Include a small amount of information about yourself—what you have been up to with respect to schooling, your career and your professional goals.

Second paragraph:

  • Ask for permission to use the person as a resume reference.

  • Explain the position or positions for which you applied.

  • Explain how and you intend to use the reference.

  • Third paragraph:

  • State that unless you receive notice to not use the person as a reference, you assume it is okay.

  • Express your thanks for a resume reference’s willingness to serve as a reference.

  • End the letter with an appropriate closing, In addition, include a copy of your resume; this can help guide resume references in knowing what aspects of your previous relationship are most relevant to your job search. You may also include a self-addressed, stamped envelope or card for each reference to reply conveniently. Include a place for your signature between your closing and your name, and place your address below your name.

    Any time you submit a list of resume references to prospective employers, you want the best possible result from having particular individuals serve as references. By taking the time to seek permission, you cement your relationship with references for future use, especially when you follow up by writing a thank you letter, and give yourself better references because they are prepared to speak positively about you to prospective employers. If any references imply they would not give a good reference, omit them from your list of references.