How to Ask Your Boss for a Reference for Another Job

Asking your current boss for a recommendation for another job is not easy, especially if your employer puts a lot of resources into hiring and training. Likewise, telling anyone at your workplace that you are looking for another job could ruin your relationship with both your current and prospective employers. However, you may be able to get a reference in situations whereby you are either being laid off and your boss offers to help you find employment elsewhere, or the prospects for advancement in your current position are limited. Fortunately, with the right approach, you will always have a good chance of influencing a positive reference.

Company Views

Before requesting for a reference, look into how your organization views workers who switch jobs. Refrain from requesting for a reference if your superiors perceive it as a form of disloyalty. Should your prospective employers require an explanation for this scenario, simply tell them that despite being open to the possibility of advancing your career, you would rather not limit your chances by mentioning your boss as a referee. On the contrary, if your boss believes in advancing one’s career even outside the company, you are likely to succeed in getting a good reference.


Carefully time your request. Ensure that your boss is aware of your intentions to leave before asking for a recommendation. If you have not told your boss, try to inform him in person to increase your chances of getting a reference. First, tell your boss that after carefully weighing your options, you have decided that looking for another job may be in your best interest. Let your boss know that their opinion could add significant weight to your application then leave the conversation at that, for now. Depending on their reaction to the news, schedule a follow-up to find out whether or not your boss feels confident enough in your ability to provide you with a reference.

Method of Contact

If your boss agrees to follow through with your request, find out if they have a preferred contact method. Your boss might prefer to either provide a hard copy letter as a reference, or provide the information required by email. Make sure that you enlist your professional achievements and the requirements for the new job as a prompt for what to include in the reference. Similarly, do not forget to include your prospective employer’s name and address.

Follow Up on Details

To avoid providing any conflicting information during your application, agree on all the details with your boss beforehand. For instance, similar information should be provided with regard to why you switched jobs, your professional conduct and any perceived weaknesses. It is also important to keep your boss informed throughout your job hunting process. Keep them in the loop after each interview, especially if you need to specify which prospective employer might be in contact.

Securing a positive reference is highly dependent on your relationship with your current boss. Therefore, you must remember to thank your boss for their assistance after finding a job elsewhere. You could even offer to return the favor by acting as their reference in the future, if need be.


Image source: Forbes