Asking candidates for references email templates

Asking candidates for references is a smart hiring move. It helps you verify information, provides additional perspectives beyond what you can gather in interviews and assessments and gives you more confidence in your hiring decision. (Because we all want to find the right person for our team and avoid mis-hires!)

Here we'll share when and how to ask a candidate for references and provide you with templates that you can pop right into your hiring tool or email client to help you communicate clearly and keep the hiring process moving along.

How to ask a candidate for references

You may verbally mention to a candidate in an interview that you're going to need a certain number of references as part of your evaluation process, or you might share this in your job post. Either way, it's good to follow up in writing with clear instructions so nothing falls through the cracks. That's where an email to request references comes in.

There are typically two points in the hiring process when it's common to request references:

  1. After the initial screening: Once you have reviewed applications, conducted your screening interviews and narrowed down your pool of potential hires, you may choose to ask for references to gather more information about candidates’ qualifications, work ethic and values. This will help you determine who will move forward in your hiring process and possibly join your team.
  2. Before making a job offer: It’s also common to request references from the top candidate(s) before making a formal job offer. This step helps validate the information you've gathered, gives you insights from previous managers and/or team members and helps you make a more informed decision.

When you're ready, you can send a clear and concise email asking candidates for references. Then you'll need to contact their former managers and co-workers to set up calls. Use the templates below 👇 to get started!

📣 New to hiring? We've got plenty of resources and recruitment templates to help you along.

Email template: Candidate reference request

This candidate reference request email template provides a clear and professional structure to ask candidates for their reference contacts. It also emphasizes the importance of the references’ input in the evaluation process.

Subject line: Request for References for [Job Title] Position at [Company Name]

Hi [Candidate's First Name],

I hope you're doing well. Thanks for your continued interest in the [Job Title] role at [Company Name]. It's been great getting to know you through your application and the interview process so far.

As we move forward, we'd love to learn more about your professional background and skills through references. We're looking for people who have worked closely with you and can tell us more about your abilities, work ethic and values.

Could you please share the contact information of [two/three] people who could serve as your references? These could be former managers, co-workers or clients who can speak about your experience and performance on the job.

Be sure to include their names, job titles, email addresses and phone numbers. Rest assured, any information you share will be treated confidentially and used only for evaluating your application.

We'd appreciate it if you could provide these references within the next [Specified Time Frame, e.g., three business days]. Once we receive their info, we will do our best to reach out to them within [Specified Time Frame, e.g., a week]. If you have any questions or need clarification, just send me a message and I'll get back to you.

Thanks so much for your cooperation. We're excited to have you as a candidate and are looking forward to receiving your references.

All the best,
[Your Name and Job Title]

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Email template: Email to reference provider

This email to a reference provider highlights the value of their insights in helping you evaluate the candidate's qualifications and suitability for the role. It also suggests time slots for a future reference call or email exchange.

Subject line: Request for References - [Candidate's Name]

Dear [Reference Provider's Name],

I hope this email finds you well. My name is [Your Name] and I am currently in the process of considering [Candidate's Name] for a [Job Title] position at [Company Name]. After reviewing [Candidate's Name]'s application and conducting interviews, we believe [he/she/they] could be a good fit for our team.

As part of our evaluation process, we are requesting references from people who have worked closely with [Candidate's Name]. Given your professional relationship, we'd love to hear your feedback and insights regarding [his/her/their] skills, work ethic and overall suitability for the role. Your perspective is valuable to us and will be treated with complete confidentiality.

If you are available, we would like to schedule a convenient time for a reference call. Please let us know if one of the following dates and times works for you:

• [Date and Time]

• [Date and Time]

• [Date and Time]

If none of these options work, feel free to reply to this email to suggest other times that do. Alternatively, if it’s more convenient for you, we can also discuss [Candidate's Name]’s qualifications async over email. If that works better, let me know and I can send you some questions.

We want to thank you in advance for your time and support in our hiring process. Your feedback will help us make a more informed decision and find the best candidate for our team. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me directly if you have any questions or need any further information.

Warm Regards,
[Your Name and Job Title]

[Your Contact Information]

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Best practices for asking for references

Keep these best practices in mind when creating and sending an email to request references:

  • Specify the number and type of references: Clearly mention how many references you need and the preferred type of references (e.g., co-workers, managers, clients) to help the candidate select appropriate contacts.
  • Provide guidance: If there are specific details you need from the candidate, such as their relationship to the reference provider or the time frame they worked together, include those instructions in the email. This will help ensure that the references are relevant and useful.
  • Assure confidentiality: Assure both candidates and reference providers that the information shared will be treated with the utmost confidentiality. This encourages open and honest feedback while addressing privacy concerns.
  • Set a deadline: Give a reasonable deadline for providing the requested references. This helps maintain momentum in the hiring process and allows you to move forward in an efficient way.
  • Express gratitude: Be sure to express appreciation for the candidate’s and reference provider’s time and cooperation. Their efforts and contributions enable you to make sound hiring decisions, and it’s nice to acknowledge that.

Sending your reference request email 📧

References can be clutch for your hiring process because they offer a window into the candidate's past performance, work ethic and their suitability for the role. Hiring email templates like the ones above help you get those reference requests out in seconds, allowing you to communicate with candidates clearly, gather the information you need and move your hiring process along.

Sending a polite, professional and informative email encourages candidates and reference providers to respond quickly, leading to valuable feedback that’ll help you and your team feel confident in your hiring decision. 💪


When should you ask a candidate for references?

It's typically best to request references after the initial screening and before making a job offer. This allows you to gather additional information to make an informed decision about a candidate's suitability for the role.

How many references should you request from a candidate?

Generally, asking for three references is a common practice. This may vary depending on what you need and what type of role you’re hiring for. Just keep in mind that asking for any more than three creates a lot of work for both you and the candidate, and the goal is to keep your hiring process simple and streamlined. 

What questions should I ask a candidate reference?

When contacting references, it's important to ask about the candidate's skills, work ethic, ability to collaborate and overall suitability for the role. Request specific examples and anecdotes that will give you a fuller picture of the candidate at work and help you understand which environments they thrive in.

About the author
Brook is 1/3 of the Homerun Content Team. With a background in education and journalism, she’s spent the past 18 years crafting and editing insightful content for small to medium-sized businesses. Her current favorite topics in the hiring space include employer branding and how to create a positive candidate experience. She lives in Toulouse with her husband, two sons and one sweet Staffy.

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