Make it a win-win situation.
Here is a great strategy to leverage your referee and get a reference to help you land the job: write a one-page personal summary that highlights all your key career information and send it to them. Include your key experiences, achievements and skills, as well as your personal strengths and how they relate to the work you did with or for them.
This summary will prime your referee to use certain key words that relate specifically to the applicable role; ensure there is consistency in the information communicated to the hiring manager, and guide them to the attributes you want highlighted.
While most referees will be happy to provide a phone-call reference, the odds are they won’t be able to put a lot of time into preparing for it (if at all). By providing them with a summary document, you’ll streamline the process, trigger their memory and give them something to consult during the call. It’s really a win-win!
Note: Be clear that it is up to them whether or not they use it, otherwise it’ll come across as presumptuous. Also, send them your resume and cover letter in case they want to dig further.
1. Call your reference
Don’t just send your reference an email. Best to call them as it’s more personal and it gives you the opportunity to discuss the role in more detail.
2. Show them respect
Other than being a nice personal gesture and a sign of respect, doing this will remind them of the work you did together. Mention what you learnt from them and why you value their opinion.
3. Give them “an out”
Give them the opportunity to tactfully decline the request by saying something along the lines of "I know it’s a busy season at the moment, so if you're too busy to provide a reference I completely understand".
4. Clarify your reason for leaving
Discuss with them the details around why you left the job, as this will need to be consistent when communicated to the hiring manager.
5. Follow up
Send them a thank you note if they accept and ensure to keep them up-to-date with your progress. It’s a thoughtful, professional gesture and they’ll appreciate being kept in the loop.