Should you ask references for permission?

Putting together a resume can be tricky, and there are a lot of questions we all find ourselves asking in the process. References are often one of the bigger sticking points—finding the right people, first, but then you’ll wonder, do I need to ask their permission?

You should always ask references for permission before putting their name down. This allows your references to be prepared and in turn will encourage a more positive reference. If someone does not want to give you a reference, you do not want to force them, as they might provide a negative review.

If you simply ask well in advance of sending your resume out, most people will be more than happy to give you a reference. Equally, if you don’t ask and put them down anyway, they might take this as presumptive, discourteous and even rude.

Is it OK to use someone as a reference without asking?

It is not OK to use someone as a reference without asking. It’s often easy to assume that someone we have worked with or studied with in the past would be happy to give us a reference. Again, in most cases, it’s likely that they would be more than happy. However, asking permission still remains a very important step in getting their reference. Even if they have told you in the past they would be happy to be your reference.

Ideally, you should get in contact with someone as directly as you can when asking if they would be a reference for you. Sending an email is fine, but ideally if you can talk to them over the phone or even see them in person that would be even better.

Is it rude to put someone as a reference without asking?

It is certainly rude to put someone as a reference without asking. Being a reference may not exactly be the most demanding task, but nonetheless it requires someone to take time out of their day to essentially do you a favour. Assuming that they are happy to do this without being asked is, in itself, simply quite rude in principle.

On the other hand, being contacted out of the blue and asked to provide a reference for someone can be surprising and disruptive. Even once you have asked them if they would be your reference, it would then still be best practice to inform them that they may be contacted by an employer in the near future.

Not everyone will be happy to be a reference for you, either, no matter how good your relationship may have been. Not only do you need to ask all your references before putting them down, you need to be prepared for them to refuse—and your requests needs to give them room to do that politely. Ask if they would be comfortable being a reference, or if they have time in the near future.

Why do you need to ask permission from your character references?

You need to ask permission from your references because you want them to be prepared and ready to give you a reference. Giving a reference for someone, especially if it has been a while since you worked together, is not the easiest thing to do. If your reference receives a call out of the blue requesting a reference for you, then they may be more inclined to give a neutral reference, if they do at all. Neutral references do not look good to prospective employers.

If, however, you have politely requested their permission first, then this will be reflected in the reference they give. Again, this is even more important if the reference is someone you have not worked with in a long time.

Giving a reference is not something that everyone always has the time to do, either, whether willing or not. If you put someone down without asking their permission, you may well find that they have no time even to answer calls from your prospective employers. This, too, will not look good to the employer.

Do you have to ask someone to be a reference every time?

You should ask someone to be a reference every time. Just because someone agreed to be a reference for you years or even months ago, does not mean they have the same capacity to give references for you now. It’s often again a question of whether they have the time available to give you a reference.

Beyond that, it remains simply the courteous thing to do to ask someone every time they are potentially going to be contacted in an employment scenario. If you asked them several months ago if they would be a reference and they agreed, they could easily forget, and that phone call could still take them by surprise.

What to do when someone uses you as a reference without asking?

what to do if someone uses you as a reference without asking?

If someone uses you as a reference without asking you may simply be forced to decline to give a reference. How to handle this depends on many factors in each individual case, though. It may be that you feel comfortable giving them a good reference despite the discourtesy, if you remember them being competent and hardworking otherwise. Putting you down without asking is certainly discourteous, but perhaps not so much so that it’s worth hindering their chances at a new job. 

If you have been made aware you’ve been put down before being asked for a reference, contact the person and try to suggest they find someone else as a reference. If, though, you are comfortable giving them a good reference, still tell them to ask permission in future.

On the other hand, you may not remember them very well, and thus you may not have much to say. In this case, it is really all you can do to be honest. Refusing to give a reference or giving a vague, tepid reference will ultimately not help the person’s cause, but you have been put in an unfortunate position.