The Importance of Obtaining Reference Letters



Preparation for a position in the health field is important, and it’s a good first step in the application process, but the biggest challenge in the job search is psychological. Some of the steps required are difficult, and getting referrals is one of these challenges.

In the search for my current position, I contacted an employee from a former company to ask for a written referral. This is a guy I had hired as a student ten years ago, and I’m pleased that he’s now a manager. I had to write an email with my request, knowing that his first thought would be “Hmm, looks like Mike is unemployed.”

I’ve also called former clients and asked about possible jobs. “ YOU want to work HERE?” Also not too comfortable. Getting referrals means humbling yourself, and it’s not fun.

Getting referral letters is also one of the most critical parts of your medical career job search.
If possible, you should have one written referral from each past employer. Here’s how I’ve done it:

1. Write an email containing the letter of reference that you’d like to receive. Keep it very factual. The email’s intro should have a phrase like “Here’s an example of the letter I think is appropriate, just to get you started. Of course you can cut & paste and edit as you see fit.”

2. Swallow your pride and call them up.

3. While you’re on the phone, tell them that you’ve just sent the email. If they’re hard to contact, you can leave a voicemail to that effect.

4. The outline letter will help a lot. They’ll know what you’re expecting, and it’s much easier to edit something than to stare at a blank computer screen.

5. Follow up if they haven’t sent something within a week. They’ll easily forget.

Having made this contact, it will be easier if you need them to give a phone reference after your interview.

Professional reference letters are golden at the time of your interviews. Thinking about this as early on as possible prior to applying since getting your letters may take some time.

Mike Green, LMT

Mike Green is a 16-year licensed massage therapist and a contributing member to the online resource team.