You only have one chance to make a good impression. This is especially true when you are e-mailing a stranger to ask for a reference. Typically, you ask for a reference from an individual who has known you for at least six months. You should also ask someone who knows the quality of your work. But, there may be instances when you need to ask a stranger for a reference for a job.
Address the letter to the person from whom you are asking a reference. If it is the president of the company, make sure you know his name. Don't address the letter "To Whom it May Concern" or "Dear Sir."
Explain why you are contacting the individual. Perhaps you have a mutual friend, or maybe the person goes to the same church. Be clear about your reason for asking for a reference.
Introduce yourself. Offer details about your career and education background, and provide a reason why you should receive a recommendation. For example, maybe you worked on a project at work that received company acclaim. Even if you have not met your boss, he may recognize your name and can provide a good reference based on your work history.
Put time and effort into the e-mail. Do research on the person by searching the Internet, or ask colleagues for information. Establish common ground between you and the potential reference.
Watch the tone of your writing. It is hard to convey personality in an e-mail or letter. Be respectful and professional, and do not use slang or other casual language.
Ask for a face-to-face meeting, perhaps at the individual's workplace, if possible. Provide a portfolio of your work and be prepared to answer questions about your work experience and your future goals.
Ask for the reference in advance. Don't wait until the last minute. As with any request for a recommendation, you should give the individual at least three weeks to write the letter and submit. Tell the prospective reference the deadline for submitting the reference. Follow up to confirm that they have agreed to give you the recommendation.
Proofread your e-mail and edit out any grammar mistakes, spelling errors or typos. You lose credibility with an e-mail riddled with errors.
Based in Atlanta, Melody Dawn has been writing business articles and blogs since 2004. Her work has appeared in the "Gainesville Times," "Player's Press" and "USA Today." She is also skilled in writing product descriptions and marketing materials. Dawn holds a Master of Business from Brenau University.