How To Ask for a Letter of Recommendation (With Template)
Updated September 25, 2023
If you hope to be admitted into a strong college program, win a competitive fellowship or scholarship or give yourself an advantage when applying for a particular position, you may benefit from—and even be required to—submit multiple letters of recommendation. The content of recommendation letters could be a deciding factor for your application, so you should do everything possible to ensure they work on your behalf.
In this article, we outline how to ask for a letter of recommendation and we provide a template and two examples to help you compose your own request.
The illustration shows a laptop opened on a desk with a notebook and pen. The headline on the image says, "Recommendation Letter Format"
On the screen of the laptop is a plain representation of a letter, created with a white background and blue lines. On both sides of the letter, there are points that identify key parts of a recommendation letter. The list of key parts are:
1. Introduction and statement of recommendation
2. List of specific reasons you are recommending them to the position
3. Personal story with evidence of their qualities (soft and hard skills)
4. Closing statement with contact information
1. Decide whom to ask
Academic advisers, supervisors, professors and colleagues—both present and past—are all appropriate individuals you can ask to write you a letter of recommendation. The person you approach should be someone who knows you well and is familiar with your work. They should also be someone you think would be happy to have your work associated with their name as you want this enthusiasm to be reflected in your letter of recommendation.
If you’re fortunate enough to have learned from or worked under someone widely recognized in your desired field, then you should consider asking them. Also, if the person you ask can easily remember you and speak well of you, they’re more likely to jump to the task eagerly as opposed to making a begrudging agreement.
Tip: The strongest recommendation letters will be written by those who know you and your work best.
2. Determine the schedule
Experts advise requesting a recommendation six to eight weeks before the date that you actually need your letter. A last-minute request could limit your options, affect the quality of your letter, or worst, put you at risk of missing a deadline. If you don't have six to eight weeks of notice, ask as soon as you know you'll need a recommendation letter. Not only is it courteous to allow the person plenty of time to make room for doing you a favor, but you want them to be able to take the time and thought into presenting you favorably.
3. Make your request (in person, if possible)
If possible, request your letter of recommendation in person. If this isn’t possible (for example, if your position was always a remote one), then you can do so through email. When you do, make sure you are professional, courteous and considerate of the person’s time and schedule. Give the person as much time as possible to compose a thoughtful letter.
4. Provide your details
Remember, you’re asking for a favor. Do everything you can to make this easy for your recommender to do you this favor. Reminding them of positive interactions or achievements you made will not only refresh their positive memories of you, but it could also tactfully nudge them on how to approach the content of your recommendation letter if you’ve already outlined good points.
Tip: You could provide your recommender with your updated resume to give them something to reference when composing your recommendation letter.
5. Follow up
Once you've sent your email request, give them a few days to accept. It might be a good idea to have some backups in mind. Once they’ve agreed, set a reminder for yourself to follow up three days prior to the due date and politely remind anyone whose recommendation hasn't come in to please send it.
Related: How To Ask for a Character Reference
6. Express your thanks
Again, remember that this is a favor and you never know when you might need another one in the future. Send a polite thank-you email to anyone who gives you a letter of recommendation.
Letter of recommendation template
Here's a template to use when asking for a recommendation via email:
To upload the template into Google Docs, go to File > Open > and select the correct downloaded file.
[Your name] — letter of recommendation
Dear [name of the person you're asking for a recommendation, using their preferred title],
I am writing to ask if you will provide a letter of recommendation for me as I apply to [school and course of study or company and role].
Since my application is due [date], your recommendation needs to be received no later than [date needed]. If this schedule is not feasible or if you'd rather not write a recommendation, I'd appreciate it if you could let me know as soon as possible so I may reach out to someone else.
Write a sentence or two talking about your relationship with the person you're writing and mentioning any details you think they may want to address in your recommendation. For example, I learned so much working with you on the XYZ project and I think you know me well enough to provide insight into my work.
Thank you very much for considering my request. I have attached a copy of my [resume or transcript] for your review. You may send your email recommendation to [name of person receiving the recommendation] at [email address to send recommendation].
If you have any questions or need any further information from me, please don't hesitate to let me know.
Letter of recommendation example
Here are two examples of emails asking for recommendations to help put the above template into context:
Formal request example
Dear Dr. Marcos,
I'm writing to ask you to provide a recommendation letter on my behalf. I have applied to American University to study in its politics and policy department, beginning next spring. All my application materials need to be received by November 1.
If you're unable to recommend me on that timeline, I'll certainly understand. Please just let me know so I can ask another professor. If you are able to write a recommendation for me, please email it to G.Deschard@AU.PP.edu by the end of October.
As my major area advisor, I think you are in a good position to evaluate not just my classwork in your courses but also my involvement with student government. I'm attaching a copy of my essay “Why the Federalists Matter” and a copy of my transcript for your review.
I really appreciate all you've done for me this year. Thanks for considering my request for a recommendation. If you have any questions or anything you'd like to discuss, I'm happy to schedule a time we can chat in your office or talk on the phone.
Gabrielle L. Jackson
Informal request example
How is your week going? I'm sorry I missed you after the breakout sessions this week.
You already know that I am applying for a transfer to the Logistics team to fill their open position. Would you be able to write a recommendation for me? Mary said you can email it to her directly at email@example.com.
(If you'd rather not write a recommendation or don't have time right now given the postage recalculation project, I understand; please let me know and I'll reach out to someone else.)
Here's a brief recap of some milestones that may help you get started:I joined your team in March 2015.I co-led the 2016 revamp of document scanning procedures.You and I worked with Evan to implement the new device loan system in 2017.I've had consistent 4+ performance review ratings 2016-2020.
Let me know if you have any questions about this. I'm excited about the opportunity to move up, so wish me luck.
Thanks for your help. Let me know if I can return the favor!
Tips for requesting a recommendation
Here are some helpful tips to use when requesting a recommendation letter:
Be polite and professional. No matter how close your personal relationship is, be polite and professional when asking for a letter of recommendation. This will set the tone for the recommendation you want. Also, your seriousness will demonstrate that you want to be taken seriously.
Manage the timeline. On your end, make sure you pay attention to important dates on the calendar so you don't miss any deadlines in your application process while waiting for recommendations.
Have a backup plan. If your first choices for recommendations decline or don’t respond, make sure to have a list of others you can ask instead. Also, try and leave these individuals, too, with enough time to consider your request and write the letter if they agree.
Frequently asked questions
How do you politely ask for a letter of recommendation in an email?
Write your email in a professional tone when asking for a letter of recommendation. Provide information about the due date, the submission process and the details you might want the person to mention in their letter. Express gratitude for their consideration and tell them you understand if they're unable to fulfill the request.
How do you start an email to ask for a letter of recommendation?
Use a formal greeting if you're writing to a teacher, manager or mentor. You can address the recipient more informally if they're a colleague or peer. In your first paragraph, clearly state the reason you're asking them to write you a letter. You can also provide some background on the program or position to which you're applying.
What email subject line can you use to ask for a letter of recommendation?
Choose a clear, concise subject line for your email so the recipient knows what to expect when they open it. Here are some examples of subject lines you can use:
Request for a letter of recommendation
[Your name] letter of recommendation request
Letter of recommendation for [Your name]
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