When you’re applying for jobs, some employers may require you to submit a letter of recommendation. This can happen before, during or after an interview. These employers are interested in hearing from people who can testify to your work habits, skills and abilities. While it might seem intimidating or intrusive to ask for a letter of recommendation, you will find that many individuals are ready and willing to complete this task for you. In this article, we provide tips to help you ask for a letter of recommendation.
When to ask for a letter of recommendation
While many employers favor references over letters of recommendation, there are circumstances where having letters of recommendation are required or encouraged.
Here are a few examples of when you may consider acquiring letters of recommendation:
- Applying to a formal program
- Applying for a role at a new company
Applying for an internal promotion
Make sure to read over the job or program application instructions carefully to determine if a letter of recommendation is required. In many circumstances, letters of recommendation may not be required. However, providing them anyways could set you apart from other applicants. Letters of recommendation allow employers to hear from others what they valued about working or interacting with you and your accomplishments that stand out to them. When a letter of recommendation is not required, consider sending the letters as attachments to your application or in the follow-up email after your interview.
Dear Ms. Owekwe,
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me about the marketing coordinator role. It was great to meet with you and learn more about the position.
I’m very excited about the opportunity to join Horizon Marketing and am particularly interested in the details you shared about the upcoming launch of the brand campaign. I’m enthusiastic about the prospect of taking on some of the project management and bringing my experience in successfully coordinating cross-functional initiatives to the table.
I’m confident that my background in marketing and my interest in brand growth will enable me to fill the job requirements effectively and support the vision of Horizon. Please see attached for three letters of recommendation from past colleagues and managers that can offer you further insight into my strengths and accomplishments. I look forward to hearing from you.
How to ask for a letter of recommendation
When requesting a letter of recommendation, there are a few steps you can take to make the process efficient and professional:
1. Create a list of 5–10 individuals best suited to write your recommendation letter
First, consider which individuals in your network are most qualified to write you a letter of recommendation. Whom you choose may depend on the reason you need the recommendation. For example, if the letters are for potential job opportunities, managers or colleagues with experience observing and working with you may be able to provide the most valuable insights. If the recommendation letter is for academic purposes, you might seek out counselors or professors who can speak your academic abilities.
Avoid selecting family or close friends for this task. Employers are likely to see these recommendations as less accurate or heavily biased.
2. Talk to each individual directly about the reason for the recommendation
Though you should later send a formal, written request for a recommendation, you should speak to each individual on your list beforehand. Doing so ensures they are willing and have the availability to write your recommendation letter. Having a conversation with them will also provide you the opportunity to update them on your latest relevant achievements and accomplishments they can include in their recommendation. During this conversation, you should provide all relevant context for the recommendation including what it’s for, an overview of information it should include and when you need it by.
The people who write your recommendation letters may also be good options to include on a reference list, if you are asked to provide one.
After confirming with your selected writers, you should send each a personalized, formal recommendation request. In your request, you should include the following context for them to feel comfortable and prepared when writing your recommendation:
- An up-to-date resume
- Your current role or what you’re doing now
- What the recommendation is for
- Why you’re qualified
- Relevant work habits, academic successes or skills
- Requested due date (if needed)
- Examples of recommendation letters (if needed)
Most people who write recommendation letters will appreciate the guidance, as the letter recipients may be looking for specific information to be addressed in the letter. It’s helpful to attach your current resume so your contact can quickly familiarize themselves or refresh their memory with your qualifications.
Next, email or deliver a printed copy to each person who has agreed to write your recommendation letter. You may also want to reiterate when you need the letter returned, and instruction and contact information for where and how exactly to send the recommendation. You will likely be able to identify this information in the job posting or application, or directly from the employer if the request for a recommendation has come later in the hiring process.
3. Send a thank-you to each individual who wrote a recommendation on your behalf
Once your letters of recommendation have been completed, send thank-you notes to each individual who wrote a letter for you. Sending your appreciation is a common courtesy that lets your recommenders know you are thankful for their gesture, and will likely ensure their participation in your success in the future.
Thank You Letter Format
- Start with a greeting.
- Share your gratitude with specific examples.
- Include any details from your conversations.
- Close with any additional thoughts or information.
- End with a polite closing.
*Proofread your message: Take a few minutes to review your thank you notes for any spelling, grammar or syntax mistakes. A message that’s free of errors shows you’re professional and detail-oriented.
How to ask for a recommendation by position
Asking a professor or teacher
High school students and college students may find it helpful to get a recommendation from professors or teachers. When asking for a recommendation from a professor or teacher, you should consider those with whom you had the most interaction, succeeded in their class or were particularly involved in your education in some way. The more they can specifically attest to your work as a student, the better the recommendation will be.
Remember that professors and teachers may have a large number of recommendation requests at certain times of the year in addition to an already busy schedule. It’s important to ask these individuals for recommendation letters as early as possible, giving them plenty of time to complete it.
Asking a coworker
Professional recommendation letters can be effective when submitting job applications. The best candidates to consider asking to write your recommendation letters are managers or coworkers that can attest to your work habits, skills and abilities. You might consider only asking colleagues with more years of professional experience than you.
Asking a friend
If possible, try and avoid asking friends for recommendation letters. It could be possible that your friend can provide an alternate—but useful—recommendation with a more detailed and intimate testimony. If that’s the case, ask a friend who can provide an honest assessment of your skills, abilities and experiences, and if possible, is relevant to your position or industry in some way.
Letter of recommendation request sample
Here is a sample recommendation letter request that you might submit to a teacher, coworker or friend.
Dear [Mr., Ms., Dr., etc.] Chambers,
I hope you are well! I am in the process of submitting an application to [institution or company name]. Part of the application requires a letter of recommendation from someone who can effectively elaborate on my work habits, skills and achievements. Based on our years of experience together, I believe you can help provide an effective, honest, and detailed letter on my behalf.
I would greatly appreciate it if you could write a letter of recommendation for me that can help emphasize the positive work habits I’ve shown since we’ve known each other. The deadline for submitting the letter is [date]. If this deadline is too soon and you are unable to provide a letter by that time, please let me know as soon as possible. Additionally, if there is any information I can provide that will help you write the letter in more detail, I would be happy to submit it to you.
Thank you for your time and efforts on my behalf.