How To Ask for a Letter of Recommendation (With Examples)

Updated March 16, 2023

When you’re applying for jobs, some employers may ask you to submit a letter of recommendation from people who can attest to your work habits, skills and abilities. While it might seem intimidating or intrusive to ask for a letter of recommendation, you'll find that many individuals are ready and willing to comply.

In this article, we provide tips for when and how to ask for a letter of recommendation and we offer examples you can use as a guide for writing your own request.

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. When a letter of recommendation is not required, you might want to consider sending the letters as attachments to your application or in the follow-up email after your interview to help you stand apart.

Related: How To Ask Someone to Be Your Reference (Plus Email Examples)

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 referral list of 5–10 individuals

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. Call each person on your list

Speak to each individual on your list to ask if they are willing and available to write you a recommendation letter. Having a conversation with them will also provide you with an opportunity to update them on any recent accomplishments they could 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 their letter should include and when you need the recommendation finished. Keep in mind, 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.

3. Send a formal recommendation request

After confirming with your selected referrals, you should mail or email each one 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) and where to send the recommendation

  • Examples of recommendation letters (if needed)

It’s also helpful to attach your current resume so your contact can quickly familiarize themselves or refresh their memory with your qualifications.

Related: Character Reference Letter Sample and Tips

4. Send a thank-you for each recommendation

Once your letters of recommendation have been received, 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
Image description

"Thank You Letter Format" is the title of this infographic that shows an image of an example letter.

On the left side of the infographic, a numbered list points to each section of the email:

  1. Start with a greeting.

  2. Share your gratitude with specific examples.

  3. Include any details from your conversations.

  4. Close with any additional thoughts or information.

  5. 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.

The letter reads:

Dear Jasmine,

I wanted to say thank you for taking the time to meet with me this morning regarding your needs for a videography resource. It was wonderful meeting you and your team and learning more about your creative vision. And I always enjoy having a chance to talk with another SCAD graduate.

ABC Company seems like an excellent organization. I love that you're all so committed to cross-departmental collaboration, and it was great to hear so many people outside the marketing team participate in the creative process. In my experience, that level of cooperation results in the best outcomes.

I was also excited to learn you're especially interested in creating more documentary style content. This has always been one of my team's favorite types of projects and, as you've probably seen on our website, it's an area where we have a great deal of experience.

Thank you again for taking time out of your busy day. I look forward to hearing from you again soon.


Naomi Locklear

Read more: Professional Thank You Letter With Examples and Tips

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 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 your request.

Related: How To Write the Best College Admissions Resume (With Template)

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, though, 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.

Related: How To Include a Referral in Your Cover Letter

Letter of recommendation request sample

Here is a sample recommendation letter request that you might submit to a teacher, coworker or friend.

Dear John 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.

Simon Brown

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