How To Request a Recommendation Letter From a Professor

By Indeed Editorial Team

January 17, 2022

If you’re a recent graduate and need a letter of recommendation for a new job or internship, asking a professor with whom you had a good relationship can be a good option. To obtain a strong reference and remain courteous throughout the process, it’s wise to follow certain standards. In this article, we discuss how to request a recommendation letter from a professor and provide a sample letter to help you begin.

What is a recommendation letter from a professor?

A recommendation letter from a professor summarizes their knowledge of an applicant’s skills, accomplishments, goals and academic work. This type of letter is commonly included in applications for entry-level candidates who have completed higher education.

How to request a letter of recommendation from a professor

Prepare an effective request to increase the chances of receiving an enthusiastic recommendation. Here are eight tips to consider when requesting a reference from a professor:

1. Ask a professor who knows you well

If you have studied with many different professors, you might have several instructors who would be willing to write your reference letter. Request a recommendation from a professor who knows you and your work well—the reference letter with the most personal insights is likely to make the greatest impact on your potential employer.

For example, an instructor who gave you a good grade might write you a good recommendation. However, a professor who guided you through your academic career and acted as a sort of mentor for you is more likely to write a personal, positive reference.

Read more: Asking for a Letter of Recommendation

2. Request a meeting with your professor

Since asking for a reference letter is a critical step in getting the job you want, plan to make your request in person. Email or call your professor to arrange a meeting on campus or in another convenient location. Mention the nature of the meeting so your professor is prepared to address your request. If your professor teaches in a different city, consider arranging a phone meeting or a video chat instead. Consider your application’s due date when making your appointment.

3. Set a realistic deadline

Students frequently request professors to write references, so your professor may have several to write in addition to maintaining a standard teaching schedule. Aim to make your request at least three weeks before your application’s deadline. Asking several weeks in advance increases the chance that your professor will agree to your request and allows ample time for your instructor to write a thoughtful and enthusiastic recommendation.

4. Submit a formal, written request

After you talk with your professor in person or by phone, submit a formal request by email or letter as well. Providing your appeal in writing gives you a chance to confirm the important details of your request, including the position or job listing, company, hiring contact and your application’s due date.

Using a list can help you to organize your thoughts effectively when submitting a formal request to your professor. This checklist can help you outline your request:

  • Your contact information

  • Date of the request

  • Statement of your request and your reasoning

  • Details about the position and your qualifications

  • Indication of supplementary materials you have included

  • Deadline for the reference letter

  • Statement of gratitude

Related: Writing a Professional Reference Page for Employment

5. Share information about yourself and your goals

The most effective reference letters include specifics about an applicant’s skills and experience, so your professor should know as much as possible about you and your goals. Remind your instructor of the attributes you want to emphasize, skills you learned during your studies and career goals you have set.

For example, the decision-making and problem-solving skills you cultivated in your professor’s class might help you succeed in your new workplace. Perhaps the subjects you mastered while studying with your professor helped shape your career path and professional goals. 

Share this information with your professor by submitting a copy of your resume along with your formal request. You can also include copies of previous papers or projects that you did well on.

6. Offer extensive details about the potential position

In addition to sharing your personal accomplishments and professional goals, tell your professor as much as possible about the position’s duties and responsibilities so your professor can understand why you are a strong candidate. Discuss why you chose this position or company, including what future you see with them so your professor can assess how this job would help you achieve your career goals.

7. Follow up consistently

Once your professor agrees to write a reference letter for you, follow up at appropriate intervals until the process is complete. Within a day of the meeting, confirm the recommendation details and due date by email. One week before the deadline, email or call with another friendly reminder. Ask whether your professor needs additional information before submitting the request.

8. Thank your professor

After your professor completes your reference letter, express your appreciation. Write a note to thank your professor for supporting your professional goals and helping you pursue your career path. Update your instructor as necessary, informing them when and if you reach the interview process or accept the position.

Read more: Guide to Thank You Notes

Academic reference request example

Reviewing an example letter can help you understand how best to structure your request. Use this sample letter as inspiration:

Hannah Lee
123 College Street
New York, NY 11101

July 1, 2019

Dear Professor Smith,

As I plan my career path and begin applying for positions in my field, I hope to obtain a letter of recommendation from you. I will use this reference as I apply for an entry-level Finance Assistant role at ABC Firm. I believe this position will allow me to apply my business and finance skills as I develop my analytical thinking and market research skills.

As my professor and academic advisor, your positive recommendation would give ABC Firm insight into my knowledge of the business world. Since you have mentored me throughout my academic career, your recommendation can also provide details about my problem-solving and critical thinking skills as well as an understanding of my goal to manage small businesses in the technology space.

I have attached my resume and a copy of the job listing. I would greatly appreciate it if you would prepare a signed copy of this letter in a sealed envelope. I will plan to pick it up from your office on July 22, 2021.

Thank you again for your support as I pursue my career in business.

Sincerely,

Hannah Lee


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