How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation: 10+ Tips, Advice & Examples

You know you need one, but how to ask for a letter of recommendation, exactly? Not to worry! Here's how to request reference letters for school or work from teachers, professors, colleagues, past managers, and others.

A letter of recommendation or a reference letter is a document written by someone who vouches for or recommends a person’s academic performance or work. It’s typically sent to a university or a company deciding to admit or hire an individual. 

The letter will describe, in detail a person’s skills and qualifications, relating to either employment or education. It’s meant to convince an admission officer or a hiring manager of an individual’s capacity to perform certain tasks responsibilities and to help determine whether that person makes a good fit. 

In this article, we will discuss how to ask for a letter of recommendation for both admission and employment. 


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When to Ask for a Reference Letter

Although not all, there are employers who would request a recommendation letter before deciding to hire an applicant for a certain position. These employers are often serious about their hiring process and want to ensure they make the best decision. The reference letter would testify to the candidate’s skills and qualifications. 

School applications or when applying for a new corporate role and even asking for a promotion may also require letters of recommendation. 

If you have a work history, the best person who can write a recommendation letter for you would be a supervisor or a manager. For college students, that would be your previous professors. 

Related Read: How to Get a Job With No Experience (Whether In the Industry or at All)

How to Ask a Letter of Recommendation For Employment

Asking for a recommendation letter isn’t difficult. Follow these tips to help you effectively acquire a good reference letter for future employment. 

1. Think of at least 5 Individuals Who Can Write a Recommendation Letter For You

As much as possible, the individual writing a recommendation letter should be a former supervisor or manager to make it more accurate. They have to be individuals who are familiar with your work tasks for them to be able to talk about it in detail. 

If you have a LinkedIn profile, start with your network. Select those individuals whom you have worked with for years and if possible, they have to be in the same industry as your future employer. Avoid asking friends or family members for a recommendation letter. Most hiring managers do not consider this as it will be most likely biased. 

2. Talk to Each One of Them

The next step is to speak to them individually about the recommendation letter and why they need to write one for you. Do this beforehand to ensure that they have enough time to write. Although you will need to send them a formal letter of request, it would be best for you to be able to speak to them directly so you can update them on new achievements you may have or new skills you have acquired. Be detailed about what you want them to include in the letter. 

In the formal letter of request, include these to guide them into writing an effective letter of recommendation:

  • An updated resume
  • Current job and a detailed job description
  • What the letter is for
  • What position you are applying for and why you qualify
  • Relevant work experiences and skills list
  • Due date (make sure the letter is sent ahead of time)

For some people, it may not be that easy to compose a letter of recommendation. The guide above should help them craft a good letter complete with all the relevant skills and experiences needed for a future role. 

3. Send a Thank You Note

Showing appreciation is an essential step. As soon as you receive the letter of recommendation, do not forget to send a thank-you note to each one of them. Let them know that you appreciate what they have done for you. You can also ask them if you can add them to your reference people list, should a certain company requests it in the future. 

Note:

In some cases, they may ask you to write the recommendation letter yourself especially when the individual is someone you have worked with for years. This is okay – anyway, all they need to do is sign the letter of recommendation and you are good to go. 

Some tips:

  • Always plan ahead. Never assume that your previous managers or supervisors have all the time in the world. It should be at least several weeks in advance. 
  • Include all the relevant details in your letter of request. You may also tell them why you are applying for a certain position and how motivated you are to work for a certain company. This would encourage them to write a strong letter of recommendation for you. 
  • It’s okay to follow up if they haven’t reached out after a week. Just simply remind them of the letter and when it’s due. 
  • Select individuals who are able to give you a strong letter of endorsement. Make sure they know about your strengths and all of your relevant skills. 

Related Read: How to Choose a Career: The Complete Guide to Picking One You’ll Love

Asking a Recommendation Letter for College Admission

Some colleges take letters of recommendation seriously. In fact, they may consider that above class rank. Your letter of recommendation can either get you into an admission or keep you out. 

Below are a few good tips to help you acquire a good recommendation letter. But first — find out which schools require a letter of recommendation and what deadline you are pursuing. Also, find out if they require recommendations from teachers in core subjects. 

1. Select the Right Teacher

Choose a teacher who likes you and who knows you well. If possible, select a teacher who taught you recently and who taught a core subject such as English, Math or Science. This teacher should be able to accurately describe your academic skills, personality and school accomplishments. 

While in school, it’s always better to have good relationships with teachers as they can help you both academically and in your future college endeavors. If you really do not know any teacher who can help you, get to know one asap. One of the most effective things you can do talk to a teacher and ask interesting questions about the subject. Making meaningful conversation with them would help.

For schools asking for 2 or 3 letters of recommendation, consider asking a teacher who knows you outside – for example, a teacher in your science club or theatre club. 

Most importantly, choose a teacher who will be enthusiastic about writing you a letter. 

2. Ask Them to Write a Letter of Recommendation for You

Shoot them an email asking if they have a few minutes to talk about your college plans. You can also ask them personally but make sure they are not with other teachers or students. Politely talk to them about where you intend to study and about the recommendation letter the college requires. 

Make sure that you do this in advance. If possible, it should be at least a month before the deadline. For teachers who have their own process for writing recommendation letters — just follow through and wait patiently. 

3. Stay Grateful

Teachers write several recommendation letters and some of these could take hours to write. Always write them a thank you letter as a sign of your appreciation. 

Related Read: 13 Best Entry-Level Jobs With No Experience for Students & Young Pros

Getting Good Recommendations from a Teacher

Teachers who know you may still forget about your class accomplishments. It’s best to remind them how good you are by refreshing their memory. 

Talk to them about projects you are proud of or about things that you have learned in their class. If there are challenges you have managed to overcome — make sure you mention these as well. Talk about your hobbies and future plans. If you got a low grade, explain why you had some difficulties and how you have improved. Provide them with all the information they need when writing the recommendation letter. 

Some tips:

  • Write a formal request to your professor and ask if he would be willing to write you a recommendation letter. Mention why you have chosen a certain professor and what the recommendation letter is for. 
  • Provide all the necessary information as this would help them write an effective recommendation letter for you. If you’re applying for a graduate school, ensure that you mention this in the letter or while speaking with your professor. 
  • Include information about yourself such as graded assignments and papers, a transcript of records, a description of career interests and future plans and other helpful details. 
  • Never assume that a professor is willing to write a recommendation letter for you. Always ask first. 

A Good Recommendation Letter Can Go a Long Way

Letters of recommendation may just be a written document but they can immensely help you get that dream job or get into graduate school. Whether you are speaking with a previous professor or employer, show them how serious you are about getting a good recommendation from them. You would be surprised — some people are actually willing to also go out of their way to help you. 

Related Read: Interpersonal Skills: What They Are and How to Develop Them

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Goodwall Contributor
Written By Goodwall Contributor
This article was written by a contributor for publication on Goodwall. Goodwall is dedicated to helping students, entrepreneurs, and young professionals reach their full potential. We'll share thought-provoking and supportive articles on career advice, self-improvement, navigating the college landscape, climate action, social impact, and more. On the business side, we'll talk about SMB subjects related to community, diversity, talent acquisition, case studies, and enterprise.

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