- What is a letter of recommendation?
- How to ask for a letter of recommendation
- Template for how to ask for a letter of recommendation
- Example of how to ask for a letter of recommendation
Whether you are applying for college or looking for a new job, or even your first job, a well-written letter of recommendation can add substantial merit to your application. It allows someone to validate your qualifications and skills and allows a potential employer to hear first-hand how well you qualify for a new role. Getting a letter of recommendation can take time and thoughtfulness in selecting the right person and giving them the necessary information to write an effective letter. In this article, you can learn what a letter of recommendation is, how to write a letter requesting one, and review a template and example to make it easy to write your own request.
What is a letter of recommendation?
A letter of recommendation is a document written by a current or former colleague, previous employer, client, teacher or someone else who can attest to a person’s work or academic performance. The goal of the letter is to confirm the skills and qualifications of the person who is being recommended. A letter of recommendation is typically used to add merit to a job or college application.
The best letters of recommendation are from people who:
- Have the time to create a well-written letter that will impress a potential employer
- Have worked with you directly or are familiar with your work and feel strongly positive about it
- Hold a position of authority that will mean something to the hiring manager
How to ask for a letter of recommendation
Here are the basic steps you can use when asking someone to write a letter of recommendation for you:
1. First, think carefully about who you are asking for a recommendation
Before you actually make your request, first think carefully about who you’re asking to write a letter of recommendation. Because you don’t want to request too much of any one person, it’s a good idea to avoid asking someone who’s already on your list of references. Also, while asking someone who has high seniority may be impressive, they also need to have real knowledge of your abilities and qualifications.
2. Second, be complimentary and express gratitude
It’s generally a good idea to start out by letting them know how much you enjoyed working with or for them (or if it’s a professor, how much you enjoyed their class). Flattery is also a good way to start, although it should be authentic. Let them know that you value their opinion and that you learned a great deal in the time you spend with them, that they have been influential in shaping your career.
3. Third, tell them what you’re applying for
Tell them exactly what you’re applying for and why you need the letter. Share with them why you’re excited about the opportunity and how they can help add weight to your application.
4. Fourth, remind them of your history
While you should ask someone who has real knowledge of you and your skills, in some cases (especially in the case of a college professor), they may need a little reminder of what you did together and the accomplishments you achieved while working with them. If you’re asking a professor, you may want to include research papers or other work you completed under their instruction.
5. Fifth, make it easy to recommend you
The more work you can do for the person you’re asking, the more likely they are to say yes—and the better the end result will be. Tell them specifically what you would like them to highlight about your abilities. This could mean reflecting back on your work ethic or the impact you had in your team. It could mean emphasizing a specific skill set that is needed for the job for which you are applying. Don’t hesitate to remind them of specific achievements if you would like them included in the letter.
6. Sixth, be clear about a timeline
Try to give them as much notice as possible before you make your request. If you are asking for a recommendation from a college professor and know you will be applying for jobs at a specific date, you may be able to give them five or six weeks. If you are applying for a specific role and have only a short window in which you can apply, you may need the letter back within a week. Regardless, be very clear about when the recommendation letter is due.
7. Seventh, include a resume
Include your resume to make it easy for them to see what other accomplishments and experiences you have had since last working together (or since you took a class with them).
8. Eighth, express your appreciation
Let them know you appreciate their consideration, whether or not they write the letter. Let them know you appreciate their time and offer additional thanks for everything they taught you.
Template for how to ask for a letter of recommendation
Here is a template to help you put together your own request for a letter of recommendation:
Dear Mr./Ms. [Name],
I greatly enjoyed [your class/working with you] and feel your guidance and mentorship has had a huge impact on my career. I am applying for the role of [job] at [Company] and part of the application requires a letter of recommendation from someone who can verify my work habits, skills and accomplishments. Based on the years we spent working side-by-side, I believe you can provide an honest, detailed and effective recommendation on my behalf.
I would appreciate if you could write a letter of recommendation highlighting my positive work habits, specifically touching on [include a specific achievement you had while in the organization]. The deadline for submitting the letter is [date]. If you are unable to write the letter or if the deadline is too short, please let me know as soon as possible.
I’m including my resume so you can see what other experiences I’ve had since we worked together. Please let me know if there is any additional information that would help you add more detail.
Thank you in advance for your time and efforts.
[Your phone number]
[Your email address]
Example of how to ask for a letter of recommendation
Here is a sample of a request for a letter of recommendation:
Dear Ms. Tran,
I learned so much during the time that we worked together at Symphony. In fact, it was because of your mentorship and guidance that I realized how much I loved the marketing industry. I am applying for the role of Marketing Specialist at Gold Coast Marketing and am required to include a letter of recommendation from someone who can attest to my work ethic, skills and achievements. Because of the years we worked closely together—particularly the time we spent on the Dodson campaign—I believe that you can provide an honest and detailed recommendation on my behalf.
I would appreciate if you could highlight my positive work habits, the role I played on both the Dodson campaign and my contribution to the goal of doubling our website traffic. The deadline for submitting the letter is October 15, 2019. If you are unable to write the letter or if the deadline is too short, please let me know as quickly as possible.
I’m including my resume so you can get a better understanding of the experiences I have had since working together. Please contact me via phone or email if you need any other information.
Thank you for your consideration and support.