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How And Who to Ask For a Letter of Recommendation?

How And Who to Ask For a Letter of Recommendation?

by Karin Singh 05/12/2017

Recommendation letters can be powerful and have lots of benefits. They reinforce what you are claiming, they make you more employable, they will increase your self-confidence, they are an additional asset to your application documents. A letter of recommendation should always be: succinct, specific, honest and helpful for the recommended person.

When approaching people for a letter of recommendation bear in mind that:

> People have busy time schedules and might not have the time to write letters of recommendation.

> They might believe that they are not great writers.

> They might not be 100 % convinced of your calibre and might decline your request.

Who to ask for a letter of recommendation

Asking the right people for a letter of recommendation is important. Consider these tips:

# 1 – Never ask strangers for a favour or even pay someone to get a letter of recommendation. Be honest!

# 2 – Avoid also asking your relatives or friends, they would obviously talk positive about you.  How serious and credible would that sound? If they are the only recommendations you have, a potential employer might be sceptical.

# 3 – Ask all those people who know you well, e.g. teachers, university professors, previous employers, co-workers you have worked closely with for several years, a point of contact at an agency, a manager, customers or business acquaintances.

# 4 – Approach those people who will say positive things about you. The ones that can share specific episodes in which your character, your skills, your attitude and your collaboration with others shine through. Those who are prepared to share some information, such as your workplace, your job title, the reason for leaving, your strengths, why you would be a great employee and what your relationship is with them. It would be effective and impressive if the referrer could connect your attributes with your achievements.


How to ask for a letter of recommendation?

There are some rules that you should try to follow:

# 1 – Ask well in advance and don’t leave it to the last minute. I would say one month would be appropriate. People are busy, they don’t want to be put under pressure. Remember, it’s YOU who needs a letter of recommendation from them and not vice versa!

# 2 – However, some people take this approach: They write a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn and hope that they will get a recommendation in return, too. Be warned, sometimes it works but not always!

# 3 – Always be polite and positive in your request, whether you ask in person, over the phone or in writing. Which approach you choose is up to you. One might think that asking in person would be the best strategy, however, choosing an indirect method (e.g. email) might be the better choice. You avoid putting your potential referrer on the spot and it gives the person still the opportunity to politely decline if they want to do so. Remember, you want a strong recommendation, not a lukewarm!

# 4 – Some people might appreciate it, if you would give them some hints regarding your expectations, e.g. the ideal length, certain keywords to be included, the deadline for the submission etc.  You might also consider including a list of questions which they might use as a guide to formulate their recommendation. For example:

> General information (job title, job responsibilities, company name, length of employment, reason for leaving)

> How did you feel working with me?

> What was the one thing that impressed you the most about me (or my performance)? Please share one or more personal episodes that were especially memorable to you.

> What do you wish for my career?

> Can you make a prediction about my future?

Not everyone might feel comfortable to create a ‘brag sheet’ about their values, quantifiable achievements, goals etc. but always keep your goal in mind: getting a great letter of recommendation! Reflect about what you have achieved and what was particularly meaningful. Remember that if you provide your referrer with an outline and bullet-points (that you wish to be included), it makes their job easier and saves them time.

# 5 – Let your referrer also know why you have chosen them, why you value their professional opinion and why they are ideal to assess and communicate your accomplishments and skills.

# 6 – If you reach out to more than one referrer, you might want to highlight different skills and different achievements for each of them.

# 7 – Never forget to thank the person for their precious time and appreciate their support.


If you need guidance on how to write a request letter for a recommendation and generally on how to find your future job, check out the internet. There are lots of suggestions and templates available, one source is this from Resumizer.

Karin Schroeck-Singh’s passion lies in creating, translating and promoting content of high-quality in multiple languages (English, German, Italian). She holds an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and is the author of several ebooks. She gained more that 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Helping businesses to optimise their online presence is her priority, no client or project is too big or too small for her.

Stop worrying. Start outsourcing!

Karin Schroeck-Singh

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