How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

by | Sep 5, 2019 | Job search tips

There are many ways to stand out as an applicant — update your CV, dress appropriately, and prepare to ace your job interview. But most applicants are already doing these. What else can you do to stand out? Three words: Letter of Recommendation.

A letter of recommendation is a written reference. It contains information about a person’s character. It includes details like ethics, personality, involvement, and achievements. Presenting one gives you an advantage as it provides interviewers with more information that usually requires them to research.

People use it for three different occasions: academic, employment, and character recommendation.

An academic recommendation is a business document requested by students. The scholastic professional who is familiar with the student’s academic background should be the one to write it. It must contain the student’s academic history and extracurricular accomplishments. Students submit these letters to increase their odds on getting in educational institutions of their choice.

Written character references and recommendations are somehow similar yet different. It’s mostly used in various legal situations like child adoption and housing accommodations. It’s requested to understand a person’s character on a deeper level.

The final type of recommendation letter is an employment letter. It’s a type of reference written by former employers, direct managers, or team leaders. Professionals present this during job interviews. It includes a review of the professional’s work ethics, performance, and professional achievements.

A letter of recommendation for employment is a great addition to help you shine among a sea of competitors. However, the art of asking for a letter of recommendation is forgotten. This is why many professionals don’t know who to ask it from and how.


sample of a recommendation letter


Steps to Ask for a Recommendation Letter


Create a List of People to Ask Recommendation Letters from

List down the most qualified individuals in your network to ask recommendations from. Choose the ones that are familiar with the work that you do. This includes former employers, general managers, direct managers, supervisors, and team leaders.

The people listed above should be professionally connected with you to make them qualified to recommend you. Note that there are a few people you should exclude from the list such as your co-workers, family, and friends. Asking a co-worker can jeopardize his job and yours while asking family and friends is unethical.


List down a Suggestion of Talking Points

Simply asking for a recommendation can be tough for any person. Suggest some talking points to give them an idea of what to write.

For example, include something like this in the email, “I’d appreciate it if you mention that I’ve worked with you for 5 years. “Or say something like, ” I’d be grateful if you include the reason why you chose to promote me.”

There is a fine line between controlling what to write and suggesting what to include in the letter. These suggestions can help the writer construct the recommendation letter well.


Prepare Related Business Documents (to send along with the request)

Everybody is busy. We all have many things to do and have many obligations to mind. This is the primary reason recommenders need a refresher note of your job details and achievements.

Provide them with the right materials to help them compose a well-written letter. Prepare related business documents such as CVs and related certificates. This can help them include details about your professional career.


writing an email


Construct a Well-Written eMail

A written reference can be requested via email. Compose a polite request for them to write you the letter.

Make sure to address the recommender properly. Mention a few points you’d like for them to talk about. Attach the necessary business documents.

Remember that you have to include a message that allows the recommenders to decline. They may be busy or may have other reasons to refuse. You can enquire to know their reason to decline. However, do not attempt to convince them to write when they already refused.


(Alternative) Ask to Meet-Up and Ask

There are employees that have become close with the people in their reference list. To separate your personal and professional relationship, set a meeting with them. Insist on letting them pick the time and date.

Upon meeting up, talk about how you are requesting a recommendation letter from them. And let them know how time sensitive it is and what you require of them.

Don’t forget to ask for their contact details (email and best contact number) in order to send them the agenda of the meeting.


Ask in Advance

The recommendation letters can be time sensitive so it’s always appreciated when you ask in advance.

Some recommendation letters can be general. The recommender can talk about your strong points and the skills you’ve developed during your stay with their company.

The key is to request a recommendation letter that can highlight your skills, your character, and your achievements.


follow-up email



It’s necessary to follow-up with the person after some time. It can be within a week or longer than that. It depends on the urgency of your request. It’s the same as following-up with other emails.

If the professional is taking longer to write a letter of recommendation, inquire if they are still able to write it. Let them know that it’s okay if they’ve become too busy but you’d appreciate it if they are able to compose it.


Send a Thank You Note

Once you’ve received the recommendation letter, thank the person who sent it. Appreciate
and be grateful for the time they took to write you a reference.

Include details like a status update of whether you are still job hunting or you already got hired. This can help the recommender get closure and be updated with your current standing.

Compose it as if it’s a business-letter email. Include a clear subject line, an opening and closing salutation, and a body. Keep it short and sweet. These are the typical steps for requesting a recommendation letter.

However, there’s one step that is a little unethical but is done from time to time. Writing the recommendation letter yourself.


Prepare to Write the Recommendation Letter Yourself

Some professionals are more than willing to help out but are time restricted. So they ask the job hunters to write the letters themselves. Then they edit and sign it before resending it to the person requesting the letter.

This can help save time but is very unethical. Avoid this as much as possible. There are several people that are more than willing to help and have the time. Just ask. Don’t sacrifice integrity over one thing.

There are opportunities everywhere. Requesting a recommendation from someone is easy. Simply follow the steps and only skip one if necessary.

However, best remember that it’s no one’s obligation to say yes to your request. If rejected, move forward and ask other qualified individuals. There will be someone that will be willing to set a time aside to write you a reference.