The Best Way to Ask for a Recommendation

The Best Way to Ask for a Recommendation

Whether it’s for a job or for admission into higher education or an internship program, at some point you will need recommendations from educators or previous employers. These can truly make or break an application or interview. How do you ensure you receive a stellar recommendation? For starters, being a genuinely hard-working student or employee will help guarantee that you obtain a good reference from those who’ve supervised or taught you, but what about the next step? How do you ask for a recommendation?

Here are some tried-and-true suggestions and approaches for the best way to ask for a recommendation.

Choose your champions.

When seeking a reference, you should select an individual who knows you well. Someone who has worked with you, supervised you directly, or even taught you in a classroom setting. Such people will have a good grasp of your work ethic, learning style, and personal and career-related attributes. But make sure this person is one who is enthusiastic about you as student or employee. A lukewarm reference will get you nowhere, and may in fact damage your prospects. Ask for a recommendation from an employer or professor who knows you well and has always been encouraging and supportive. If you’re not sure, a good way to gauge this is to ask the person if they feel comfortable writing you a “highly positive” recommendation. If they say yes, you can rest easy.

If you need a letter of reference, ask well in advance.

Last minute is out of the question in these circumstances. A well-written reference letter takes time to compose. A busy employer or educator will likely have a packed schedule, and your letter will either end up hastily penned or not written at all. Give your reference at least a couple of weeks to complete your letter. If you’re only after a telephone reference, asking someone with short notice is not a major problem.

Ask in person whenever possible.

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A request for a recommendation is best handled face-to-face. This is most personal and most authentic, as well as more effective. Many professors or employers are inundated regularly with emails, so your message may get lost in the flood. Not only that, but professors and teachers in particular are often asked for numerous references around the same time. It may be important to stand out and asking in person will help you do that. If you are unable to meet with the individual, a phone call or thoughtful and eloquently-stated email will do the trick. But don’t hesitate to follow up to make sure they’ve received it. You can also follow up periodically with them to make sure they have the letter completed according to your agreed schedule.

Get your reference writer up to speed.

Even if you ask a current or previous employer or instructor for a reference, he or she may deal with dozens of students or staff on a daily basis. It would be impossible for he or she to remember all the details of your career or educational plans. To ensure the reference provider is well-equipped to give you the best possible recommendation, give them all that they will need. Include your CV/resume, a list of career objectives, and more. It’s especially vital to include any specific instructions that they will need to complete your letter accurately.

Ready to ask for a reference? With these few, insightful tips, you’ll be on your way to glowing recommendations.

Published by: LMIT