A letter of recommendation can be very helpful in your job search. Here’s how to go about asking for one.
What’s the Right Way? How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
A letter of recommendation is not always essential in your job search; prospective employers may prefer you simply to fill in their application form or send your resume. But they can also enhance your application, and make you appear an even more appealing prospect for an interview.
Such letters are also often required when you apply for postgraduate study. You do need to know how to ask for a letter of recommendation though; it’s not just a question of going up to anyone at your college and saying “please write me a letter”.
You might think that knowing how to ask for a recommendation letter isn’t really that important, but you’re asking busy professors to give you their time – and they probably get hundreds of similar requests. They’ll be more inclined to spend a bit more time on your letter if you go about it the right way.
Most tutors will use a simple letter of recommendation format, but if there’s anything you particularly want yours to include, be sure to ask them. It may be helpful to follow up your request in an email, to remind them, but don’t bombard them with messages.
Asking for a Letter of Recommendation from Your Employer
There are important points to bear in mind when you want to learn how to ask for a letter of recommendation from an employer. If you ask your current employer for a letter, you will be bringing it to their attention that you are looking for a new job. Some job hunters prefer to keep it to themselves, as employers may take offense that you are planning to leave their firm. Also:
- Be polite
When asking for a letter of recommendation, always be polite. You are asking a busy person to take time out of their day to do you a favor. You also want them to write a favorable recommendation, so choose someone that you have not had issues with, or who you think might unfairly write an unflattering report on you. Ask if they have time to do you this favor. Emphasize that you appreciate the effort they will have to go to and express your appreciation for their time.
- Give them advance notice
Don’t ask for a letter of recommendation and then mention that you need it in a hurry. It’s much more courteous to give them plenty of time to write the letter. They may want to give it some thought about your work, where your strengths are, and what you can offer a prospective employer. Besides, they may be busy with important projects and other work that demands their attention – you can’t expect them to prioritize something that won’t benefit them (and may even be a drawback for them if they lose a member of staff on their team).
- Ask someone in authority
Letters of recommendation need to be written by someone who has the authority to do so. Asking your friend at work or someone on your team won’t have any meaningful purpose. In fact, it could work against you as prospective employers may conclude that people in higher positions don’t have anything positive to say about you. Choose someone in a managerial position or who is senior to you.
- Be sure they are familiar with your work
There’s no use at all asking someone who doesn’t know you and your work for a letter of recommendation. A recommendation from them will be either vague or meaningless. It is far better to ask someone who is familiar with your work and knows what you are capable of. You can ask someone who has left the company, but they still need to have been in a senior position to you.
- Write it for them
You can offer to write a suggested letter of recommendation for you if they’re short on time. List some of your achievements to date, and include what you can offer a new employer or this particular position. It’s better to provide more ideas than they need to use so that they can cut out anything they consider unnecessary and create the letter they like.
Who Should You Ask for a Recommendation Letter?
It’s never a good idea to ask someone who doesn’t really know you for a recommendation. They won’t know what to say and will just write a generic letter that does little to flatter you or pay up your strength. Who to ask for a letter of recommendation? Choose someone you have worked with, such as your team supervisor or immediate boss.
It’s ok to ask a more senior person, providing they are familiar with your work in the company; it’s useless to ask someone for whom you are just another name in the crowd. Also, avoid asking someone you worked with years ago; they will very likely have forgotten everything about you!
Good people to ask are your manager or supervisor. Your performance will be very fresh in their minds, and they should have little trouble summing up what you have brought to the company.
If you haven’t been in employment recently, a senior person at a charity you’ve volunteered with would be a useful choice. They will be able to talk about the transferable skills you’ve picked up while volunteering, something that many people find to be a route back into employment after some time away.
Now You Know How to Ask for a Recommendation Letter
Asking for a recommendation letter is tricky, but what about your resume? You can’t very well ask the same person to write your resume for you! However, you can ask one of our experienced resume writers here at Proper Resumes.
It’s not easy to know what to put in a resume; you don’t want to bore recruiters with a 10-page document listing everything you’ve ever done. But equally, you don’t want to miss out crucial information that could demonstrate you have the perfect skill set for the role. Our writers know everything that’s worth knowing about creating a resume that will dazzle prospective employers.