How to Ask For a Recommendation Letter

How to Ask For a Recommendation Letter

A stellar resume and well-written cover letter can help you land an interview, but standing out from the rest of the applicants can be challenging. One way you can grab a hiring manager’s attention is with a recommendation letter.

Though it’s not common, some companies ask applicants for recommendation letters. And even when they don’t, having a few at the ready can help you land that job. Here’s how to ask for a recommendation letter.

What Is a Recommendation Letter?

A recommendation letter is similar to a reference, just in written form. It describes your skills, abilities, and qualifications for a role and helps a hiring manager understand why you’re the right person for the job.

While it’s common for colleges to request recommendation letters for students, it’s less common for jobs to request them from applicants. That said, it’s not unheard of for employers to ask for recommendation letters—particularly when the job seeker is new to the field or fresh out of college.

Do You Really Need Recommendation Letters?

It’s far more likely that an employer will ask you for references than recommendation letters. However, including recommendation letters in your application materials or sharing them during the interview can help set you apart from other applicants.

How to Ask for a Recommendation Letter

Though asking for a recommendation letter is similar to asking for a reference, there are a few differences to be aware of.

Who Should You Ask?

Because a recommendation letter describes your skills and abilities for a job, it’s best to ask someone who can speak to your abilities. But if you don’t have a former boss or coworker you can ask, there are plenty of people who can write a recommendation letter for you.

Think about people who can speak to any of your transferable skills. For example, if you volunteer, your fellow volunteers or supervisor are a great place to start. You could also ask a teacher who might be able to highlight your time management, problem-solving, or leadership skills. 

Give Ample Lead Time

Anyone who agrees to write a recommendation letter for you will likely need some time to create it. Give the people you ask at least a few weeks lead time, so they don’t feel pressured or rushed or even have to turn you down because they don’t have the time.

Include the Essential Details

Whether you ask in person or via email, make sure you include the essential details the letter writer will need. This includes the type or types of jobs you’re applying for, why you’re qualified for the role, and when you’d like to have the letter by.

Also, include a “brag sheet” or resume with a list of your big wins, skills, and anything else that could help them out.

Give Them an Out

Even if it would be a big win to have a specific person write a recommendation letter for you, make it easy for everyone you ask to say no. Not everyone will have the time to write a letter for you, and sometimes people are uncomfortable with it or have a general “no recommendation letter” policy.

Thank the Letter Writer

When someone agrees to write you a recommendation letter, thank them at that time, and again when you’ve received it. It’s a kind and professional gesture on your part that goes a long way and will be remembered.

Set Yourself Apart with a Great Letter of Recommendation

Setting yourself apart from other applicants is often the key to getting the job. And being the applicant with some standout recommendation letters can help your application materials stand out in the crowd.

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