How to Ask for a Recommendation Letter

How to Ask for a Recommendation Letter - Style Nine to Five

Recommendation letters can really bolster your application package and make you stand out from the rest by adding credibility to what you’re demonstrating in your resume and cover letter. But, asking for a recommendation letter can feel daunting if you don’t know who to ask or what you want them to say. There’s also the fear of rejection, but don’t let that stop you from asking. If you’re not familiar with asking for a letter of recommendation and are wondering who, why, and how, no stress, we’ve got you covered!

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Why Do I Need a Recommendation Letter?

Some jobs or academic programs that you’re applying for may request that you include a recommendation letter in your application. Including a letter from a respected supervisor or professor reinforces the skills and experiences you feature in your resume and cover letter. Their letter will not only add validity to your skills from an outsider perspective, but they may also include specific examples about when you best demonstrated these qualities and skills.

If your letter is coming from a past professor, it will typically touch on your performance in the course and on class projects you did well on that are relevant to what you’re applying for. A reference letter from a former employer will also usually speak to particular projects or responsibilities that you excelled in, along with comments on your work ethic and soft skills.

Who Should I Ask?

Who you ask for a recommendation letter is very important. It should be someone who has insight on your skill set and has seen your work personally. If you are a recent graduate, a professor is an excellent person to ask, preferably one who you spent office hours with and who’s class you performed well in. Another thing to note is that it would boost the credibility of the letter if they have worked in the field you are applying to.

If you are asking someone who you currently or previously worked with, it should be someone in a leadership role, like your manager or supervisor. Avoid asking co-workers who are in the same role or level as you within the company as this will not have the same amount of weight. Your manager or supervisor is able to speak to the quality of your work and work ethic. They are also able to potentially provide metrics in regard to achieving things like sales goals, staying on budget, or other key deliverables.

How Do I Ask for a Recommendation Letter?

If you are asking a professor, it’s a good idea to reintroduce yourself and include the class(es) you took with them along with the semester and year. Then give a brief explanation of the position you are applying to give them context into what you’re asking for. Follow this with why you would like them to write your recommendation letter and include how their credentials or experience align with the role you are applying to.

Don’t wait until the last minute! It’s important to give the person you are asking for a recommendation from ample time to think about it and to give the letter the time it deserves to create a full depiction of who you are as an employee and person. Go on the assumption that they’re a busy person who likely won’t get to it right away and avoid putting them in a tight turnaround position.

Drafting Your Own Letter

It’s common for managers and professors to agree to write a recommendation letter but to ask you to outline what you would like to include in the letter to ensure they are highlighting what the position requires. Often, they’ll even ask you to write the letter yourself and just send it to them to sign.

Before writing the letter, review the requirements of the program or position and brainstorm projects and skills that would support what they are looking for. It’s important to include data in your letter, whether that’s your grade point average or sales numbers (if applicable). The next section you want to highlight is your character. Are you detail-oriented? A team player? Pleasant to work with? What are instances that you demonstrated these attributes? Although this is a bit more work on your part, it is a good idea for you to propose writing the letter/creating an outline for them as it makes it easier for them to say yes.

Asking for a recommendation letter can be intimidating, but it’s often a necessary step when applying for a new position or post graduate programs. It is important to ask someone who knows your skills and personality to give the person reading it a full picture of your best characteristics and capabilities.

Are you at a crossroads in your career and looking for some advice? Style Nine to Five has you covered. Try our Virtual Career Meeting offering. Style Nine to Five Founder, Christie Lohr, will meet with you and discuss your best options. 

Demetra Maragos – Demetra is a Master of Arts candidate at New York University, who loves thinking outside of conventional lines to combine her passions of everything culture, fashion and lifestyle.

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