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Summer Job Series: How to Ask For a Letter of Recommendation

Summer Job Series: How to Ask For a Letter of Recommendation

Need to secure a letter of reference or recommendation for jobs or internship applications? While it might seem intimidating to ask someone to write about you, it doesn’t have to be! If you’re applying to multiple opportunities, it’s totally okay to ask the same person for multiple letters because they can reuse their writing and submit it to any position you apply to. Follow our tips to smoothly and successfully ask for a letter of recommendation to submit to your future employer.

Figure out who to ask.

Identify a person who knows you well and is familiar with your strengths to write your recommendation. This person might not hold the most prestigious job title or be the CEO of a company, but as long as they have a good idea of your personality, work style, and accomplishments, they’re the right choice. Make a list of your past coworkers, bosses, and professors who you got along with and worked well with. Then, choose a few (or just one, depending on how many recommendations you need) to ask based on how comfortable you feel asking them. 

Find an appropriate time and place to ask them.

Don’t spring the question of writing a letter of recommendation to your professor in the middle of class. And definitely do not wait too long to ask for a letter or reference. If possible, ask weeks before – or, in the case of college admissions, months before the letter is due. Schedule a time and place to ask them. Make sure it’s private and that you have enough time to discuss the details, including how long the recommendation needs to be, when it’s due, and any specifics to highlight in the letter. 

You can start the conversation by saying, “I’m considering applying to [job title/college] at [company name] and they require a letter of recommendation. I was hoping that you could write one for me. Would you be able to provide a letter of recommendation for me?” From there, dive into the details surrounding the letter. 

Ask what they need from you.

You might need to provide the recommender with necessary details in order for them to write a strong letter. These details may include:
  • The position title and description (that you’re applying to)
  • The name and title of the letter’s recipient
  • How long the letter should be
  • How the letter should be submitted
  • When the letter should be submitted

Provide your recommender with some background.

Brainstorm a little bit about yourself and your experience, including academic and professional items, that your recommender could easily draw upon for their recommendation. Even if your recommender knows you well, they have a lot of employees or students and could benefit from a refresher. Make a list or document to share with the recommender that could include:
  • Some past accomplishments, responsibilities, and goals
  • A list of your strengths and weaknesses
  • An example of a past project that you’ve worked on

    Consult your recommender to make sure they have everything they need. Then they can get started!

    Follow up (with a thank-you!).

    Check in with your recommender about once a week or every other week to make sure that they’re on track to submit the letter and to see if they need anything else from you. Once they’ve confirmed that the letter has been submitted, you should definitely write them a handwritten thank-you letter. Provide regular updates about your hiring and application process, and be sure to let them know if you got the job! Even if you didn’t get the job, follow up with a thank-you letter and a short update to let them know your next steps. They’ll definitely want to support you along the way in your job hiring processes, so be sure to communicate with them.

    Once you establish a clear plan, asking for a letter of reference should be smooth sailing! Good luck, and remember that even if someone turns you down, it might just mean that they don’t have enough time on their hands to do extra writing. If so, consult that original list of potential recommenders and shoot your shot again!