A letter of recommendation might seem like an old-school way of getting someone’s kind words about your work or school experience in front of a scholarship committee or hiring manager, but it’s still a valuable method.
For example, some colleges require letters of recommendation for admission and scholarships, and employers might appreciate a letter – or at least key quotes from it – when considering you for a position. These letters help identify your important character traits, relevant accomplishments, strengths and your overall commitment.
While the actual letter of recommendation might be out of your control if the person recommending you has to send it directly to a school or employer, you still have some work to do. There is an art to asking for a letter of recommendation and there are some things that you can do to smoothly acquire your letter. Here are a few tips and pointers for obtaining letters of recommendation.
How to Prepare
You’ll want your letters of recommendation to come from people who know you well, so it’s important to have built and nurtured a relationship with them. If you have not already formed a relationship with someone before seeking a letter of recommendation, asking for the letter could be quite awkward.
This does not mean that you must be best friends or have a very personal relationship with your recommender. But a close professional relationship can make a huge difference. The best recommendation letters come from people who you’ve known the longest and have witnessed your career growth and overall development. Keep in mind that the more personal and detailed the letter is, the better your chances are of impressing the hiring manager or committee.
There are a few key points to consider before asking for the letter.
Asking for the Letter
Asking for a letter of recommendation may make you feel anxious or shy. This is another reason why the relationship and rapport with your recommender is so important. You don’t want to ask someone who doesn’t know much about who you are or what you have done!
Although you might feel anxious, keep in mind that most people you’ll want to ask for a letter of recommendation have been in your shoes before. They know exactly how nerve-wracking the experience may be for some. Put yourself in their shoes when you make your request. If someone asked you for a letter of recommendation, how would you feel?
Understand the job description and the role, school or scholarship you’re applying for, which will help when you ask for a letter of recommendation. If the job description asks for someone with specific program experience, it may be in your best interest to ask someone who can vouch for your abilities with the program. Be sure to review the job description for any insight when navigating your connections.
Providing your recommender with a timetable of the application process and notifying them of the documents you’ll need to provide is extremely important. Allow your recommender to see details of the job or scholarship you’re applying for, so they’ll know key traits and accomplishments to mention. You can give them specific directions or skills to talk about.
Ask in Advance
Time is of the essence. Ask your recommender for their recommendation weeks in advance, which will make it more likely they’ll write the letter than if you approach them at the last minute.
There are other benefits to asking early. Your recommender may be able to assist you in navigating throughout the application or interview process. Their insight may be extremely valuable towards your overall success.
After Your Ask
Your work is not done after asking for your letter of recommendation. Be sure to continue nurturing your relationship with your recommender or any others who might do the same. Provide updates throughout the process, as they may still be able to provide additional support. Also, be sure to send a thank you letter whether you earn the job or not. This will be an important factor when seeking recommendations down the line. As we all know relationships are one of the many keys to success!