Even if it's not explicitly requested, a letter of recommendation can be helpful when applying for a new job role. Why? Well, picture this: you’ve found an opening for your dream role, maybe even at your dream company. You’ve ticked off all the application basics, researched the position and company inside and out, created a stellar resume, updated your LinkedIn profile, and constructed an exceptional cover letter. However, It’s highly probable that the competition will also do the same.
A letter of recommendation can give you an edge over other candidates and make your application stand out. In this article, we will cover how to request a letter of recommendation, who to ask, and even provide a sample email template of how to ask.
When to ask for a letter of recommendation
Of course, new job opportunities aren't the only reason you may need a letter of recommendation. Various situations may require one, including:
- University or college applications
- Scholarship applications
- Volunteer or community service applications
- Professional certifications
- Internship applications
- Internal promotion or advancement opportunities
- Personal or character reference. E.g. applying for housing, adopting a child, or obtaining a visa.
Remember, specific requirements for letters of recommendation can vary depending on the institution or organization. So, make sure to check the guidelines provided by those requesting the letter to ensure you meet the specific requirements.
Who to ask for a letter of recommendation
Depending on why you need the letter will determine who you ask.
For example, If your current employer doesn't know you're applying for a new job, we won't recommend that you ask them. However, if you're applying for housing, your employer would make an excellent reference.
If the letters are for potential job opportunities, it's best to ask people who have worked with you and can offer valuable insights. They can provide you with a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses that can help you succeed in your career. If asking your current employer is out of the question, ask previous employers, current colleagues or someone in a senior role you trust.
Others you can ask for a letter of recommendation include:
- Community leaders
- Sports coach
- Church minister
- Teachers or professors
- Mentors or advisors
- Industry leaders
Avoid asking family or close friends (unless requested), as people may see these recommendations as biased or less reliable.
How to ask for a letter of recommendation
Depending on who you need to ask and what the letter’s for, a simple phone call may suffice. However, if it requires a more professional approach, here’s a handy step-by-step guide that you can use.
Create a referral list
Don’t just ask one person. Come up with a list of at least 5 or more names of potential referrals.
Remember, when choosing who to ask for a letter of recommendation, it's important to select people who know you well and can provide an honest and positive review of your skills and abilities in the area you need help with. This will help ensure the letter is meaningful and helpful to the people reading it.
A letter from someone in a senior role may sound appealing, but if that someone doesn’t really know you and simply writes a generic letter of recommendation without substance, it could actually harm your chances.
It’s also important to note that you might want to avoid asking your references. This is because 1) they’ll just be repeating themselves, and 2) you’ll want to provide a new perspective for those requesting the letter.
Contact your referral list
Call or message each person on your list and ask if they would be happy to write you a letter of recommendation. Explain what it's for, and even give them a quick explanation as to why you chose them. Avoid telling them you want them to write it, and instead ask them.
For example, say, “Would you be happy writing a letter of recommendation for me?”. Avoid, “Can you write a letter of recommendation for me?”. If the person says yes, thank them, then ask for their email address if you don't already have it.
2.0. Example emails
Example one | Initial contact
Hi [manager's name],
I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to reach out to you because I am applying for a new position, and I require a strong recommendation from someone I truly respect and admire in the industry.
I thoroughly enjoyed working under your guidance at [previous company]. Your expertise and leadership style were truly inspiring, and I have always valued your opinions and insights. Your reputation in the industry precedes you, and I believe your recommendation would significantly enhance my chances of securing this role.
If you could spare some time to write a letter of recommendation highlighting my work habits and skills, I would be deeply grateful. If this is something you would be happy doing, I can send you further details about the position I’m applying for.
Thank you very much for considering my request. I understand you have a busy schedule, and I truly appreciate your time.
[your full name]
Example two | Initial contact
Hi [community leader's name],
I hope this message finds you in good spirits. I trust you're staying well amidst everything going on.
I wanted to reach out to you because I am applying for a visa, and one of the requirements is a character reference. Given your significant role in our community, I couldn't think of anyone better to vouch for my character and integrity.
I've always admired how you lead our community, fostering a sense of unity and understanding among us. Your guidance has been invaluable to me, and I believe your words would carry great weight in my visa application.
Would you be happy to spare a few moments to write a brief character reference highlighting our interactions and your perspective on my character? I would be incredibly grateful. If this is something you would be happy doing, I can send you further details.
Thank you very much for considering my request. Your support means a lot to me.
[your full name]
Send them a formal recommendation request email
If they agree after your initial contact, here are some things you may want to include in your next email:
You could also include sample letters or links for first-time writers.
3.0. Example one | Second contact
Hi [their name],
Thank you so much for agreeing to write me a letter of recommendation, I truly appreciate your time and support.
Please find attached documents [cover letter | updated resume | visa application requirements, etc.] that may be able to assist you in writing the letter.
The position I’m applying for is [new job role] with [new company name], so highlighting my skills and achievements while I was under your guidance would be worthwhile. I’m currently working in [current job role] and have been in this position for [length of time]. I believe I’m the perfect candidate for the role I’m applying for because [list skills, experience or qualifications], which is why your help is truly appreciated.
I’m currently in the process of submitting an application for a visa to live in [country name]. As you have known me for [length of time], your recommendation of my character is highly invaluable. Please feel free to add any notable experiences or memories you have of me.
If possible, I will need the letter either sent to myself or submitted to [email address or link] before [date]. If this is too soon or you’re unable to provide one at that time, please let me know as soon as you can.
As this will be your first letter of recommendation, I have attached a few examples for you.
If there’s any other information you need that’ll help make the process of writing easier for you, please let me know.
Thank you again. I truly do appreciate it.
Thanking people is a simple pleasantry that goes a long way. So, make sure you thank them genuinely and courteously, perhaps even over a cup of coffee. And hey, if you're successful, thanks to their letter of recommendation, a bouquet, a box of chocolates, or a bottle of their favorite alcohol can go a long way.