Whether it’s before, during, or after an interview, a letter of recommendation might be the key that sets you apart from other candidates. Strong words and great support from referees that know your competency can be the determining persuader on your way to a dream job or dream school.

What is a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a document that discusses a person’s qualifications, skills, and character related to employment or academic studies. 

It is typically written by the person’s previous professional associates, such as employers, employees, professors, colleagues, or even clients. The purpose of a recommendation letter is to argue a candidate’s eligibility for applying for a job position, admission to higher education, or scholarship. These letters are provided to the hiring department or institution admission office.

While it might seem difficult or frightening to make a letter of recommendation request, you can use our sample request for a letter of recommendation to craft a polite message and elevate yourself from the competition.

How to ask for a letter of recommendation - 10 Tips

1. Who to ask for a letter of recommendation? 

Prepare a recommendation letter contact list with 5-10 references. Review your network carefully, and select those who know you best or individuals who can speak concretely about your achievements and performance. 

💡 For work references, start with past managers, colleagues, or supervisors you’ve worked under.

💡 For academic purposes, ask professors or teachers. Your referees should be able to provide insights and examples.

→ Learn more about who can write a letter of recommendation.

2. Ask earlier than the application deadline.

Contact earlier for the recommendation letter than the job application. Remember that your past employers or professors are busy all year long. They might be willing to write you a recommendation letter, but later, the promise slipped out of their mind. 

🔍 When to ask for a letter of recommendation exactly before the due date?

Approach them at least three weeks before you need it.
Give them some time to complete so they can deliver a positive and quality letter of recommendation.

Don’t give them a last-minute notice. However, if you really are in a rush, apologize for the hurry and explain the reason.  

3. What to provide when asking for a letter of recommendation?

Provide necessary information and context to your reference to make the recommendation letter request easier. Remind them about your specific skills and accomplishments. Be sure to include the following details to refresh their memory:

  • Your latest resume.
  • Purpose of the recommendation letter.
  • What you are doing currently.
  • The reason why you are qualified for the position.
  • Related skills, work success, or academic accomplishments.
  • Your due date and timeline.

4. Ask politely and give an out.

Sending a request email is not a guarantee -- your potential referees are not obliged to write you a letter. They might have personal reasons or are simply too busy to make time, so give them an easy way to decline you politely with no hard feelings.

You want your recommendation letters to be genuine and well-written. 

5. Write a thank-you email for a letter of recommendation.

After the recommendation letter is submitted, be sure to send a thank-you note to the recommenders that accepted the request. Express your gratitude sincerely, especially for their time and effort spent on the letter of recommendation. 

Here are 5 additional hints to make your letter of recommendation request perfect ✨

6. Send a follow-up letter to remind them.

Your recommenders might be hectic with their own works and sending a follow-up letter 10-days before the deadline to politely remind them about the recommendation letter. 

7. Avoid selecting friends and family.

Deciding who to ask for a letter of recommendation is important. Although your friends and family know you best, the recruiter might judge their words as biased and unprofessional.

You can reach out to those who can attest your skills, such as:

  • teachers or academic professors
  • employees
  • supervisors
  • coworkers and colleagues

Those are the people who can add value to your work experience.

8. Meet in person before sending an email request.

It’s ideal to ask your references in person to express gratitude in person and inquire about their willingness. Speaking to them directly and establishing a real conversation give you a chance to update your current status, and make sure they understand the details.

You can later send a more official email requesting a letter of recommendation.

9. Give clear submission instructions and due date.

It is crucial to provide all the necessary material, formats, or submission platforms and deadlines. Make it easier for them to write your recommendation letter smoothly and correctly.

You might need to attach: 

  • transcripts
  • job or program application URLs
  • submission addresses
  • due dates

10. Prepare a resume to give hints for the recommendation letter.

Your references might kindly accept the request but not knowing where to start. Provide them with a resume or your cover letter to highlight the qualities they might agree with.

If they know you well enough, the recommendation letter would be a persuasive message that aligns with your resume and the job description.



How to write an email asking for a letter of recommendation? 

After you decide who to ask for a letter of recommendation, it is better to meet your recommenders in person.

Send them a request email with detailed instructions later, so they don’t forget. Use this structure and the sample email asking for a letter of recommendation below to include everything you’ll need.

Subject

Name your letter of recommendation request email with a direct and proper subject line to make them notice your email. A good example would be:

Letter of Recommendation Request for [Name]”

Salutation

Start with a salutation by addressing with their last name and title like “Dear Professor [Last Name],” Unless you are on a first-name basis with them, don’t be too informal. 

Body of the email

  • Opening + Self-introduction

Reintroduce yourself to them. If you are asking your former supervisor or professor, they might have worked with many different people.

Refresh their memory about when you have worked with them or took a specific course, what your position was, how you have met, or other interactions so they won’t have to try too hard thinking back.

  • Current Status + Recommendation Letter Request

After explaining who you are, you can move on to clarify your purpose. Mention your recent status and state the reason for requesting a recommendation letter.

Explain the opportunity you have and why their recommendation would be valuable. Show your appreciation with a bit of honest flattery, but keep it professional. Leave some space for them to decline subtly.

  • Recommendation Letter Request Details

Briefly bring out some of the skills, achievements, work habits you wish they could bring up. You can refer to the experience humbly as a friendly suggestion.

  • Additional Information

Next, provide a resume and related materials for their review. Address how to submit the recommendation letter and when to deliver it. Give clear instructions so it won’t take up too much of their time.

  • Closing (Thank You Note)

Thank them gratefully for taking their time and effort. Whether they accept the request or not, appreciate their consideration and everything you have gained from your previous working experience or lecture. 

Signature

Lastly, close your email requesting a letter of recommendation by signing your full name with formal contact information. 



How to request a letter of recommendation under different circumstances

Request a recommendation letter from teachers or professors (for students)

If you are a student applying for an internship, college, or other academic programs, a letter of recommendation from professors could be crucial. Find an academic advisor whom you have interacted with or know you well enough to describe your character. 

You can also go for professors with a reputation if they can write a helpful recommendation letter. If you have outstanding grades or progressed significantly in their class, point it out to back up your request. 

💡 If you are asking for a letter of recommendation from a professor you don't know well, emphasize your relation or performances, and clarify why you choose him/her. 

Notice that teachers and professors are often very busy at the start or end of a semester. Your letter of recommendation request can easily be overlooked. Stop by their office and start the conversation to ensure they got your message. Send an email afterward to list the submission details. 

Request recommendation letter from managers, supervisors, or employees

A professional recommendation letter from a former manager, supervisor, or employee can be a strong testification. However, you want to choose the right person who can speak for your positive qualities with concrete examples. 

Ask those who witnessed your growth and improvements to testify to your potential. If there’s someone you actually enjoyed working together, they are less likely to write a mediocre letter that says nothing genuine about you.

📍 Reminder

Meet your recommenders in person or give them a call in advance and follow up before the due date. 

Request recommendation letter from colleagues and coworkers

A letter of recommendation from colleagues allows the hiring manager to comprehend your working capabilities from objective observation. They are the one who teams with you and collaborates on projects.

You can request those who have more years of experience than you to write personal details and skills about you.

Letter of Recommendation Request Template

If you are hesitant about how to ask for a letter of recommendation via email, use this sample email to start immediately!

Email Subject Line: Letter of Recommendation for [Your Name].


Dear Mr./Ms./Professor [Referee Last Name]:


I hope this letter finds you well. I am [Your Name], and I worked at [previous company] with you and developed several projects such as [previous experience].

I am reaching out because my new job application as [job role] in [company name] asks for a recommendation letter. I thought of you since I believe you can provide insight into [skills 1] and [skills 2], and your honest letter of recommendation will vouch for my past achievements. 

I have attached my updated resume with the job information and my skills for you to take a look at. If there are other questions or you are unsure where to start with, I’d be delighted to answer them. 

The due date for submitting the letter is [date] and can be sent to [contact information]. If you find the date too soon or won’t be able to write the recommendation letter, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Thank you for your precious time, and I greatly appreciate the effort and consideration.



Sincerely,

[Your Name].

Use our professional email template for a recommendation letter request!


Wu Chao Min
contributor

Wu Chao Min

Chao Min is currently a content writer and graphic designer. She also enjoys design researching, visual culture theories, and good pasta.

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