In this article, we will highlight the answers to some of the most important questions when writing a recommendation letter, including who to ask for a letter of recommendation, information to include on the recommendation letter request, and dos and don’ts of requesting a letter of recommendation letter. 

Many job seekers overlook the significance of having a recommendation letter.

What exactly is a letter of recommendation

A letter of recommendation is a formal document that validates a person's work, accomplishments, and skill sets. Usually, employers are those who ask for a letter of recommendation, but it is often required by college applications as well.

Some of the benefits of including a letter of recommendation with your job application:

  • Advocate for the job candidate 
  • Highlight the personality traits of the job candidate
  • Emphasize the job candidate’s previous achievements 
  • Boost the job candidate’s chance of getting hired 

Consider writing a recommendation letter as the icing on the cake. It not only improves the first impression, but it also gives the possible employer a reliable source of credit. 

Before starting to think about who you'll acquire a letter of recommendation from, keep in mind that not everyone can provide a letter of recommendation.

Candidates should be aware that who can write a letter of recommendation depends on the jobs they apply for. Only the right source of recommendation can give the additional credit for the job application!  

Know more about what a letter of recommendation is!


Whom to ask for a letter of recommendation for a job

Finding the right person to ask for a letter of recommendation for the job is important, as companies often want to determine whether the job candidate has an excellent cultural fit. 

To determine who to ask for a letter of recommendation for the job, the following criteria should be considered: 

  • A person who worked directly with you
  • A person who understand your strengths and skills 
  • A person who is in a position of authority or supervision 
  • A person who feels confident and positive about you 
  • A person who mirrors a similar career path as yours 

Candidates should first consider who can write a letter of recommendation for them, and then make formal requests to those who are suitable. Prepare a list of people that one would like to pursue.

Examples of whom a job candidate can ask for a letter of recommendation for work:  

  • Employer/CEO
  • Supervisor/manager
  • Co-worker
  • Colleague 

One of the main factors in common among asking for a recommendation letter from an employer, supervisor, manager, and CEO is the undeniable status in the hierarchy. Due to their position of authority, many job candidates may feel fearful or uncertain about how to ask for a letter of recommendation from the boss.

Here are three essential actions a job seeker can take:

1. Be polite in the request.

Choose the right tone to submit your request when asking for a recommendation from the employer or manager.   

2. Include specific details in the request.

Be clear about what job you are applying for, the date of the deadline, and who the letter of recommendation of a job is addressing.   

3. Follow-up the request.

Often the employer or CEO is overburdened with responsibilities. Don’t forget to send a follow-up email to confirm that the recommendation letter request has been received. 

Get Letter of Recommendation Request Templates ✨

For those who are just graduated from college, fresher job seekers seldom have enough formal experience to request a letter of recommendation for a job. Here are some examples of who you could ask for a recommendation letter from persons in academic positions:

  • A professor/teacher 
  • A guidance counselor
  • An academic advisor 
  • A community leader 

When requesting a letter of recommendation from an academic professor, advisor, and teacher, the process is handled differently than when requesting one from a CEO. Professors or teachers expect students to prepare very well prior to the request.

Here are three basic tips for recommendation letter etiquette from university staff, including getting a letter of recommendation from a professor a job candidate doesn’t know well: 

1. Make a formal request.

Begin with making a formal request via an email or in-person appointment. Explain in the request reasons to apply for the particular job and why the professor or teacher has been chosen.  

2. Provide details of the job or school.

Make sure to provide information regarding the job, such as a description of the job or school, deadlines, and any other unique demands

3. Include grades, extracurricular activities, and volunteer positions.

If the professor is unfamiliar with the candidate, it is beneficial to give supplementary information to back up the formal request.

Moreover, while guidance counselors are typically aware of the students' academic records, extracurricular activities might be the missing piece of the puzzle when requesting a letter of recommendation from a guidance counselor. 

If the job applicant has extensive experience volunteering, he/she can easily request a letter of recommendation from a community leader. 


Whom to ask for a letter of recommendation for school admission 

When applying to college or graduate school, students frequently require at least one or two letters of recommendation for college admission. Asking for a recommendation letter for university admission can be a challenging process due to the very competitive candidate pool at most top colleges.

Examples of people from whom a candidate can obtain letters of recommendation:

  • Employer/Supervisor 
  • Professor/Teacher 
  • Mentor
  • Coach 
  • Community people

The following three tips teach you how to ask for recommendation letter for college, including special programs such as a medical school, a law school, or a nursing school: 

1. Make your request in time.

Most college applications have deadlines, so it is best to ask for a letter of recommendation for high school students in time. 

2. Provide materials.

Students can provide their teachers and professors copies of their transcripts, purpose of the application, and other related activities, as these facts will help them write a more accurate letter of recommendation for college admission. 

3. Include attributes that matter to law, medicine, and nursing schools.

When requesting a letter of recommendation for law, medicine, or nursing school, it is slightly different from submitting a letter of recommendation for general college admission.

The student should highlight what skill sets and strengths they obtain to be able to get recommended for these special programs. For instance, include extracurricular activities that the student has been participating in when requesting a recommendation letter.  

Get Letter of Recommendation Request Templates ✨

For students who are seeking a letter of recommendation for grad schools, this additional tip can definitely help: 

4. Communicate about the applicant’s goals.

Communicating the student's graduate study goals ahead of time can assist mentors, teachers, managers, and professors better understand the student's career ambitions. It is a huge plus to the recommendation letter for grad school when these individuals can validate students’ achievements. 


What information to provide when asking for a letter of recommendation

Although job applicants cannot control the content recommenders would write, it is necessary to provide information to aid the process of writing a recommendation letter.

However, the information to provide differs with circumstances and it is important to keep in mind what information to provide for a letter of recommendation.

Below are some tips of what to provide when asking for a letter of recommendation.

General information to include for a letter of recommendation

Generally speaking, some information is necessary when job candidates consider what to include when asking for a letter of recommendation.

The following information applies to most situations: 

  • Purpose of application: 
    Details why a particular job or school is valuable to the candidate. 
  • Current status: 
    This information shows a narrative of what the candidate is currently working on or studying, it can also include why a recommender is chosen to write for the candidate. 
  • Resume (and cover letter)
    A resume is an essential information to include when the candidates request a letter of recommendation, check our previous article for what to include on a resume
  • Transcript: 
    This information mostly applies to fresh graduates or prospective students who want to attend graduate schools or college.
  • Brag sheet: 
    A brag sheet works similarly to a letter of recommendation information sheet, which includes information regarding the candidate’s profile and characteristics for the recommenders to reference when writing a recommendation letter for the candidates. 
  • Submission instructions and deadlines: 
    Provide outlines of submission instructions and deadlines can help the recommenders pinpoint deadlines for the potential jobs or school programs. 

Information to include when asking for a recommendation letter for jobs

  • Resume and cover letter: 
    The employer or manager does not necessarily know a job candidate’s experience, so it is important to include a resume or cover letter to give them a better understanding of the candidate’s profile.  
  • Purpose of the application:
    A potential job applicant's desire to move on to the next job should be understood by the employer or management.
  • Submission instructions and deadline: 
    Most companies set deadlines for job applications, it is critical to give recommenders deadlines and submission instructions.

Information to provide when asking for a recommendation letter for school admission

  • Application brochure:
    Most college admissions provide an application brochure for every candidate of interest. It gives recommenders context of what schools and programs a prospective student wishes to apply for.  
  • Purpose of the application: 
    Usually college admissions demand prospective students to write admissions essays (e.g., motivation letter). It is important to show the recommenders why attending a particular school is meaningful for the prospective student.  
  • A brag sheet:
    Here is some information to include when the candidates wonder how to write a brag sheet for a letter of recommendation: 
    • Volunteer experience 
    • Involvements in sports or other activities 
    • Relevant classes and academic experience 
  • Submission instructions and deadlines:
    It is prospective students’ job to remind their recommenders of submission deadlines and provide necessary instructions for them. 
  • Transcript: 
    An academic transcript provides recommenders information on a prospective student’s academic performance, which is also valuable for writing a recommendation letter for college admission.  

Information to provide when requesting a recommendation letter for scholarships

Material to include in a scholarship recommendation letter is quite similar to information to include with a recommendation letter for school admission.

However, the following information should be included:

  • Information of the scholarship: 
    Details of the name of the scholarship or eligibility criteria should be submitted to the recommender.  
  • Scholarship application essay: 
    Similar to submitting an admissions essay, prospective candidates should add a summary of the application essay to inform recommenders why they are a valuable fit for the scholarship program. 

Dos & Don’ts of requesting a letter of recommendation 

DON’T

  1. Make requests to those who don’t know the candidate.
    
    Make sure the recommender is someone close to the candidate before sending a letter of recommendation request email.
  2. Get offended if they say no.
    
    After learning how to request a letter of recommendation, the candidate may receive rejections. Some of the recommenders might not feel comfortable writing a letter of recommendation, it is perfectly normal.
  3. Make last-minute requests.
    An important answer to how to ask for a letter of recommendation is to always make requests early, as professors or employers are busy and writing a quality recommendation letter takes time. 

DO

  1. Provide necessary information.
    How candidates get a letter of recommendation depends on the amount of information they can provide, a high-quality recommendation letter can be produced by good preparation from the candidates.  
  2. Be polite.
    A cultural tip to how to write a request for a letter of recommendation is to be polite when requesting a letter of recommendation. 
  3. Understand the relationship dynamics.
    The basic process of how applicants get a letter of recommendation is to investigate their relationship dynamics with recommenders. If a high school student who is close to her biology instructor wants to apply to a computer engineering program, she should first figure out how her relationship dynamics with the biology instructor may help her earn a good recommendation letter.

Takeaway

Whether you are looking to submit a recommendation letter for a job or college application, finding who to ask for a letter of recommendation is an important first step. This person should not only be a person who knows the candidate very well, but ideally someone in an authority position. 

Requesting recommendation letters isn’t easy, but it can be done by following the steps provided in this article.

Furthermore, information that should be included when requesting a letter of recommendation differs by the situation, such as information to include in a recommendation letter for a job is different from information to include in a recommendation letter for school admissions. 

A well-prepared candidate knows the dos and don'ts and can obtain a good recommendation letter, which increases the chance of getting the job!


Diana Shih
contributor

Diana Shih

Diana is currently doing her Ph.D. in decision-making science in Germany. She's enthusiastic about psychology, behavioral science, and sustainability. She spends her leisure time daydreaming, working out at the gym, and socializing with her pals over a pint.

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