How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for a Job

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Feb 20, 2020

Feb 20, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

Approximately 73 percent of job seekers agree that trying to find a job is one of the most stressful experiences of their lives. Are you going through this stressful process right now?

One of the best ways to get off the job market is to get a well-written letter of recommendation to include along with your resume. Asking for these letters can sometimes be a bit awkward, though.

If you need a letter but aren't sure how to get it, keep reading. Explained below is everything you need to know about how to ask for a letter of recommendation.

Why Do Letters of Recommendation Matter?

Some people are hesitant to ask for letters of recommendation because they don't think they matter. The truth, though, is that these letters can play an instrumental role in helping you land a job. Here are some of the key benefits that come with submitting a letter of recommendation:

Increased Credibility

First, including a letter of recommendation helps to build your credibility as an applicant. It shows your potential employer that you've done great work in the past and that you have people who are willing to recommend you for a particular position. It also shows them that you're serious about the job for which you're applying and are willing to go the extra mile to ensure you make a good impression and get it.

Increased Confidence

Having a letter of recommendation can help to bolster your confidence as well. If you know that someone (or perhaps multiple people) believe in you enough to recommend you for a job, you may find that you stand a little taller when you arrive for your interview. You'll be able to put your best foot forward knowing that there are folks outside of the office who are rooting for you.

Easier Evaluation

Your letter of recommendation can make the whole application evaluation process easier, too. Often, employers see reaching out and checking references as a chore. If you have a letter of recommendation for one of your references, though, you save them from having to make a phone call.

By reviewing your letter of recommendation, they can see what this person has to say about your right away. There's also less of a chance that they'll forget what your reference had to say about you since they won't just be hearing it through the phone. They'll have it written down right in front of them.

Competitive Edge

A letter of recommendation can give you a competitive edge over other applicants, too. If they didn't include a letter along with their resume, this could send a message to your future employer that you're more serious about the position than they are. It also helps them to remember you and increases the likelihood that they'll contact you over someone else.

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

Okay, you can see why a letter of recommendation matters. How do you go about asking for one, though? Start by taking these steps:

Choose the Right People

Start by making sure you're seeking out the right people to write your letter. Brainstorm a list of possible candidates and think about those who know you best. 

You might be tempted to seek out a letter from someone whose name carries a lot of weight at your university or in your field. In many cases, though, you'll get a better and more personal letter from someone who has worked with your more often and knows about your life (both professionally and personally). If you get a letter from this type of person, it's more likely to describe you in detail and make a stronger impression on your potential employer. 

Ask Early

In general, it's best to ask for letters of recommendation as early as possible. Don't tell someone that you need a letter from them the day before your interview or application submission deadline.

If you wait, there's less of a chance that you'll get the kind of personal, thoughtful letter that catches employers' attention. Instead, you'll get a basic letter that seems like it was written at the last minute (because it was).

Provide the Materials

It's helpful if you can also provide the person writing your letter with some materials that make the process easier. For example, you might want to give them email templates that help them check all the necessary boxes during the writing process.

Giving them copies of your resume and work samples can be helpful, too. This gives them something to reference and helps them add a more personal touch to the letter.

Include Instructions and Deadlines

It's a good idea to include a copy of the posting for the job for which you're applying, too. This will give them more information and can help them adjust their language or the points they bring up.

Be clear about when you need the letter, too. That way, you'll be less likely to have to track them down at the last minute or send them a million reminder emails. 

Say Thank You

Finally, be sure to thank the person who wrote you a letter of recommendation. Send them a thank you note and let them know that you appreciate their willingness to assist you, whether you get the job or not.

If you do get the job, though, be sure to follow up and let them know. This might encourage them to write more letters of recommendation in the future and help other job seekers who are in the same position as you.

Get Your Letter of Recommendation Today

The process of figuring out how to ask for a letter of recommendation might be intimidating at first. If you follow these tips, though, you'll feel more confident asking for what you need. You'll also be much more likely to actually get it (and get a letter that really plays up your strengths).

Do you need more help in landing your dream job? If so, check out some of the other resources available on our site today.