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How to ask for a Letter of Recommendation?

What is a Letter of Recommendation?

Without knowing the nuances of a letter of recommendation, it will be a challenging task to understand the apt information that is to be included and to be left out. Knowing this is important, as you have to request a letter of recommendation for your career progression or, in the case of an academic requirement. A letter of recommendation is a decisive part of the hiring process. This letter directly recommends someone to an academic opportunity or a job opportunity. This letter essentially highlights the performance of that particular individual in the relevant field. This letter is sent to those people who are deciding whether to admit or employ the candidate.

The theme of discussion in a letter of recommendation is an individual’s qualifications and skills, which can be linked to the opening for which the application is sought. A letter of recommendation is usually issued by previous colleagues, employers, academicians, or teachers. In other words, a letter of recommendation is a soft guarantee provided by those individuals assuring the qualities and capabilities of the candidate.

Timing and requirement of a Letter of Recommendation

The procedure unfolds as follows. The candidate who is applying for an opening request letter of recommendation from those people who has got a say in recommending that individual. These qualified individuals can choose two different paths. In one situation, they may send the letter of recommendation to the candidate for review. This gives an additional opportunity for the candidate to review the letter of recommendation to make it more impactful. But it is important to note that they are under no pressure or obligation to do so. This is the second way of doing it. The qualified recommenders may choose to send the letter of recommendation directly to your potential employer or the academic admission committee.

Components of a Letter of Recommendation 

There is an important reason why you should know the components of a letter of recommendation. Knowing more about a letter of recommendation equips you to write a perfect request letter.

  • Context to the request

This is an essential component of a letter of recommendation. This section is inclusive of that information about your whereabouts and your connection with the person who is recommending you. Knowing more about this section of the letter of recommendation brings you closer to attaining a perfect letter of recommendation which suits your demands. Hence, the first step is to narrow down to identify the person who can better recommend you in this regard.

  • Explanations

This part of the letter of recommendation is about validations. There needs to be proper illustrations and examples which support your case in the letter of recommendation. Since this path is unavailable, you must choose the right person who knows in-depth about you or is equally willing to include the details provided by you.

  • Linking the requirements to your profile 

This section is the creative craft of a letter of recommendation. The central objective of issuing a letter of recommendation is to increase the possibilities of your selection. There needs to be an obvious and explicit link between the job requirements provided by the prospective employer with that of your resume. Intelligently crafted letters of recommendation include those keywords, skills, and strengths required by the employer. Again, knowing about this facilitates the perfect selection of the person who can format a letter of recommendation for you.

Context-based request for Letters of Recommendation

  • Friend

The thumb rule regarding the letter of recommendation is to avoid those situations where you have to ask for a letter of recommendation from your friends. The stereotypical notion of a letter of recommendation from a friend being biased may play a crucial role here. And hence, it is not advisable to take such risks.

But, this does not ignore the requirement of a letter of recommendation, which is intimate and character-specific. A friend of yours can do this honest assessment of your persona. Again, it is always advisable for your friend to have some connection to the position you are applying for.

  • Colleague

Letter of recommendation from your colleagues can be classified as professional recommendation letters. Professional recommendation letters play a crucial and decisive role in job interviews. Getting attested to your capabilities and skills by your former colleagues and manager invariably gives you an edge over other candidates who have applied for the same position. The years of experience together must be kept in mind while choosing the right person who can give you a letter of recommendation.

  • Professor or teacher 

A letter of recommendation from a professor or teacher is important for both academic purposes and job applications as a fresher. The basic rule of selection applies here too. You should not risk your case by asking for a letter of recommendation from a teacher or a professor with whom you haven’t interacted much. Personal familiarity is vital here. This is also important because academic professionals may receive high amounts of requests for letters of recommendation during placement periods. This is to be kept in mind while you choose the right person and the right timing.

Things to be kept in mind while asking for a Letter of Recommendation

❖    A pool of options for Letter of Recommendation 

This is a prerequisite to the letter of recommendation. The decision to choose the right person who can craft a letter of recommendation for you is entirely your own decision. You should keep in mind the qualifications of those people who you are considering to ensure that letter of recommendation is highly impactful. This decision is dependent on the reason why you need a recommendation letter.

Consider this example where you need a recommendation letter for an upcoming job opportunity. In this scenario, your previous managers or experienced colleagues may provide a highly impactful letter of recommendation. This will be more convincing as you have worked with them before. If you require a letter of recommendation for your academic purposes, you need to ensure that you are talking to the right professor who can present your academic capabilities convincingly.

The most important thing that is to be kept in mind is that you should not prefer to request a letter of recommendation from your family or your friend circle. This is because it comes with the baggage of heavily biased and inaccurate recommendations.

❖    Choose wisely

The first step in acquiring a perfect letter of recommendation is to select the right person who can give you a letter of recommendation. It is quite natural to believe that getting a recommendation letter from somebody who is higher up in the hierarchy is highly rewarding. But this is a double-edged sword. If it is the case that you do not know that person directly, it may backfire. The perfect way to deal with the situation is to select a person who can write about you confidently and convincingly. In other words, to get a generic letter of recommendation from a very popular person does not help as much as a personalized recommendation letter from somebody whom you know personally.

❖    Ask well in advance.

Respecting the schedule of the person whom you are requesting a letter of recommendation, you must ask well in advance. The ideal time to ask for a letter of recommendation is at least two weeks before. This can range up to a month before. This is to ensure that you present yourself as a person who is well planned and punctual. Alongside, this gives enough time for the person to prepare a powerful recommendation letter and gives ample time to cross-check the details with you. This may end up highly rewarding for your selection process.

❖    Individual communication 

This makes the core of your request for a letter of recommendation. It is understood that you should send a formal communication via email beforehand. Having a good conversation before getting into the letter of recommendation will certainly increase your chances of grabbing a highly impactful letter. On the other hand, you can make use of this platform to flex your achievements and recent accomplishments that can be included in the letter of recommendation. Alongside, it is usually observed that the individuals who are writing the letter of recommendation refer to know in detail the context to which the letter of recommendation is submitted. This information needs to be conveyed with perfection, and hence it requires individual communication apart from the email conversation.

Another aspect of an individual conversation is that the request letter for the letter of recommendation should not be a generic one. Rather, it has to be personalized to reap high rewards.

❖    Yes, to a bit of flattery

There is a saying which says, “a little flattery goes a long way.” This is true in the case of the letter of recommendation. There are many ways in which you can do this but always keep in mind not to overdo it. You must be thankful for the person you are approaching. You can express your thankfulness by stating how much you enjoyed working with them and learning from them.

❖    Precise request

Avoiding confusion in any professional communication is essential. It is the same in this context also. When you request a letter of recommendation, you must request it in a precise manner. There should not be any explicit confusion for the reader of your request. The purpose of your letter of recommendation and the deadline for the same has to be conveyed for sure. Always remember that you are asking for a favor for which they don’t have an obligation. This understanding should reflect in your request letter for a letter of recommendation.

❖    Flawless procedure

It should never be the case that your letter of recommendation becomes less impactful by you not following a perfect procedure to seek the desired letter. A flawless procedure in this regard includes all necessary detail required to draft a perfect letter of recommendation. For example, you can attach information on your current job status, the objective of this recommendation letter, qualification requirements of the position you are applying for, refreshing of your skills and success, along with the deadline of the letter of recommendation.

Following a flawless procedure to seek the letter of recommendation talks volumes about your punctuality and professionalism. This can certainly have a decisive impact while drafting the letter of recommendation. This will ensure that the recommendation letter you are getting is not a generic one but a very personalized one. It is important to note that you customize the procedure followed depending on the person from whom you are seeking a letter of recommendation.

❖    Polite communication

The request for a letter of recommendation must always have the emotion of politeness while drafting. This requires a perfect balance between you demanding a letter of recommendation and drafting a completely flattering request letter. The ideal way is to keep in mind the profile of a person whom you are asking for a letter of recommendation.

Essential add-ons while asking for a Letter of Recommendation

➔    Worst-case scenarios

A worst-case scenario you will seek a letter of recommendation is that you can be outright rejected by the person from whom you are seeking a letter. In such a situation, the best way is to request someone else for the same. Hence, it is advised that you keep a list of at least 5 to 10 potential references whom you can rely on. There is no other way to deal with such a worst-case scenario.

➔    Understand their situations

Requesting for a letter of recommendation can be tricky if the person feels pressured to write one. You must ensure an easy way for them to decline the request. This is the best way to deal with it because a half-hearted or forced letter of recommendation can have a bad impact on your profile. Leaving all these things, we must understand no former colleague or any of your professors are not obliged to give a letter of recommendation for you.

➔    Deal with their busy schedules 

The best way to deal with their busy schedule is to request well in advance. The rule of thumb in the situation is to request a letter of recommendation at least two weeks before the deadline. Requesting almost a month before the deadline is also acceptable.

➔    Thank you notes 

Thank you notes are an essential component in the procedure to obtain a letter of recommendation. The detailed structure and template for the same are described in the following sections.

Requesting a Letter of Recommendation at the last moment

There may be situations where you are forced to ask for a letter of recommendation at the very last moment. Ideally, you should ask for a letter of recommendation in advance. For example, at least two weeks before. While rushing at the last moment, you should keep these things in mind.

  • You must extend your apologies for the last-minute troubles.
  • On top of this, you must give a good and valid reason for pressurizing your potential reference for the last-minute job.
  • Unlike the usual situation, you should provide them with the maximum information possible in a handy manner. The idea here is to make the job as simple as possible for them.
  • You must make up your mind for a rejection.
  • If you have to do this at the last moment, you should be ready with backup options that can provide you with a good letter of recommendation.

How to follow up on a request?

The expected standards of professionalism have to be kept in mind while you are following up on a request for a letter of recommendation. The key points you should keep in your mind are as follows.

  1. The ideal time for a follow is at least a week before the deadline. This is considered an ideal time because you don’t have to pressure the person and at the same time get the job done.
  2. The channel for communication can be through email. A politely drafted email will do this job.
  3. You can rely on the option of calling only if it’s necessary and when the job is not done through email.
  4. Following up is not one act. Whenever the person confirms that they have forwarded the letter of recommendation, you must send the thank you email, which concludes the following up process.

Do’s of asking for a Letter of Recommendation.  

❏ The basic principle while asking for a letter of recommendation is to ask from somebody whom you know personally or professionally. This is because the basic requirement of a letter of recommendation is to know you as a person with more clarity.

❏ There is a scope for flattery within the limits of professionalism. This is important while requesting a letter of recommendation because you don’t want to sound demanding or rude. You can include the learning processes and experiences inculcated during your time under/ with them.

❏ You must give a well explained and precise request for the letter of recommendation. Always keep in mind that the professor, colleague, or manager does not know any information other than what you tell them. In other words, you have to visualize it in such a way that you are providing information and adding points to your letter of recommendation.

❏ You must keep your expectations low. It may happen that the person declared in your request, ignored your request, or gave a letter of recommendation which may not be of great use to you. Hence, you should have backup plans to grab a perfect letter of recommendation.

❏ It is understood that a well-crafted letter of recommendation needs ample time for preparation and background work. Hence, you must ask well in advance for a letter of recommendation.

❏ The language you are using has to be reflective of your confidence level. It may be decisive in the decision taken by the person whom you are approaching for the letter of recommendation.

Don’ts of asking for a Letter of Recommendation

❏ Do not ask for a generic letter of recommendation. It is not wise to submit a generic letter because it does not highlight your skills and assets. This can be avoided by not asking for a letter of recommendation from someone whom you don’t know.

❏ Going straight to the request without the application of any friendly words or any reminders of your past experiences with them reduces the chance of you getting an impactful letter of recommendation.

❏ Do not send out unclear and vague requests for a letter of recommendation. This invites trouble into fronts. On the one hand, a vague request may reduce the interest level for your reference to craft a good recommendation letter. On the other hand, this may force the person to write a generic letter of recommendation which does not serve the purpose.

❏ Do not approach the process of getting a good letter of recommendation with the mindset that everyone you approach for the same will agree to it. People, you are hoping to write a letter of recommendation for maybe run a busy schedule making it difficult for them to agree to your request. The underlying idea is that you should not be disappointed disproportionately if you happen to hear a few nos.

❏ Asking for a letter of recommendation at the last moment is not at all advised. Invariably, this reduces the chance of getting a good letter of recommendation. Additionally, even if you get a recommendation letter, it may not be positive enough and impactful as the person recommending you have to rush through the process unnecessarily.

❏ Always ensure that you do not make the conversation very casual when you are requesting a letter of recommendation. There are high chances that the impression they are getting in the request mail may reflect in the actual letter of recommendation. Hence, it is not a good idea to take chances.

Samples: Request for Letter of Recommendation

Sample request letters are provided from three different domains. 

Sample 1 (with work experience to a senior):

The subject line of the email: Letter of recommendation for (insert your name here).

Dear/ Hi (insert the last name of reference here), 

[select salutation wisely, for example, a colleague can be called Hi, (name)]

I am writing to you because I am applying for a new job position at (insert company name here). As part of the application process, the organization demands a letter of recommendation. I thought it would be a great help if you could write a letter of recommendation for me.

I cherish our time together at (insert job position here). It was a great learning experience when we both worked together on (insert project in name here). That brought a belief in me that you could validate my skills in the relevant area. I am currently working as (insert a job position here), and the job I am planning to apply for requires those skills which we have built and worked upon together. 

I hereby attach the updated resume and the advertisement for the job I am applying for. Please do revert if you have any doubts regarding the same. The due date for submission of the letter of recommendation is (insert deadline here). I extend my apologies if I am requesting you on short notice. I completely understand the busy schedule you are having. Please do let me know if you can craft a letter for me in this regard. 

Sincerely,

(Insert your name here).

Sample 2 (freshman from college to professor):

The subject line of the email: Letter of recommendation for (insert your name here).

Respected (insert the last name of reference here), 

[select salutation wisely, for example, a colleague can be called Hi, (name)]

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing this email in the context of my application to (insert organization’s / institution’s name here) for (insert job position/ academic program here). The application process requires me to submit letters of recommendation, which may be helpful for them to assess me better. They demand a letter of recommendation which elaborates essentially on my work habits, successes, and skills possessed. Based on my time working under you in college, I firmly believe that you can help me in this situation by providing a detailed letter of recommendation with an honest assessment of my personality. 

It would be a great help if you could provide me with a letter of recommendation as required based on the familiarity and experience we have together at this institute. The due date for the submission of this recommendation letter is (insert deadline here). I extend my apologies if I am requesting you on short notice. I completely understand the busy schedule you are having. Please do let me know if you can craft a letter for me in this regard.

I have attached the required documents for your reference, including my updated resume. Additionally, if you require any more information, I can provide you with the same. 

I thank you so much for all the efforts you have made on my behalf before. 

Sincerely,

(insert your name and contact details here)

Sample 3 (with experience to a former colleague):

The subject line of the email: Letter of recommendation for (insert your name here).

Dear/ Hi (insert the last name of reference here), 

[select salutation wisely, for example, a colleague can be called Hi, (name)]

I hope this email finds you well and you are doing great!

I am writing this mail to help me with my new venture. I am applying for a (insert job position here) at (insert the name of company here). As demanded by the organization, I am seeking help from you regarding a letter of recommendation to stress why I am a perfect fit for this job position. 

I cherish and live in the memories of us working together at (insert company name here), especially when we pulled off (insert project name) in such a sublime fashion. That gave me the confidence to seek your help in this regard as you can validate my skills and expertise from your own experience along with my success rate in projects. 

I completely understand your busy schedule at the new workplace. In case it helps, I am sending across some additional information along with my updated resume to make your job easier. 

Please let me know if you are comfortable writing this letter for me? Also, please do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions or need some clarifications. I have attached the job advertisement too. 

All the best,

Cheers!

(insert your name and contact details here)

Thank You note after Letter of Recommendation

There are many reasons for which you have to write a thank you email after receiving the letter of recommendation. Some important elements of a thank you email are listed below:

  1. Thank you! Email is the best way to maintain a professional relationship. It is important to understand that professional relationships can be mutually beneficial in ways that you may not be when able to expect. Expressing gratitude for the efforts they have undertaken is one way to boost your professional relationship.
  1. Thank you email after the letter of recommendation has to be a personal one and not a generic one. It is advised that you explicitly mention the qualities you admire and look up to you in the person you are writing this mail.
  1. The timing of a thank you email is also vital. It should not be the case that you send out a thank you email after a week. Ideally, you should roll out your gratitude in 24 hours.
  1. A good thank you note will help your reference to remember you, and such a relationship will be beneficial in the future.

Samples: Thank You note after Letter of Recommendation. 

Sample 1:

Subject: Letter of Recommendation⁠—(insert your name here)

Dear (insert name of your reference here),

I am overwhelmed by your efforts towards writing a letter of recommendation for me to assist my application for (insert job position here) at (insert name of the company here). I thank you for your time and resources in helping me and for a great value. I have always wanted to apply for this job since I have come to know about the prospects it offers in terms of the learning experience it offers. 

I am spending my time right now in preparation for my first in-person interview. Thank you again for the strong letter you have forwarded. I will certainly update you regarding the selection process, and it pans out. 

Sincerely,

(insert your name and contact details here)

Sample 2:

Subject: Letter of Recommendation⁠—(insert your name here)

Dear (insert name of your reference here),

I humbly express my indebtedness for the letter of recommendation you gave me for my academic career at (insert name of the institution here). I am sure that the letter will help me in the selection process. 

In this highly competitive field, I am sure that your recommendation letter gives me an edge over other candidates. Thank you again for your time, effort, and resources for this endorsement. I will certainly update you regarding the selection process, and it pans out. 

Best regards,

(insert your name and contact details here)

Key Takeaway

A letter of recommendation is a very crucial step in your selection process for the job you aspire for or for the dream academic course. All steps in the direction of attending a strong endorsement letter need to be taken with the utmost caution and planning. Ranging from the selection of perfect references to sending a thank you note are all crucial. The thumb rule in all steps is to personalize your communication within the framework of a professional channel. The perfect balance needs to be struck between a very high-profile generic recommendation letter and a customized, well-crafted letter of recommendation. The second one may put you in an advantageous position in this highly competitive environment

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