How To Ask for a Letter of Recommendation (With Examples)

After you’ve confirmed your request in person, email a formal written request to each individual who has agreed to write your recommendation. Feel free to use the template below to guide your writing. When you send your request, also include:

How To Ask for a Letter of Recommendation in an Email (With Examples)

If you hope to be admitted into a college program, win a competitive fellowship or scholarship or give yourself an advantage when vying for a particular position, you may benefit from—and be required to—submit multiple letters of recommendation. Additionally, the content of those letters could be a deciding factor for your application, so you should do everything possible to ensure they work on your behalf.

Approaching the right person in the right way can make them more likely to give you a standout recommendation letter. These days, particularly if you have already graduated from school or otherwise lost regular contact with your professor or colleague, there is a good chance you’ll be asking for your letter of recommendation by email. In this article, we outline how to ask for a letter of recommendation in an email, how to decide who to ask for a recommendation, along with tips, a template and two examples.

How to ask for a letter of recommendation

1. Create a list of 5–10 individuals best suited to write your recommendation letter

First, consider which individuals in your network are most qualified to write you a letter of recommendation. Whom you choose may depend on the reason you need the recommendation. For example, if the letters are for potential job opportunities, managers or colleagues with experience observing and working with you may be able to provide the most valuable insights. If the recommendation letter is for academic purposes, you might seek out counselors or professors who can speak your academic abilities.

2. Talk to each individual directly about the reason for the recommendation

Though you should later send a formal, written request for a recommendation, you should speak to each individual on your list beforehand. Doing so ensures they are willing and have the availability to write your recommendation letter. Having a conversation with them will also provide you the opportunity to update them on your latest relevant achievements and accomplishments they can include in their recommendation. During this conversation, you should provide all relevant context for the recommendation including what it’s for, an overview of information it should include and when you need it by.

After confirming with your selected writers, you should send each a personalized, formal recommendation request. In your request, you should include the following context for them to feel comfortable and prepared when writing your recommendation:

Most people who write recommendation letters will appreciate the guidance, as the letter recipients may be looking for specific information to be addressed in the letter. It’s helpful to attach your current resume so your contact can quickly familiarize themselves or refresh their memory with your qualifications.

Next, email or deliver a printed copy to each person who has agreed to write your recommendation letter. You may also want to reiterate when you need the letter returned, and instruction and contact information for where and how exactly to send the recommendation. You will likely be able to identify this information in the job posting or application, or directly from the employer if the request for a recommendation has come later in the hiring process.

Should You Have These Letters Prepared Already?

Having a ready recommendation letter is always a good idea. It can help you stand out in the application process, and it can’t hurt to have a letter on hand describing all your assets for those days when you’re feeling discouraged.

Student applying for a program
Photo by Avel Chuklanov on Unsplash

Tips for getting the best letters of recommendation

Ask early to give ample time.

Teachers and faculty members sometimes get inundated with requests to write recommendation letters around the time when college application deadlines roll around. Asking well in advance will allow them to spend some time and attention on your letter. For professional recommenders, try to ask three weeks in advance.

If you sense hesitation, ask someone else.

There are many reasons someone may not feel comfortable writing a letter of recommendation for you. And it may not have anything to do with you or your qualifications. This person might not feel like they know you well enough or cannot speak to the skills and qualifications of the role you’re applying for.

You want letters of recommendation that vouch for you without hesitation. If someone hesitates or turns down your request, you’re better off asking someone else who can write you a strong recommendation.

When you leave a job, ask for a letter of recommendation.

This is especially if you had a positive working relationship with your manager. Get a letter now while the memories of the impact you’ve made are still fresh in your manager’s mind. You’ll have it ready to submit to potential employers.

Sample Email Message Asking for a Reference

I am reaching out to ask you to provide me a reference for a new opportunity I am seeking with CBI Industries. Of course, I completely understand if you are unable to commit to this. Please just let me know as soon as possible.

I learned a lot about the industry while working for you at Acme Corporation, and I think you would be able to provide the kind of insight into my skills that would increase my chances of landing this new position. As you know, I have recently been employed at VBN Industries, heading their research and development division. The opportunity at CBI Industries is related but would also require many of the sales and marketing techniques I developed while working for you.

Thank you very much for considering my request. I have attached a copy of my updated resume and the job posting for your review. Gary Smith from Human Resources will be the contact person at CBI who will be in touch if you agree to provide the reference for me.


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