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If you’ve ever been asked for a recommendation, you know how awkward it can be. But it doesn’t have to be! The best way to ask for a recommendation is by being prepared and knowing what you want out of the process. So, here’s some advice on how exactly to go about asking for a recommendation—and get one that will help your career.
Gather a list of people to ask.
To get a good recommendation, you’ll want to ask someone who has known you for a while and can provide a strong recommendation. After all, they’re the ones writing your letter of recommendation and they don’t want it to reflect poorly on them if they can’t say something nice about you.
- Ask people who have known you for a long time. Your references should be able to give an accurate account of how well your skills match up with the job description requirements—and if there are any skills that aren’t necessary for this particular job but would be important for another one down the road (or even in another industry), let them know! They’ll need all the information possible if they’re going to write an effective letter of recommendation on behalf of your application.
- Ask people who have worked with you before or know what kind of work ethic/work style fits best into their environment so as not waste anyone’s time on short notice (because let’s face it: everyone gets busy). This is especially important if there isn’t enough time left before deadline day; which means nobody wants any surprises when it comes time for review day!
Narrow down your list.
Asking for recommendations is an important part of the job search process, but it can be a little nerve-racking. Here are some tips to help you get started:
- Narrow down your list to the top recommendations. To begin with, it’s best to come up with a short-list of people who have some connection with your prospective employer and whom you believe will speak highly of your work. If possible, choose people who know each other so that they can make positive referrals about you in turn.
- Choose well-connected candidates who are respected and have good reputations within their industries or communities—these are people whose opinions will carry weight when they recommend you as an employee candidate. You should also think about what kind of information these individuals can provide about how well suited you would be for this position: Do they know something personal about yourself that could help explain why they’re impressed by your experience? Did they witness an achievement or performance on which their opinion would be based?
You’ll want more than one person recommending you because different perspectives provide greater insight into what makes someone successful in their field; moreover, having multiple recommendations gives employers more confidence in hiring decisions since there may be competing offers being made at once (and if there aren’t any other firms vying for candidates yet).
A big part of the process is giving your recommenders plenty of time to write the letters for you. Your application deadline is approaching, and they’re struggling to fit all their tasks into a busy schedule. If they don’t know in advance when you need their recommendations, chances are that they won’t have them ready by the time you want them. Even if it seems like there isn’t enough time, give them a head start so that they can prioritize your request over other things.
A good rule of thumb is to give recommenders at least two weeks notice—make sure this date is well before the application deadline! This way, even if something comes up during those two weeks (like a work deadline), there will still be some buffer time for people who might need more than one week to finish writing your recommendation letter(s).
You also shouldn’t rush your potential recommender(s) into doing something last minute just because it’s convenient for you; everyone has busy lives with lots going on at once—and while yours may seem especially stressful right now, remember: these people care about helping out future students as well!
Let them know how you’ll use the recommendation.
When you ask for a recommendation, be sure to let your recommender know how the reference will help your career. Explain how it will help them, as well.
- Why is this position important to you?
- Why is this position important to the company or organization that you are applying to?
- How does it fit into your long-term career goals and objectives?
Explain why their recommendation would be so valuable.
- Explain why their recommendation would be so valuable.
- Explain how the recommendation would help you and your company.
- Explain how the person’s strengths, skills and experience align with the job description and what you are looking for in a candidate.
Tell them about your achievements at work.
When you ask for a recommendation, it’s important to have examples of your achievements ready. The best way to do this is not by giving a laundry list of every task you’ve ever completed at work. Instead, choose a few key accomplishments from your most recent performance review and make sure they are relevant to the job you’re applying for.
If you’ve been working hard on something in particular and don’t have time for a lengthy explanation, consider making notes about what was accomplished and how it benefited the company (or department). If there’s no specific achievement that stands out in particular, think back on how you were able to help team members or clients with their projects—and emphasize those skills instead!
Give your recommenders something to work with.
- Give your recommenders something to work with.
- Give them the information they need.
- Set a deadline for when you’d like to receive the recommendation letter, and give them a deadline as well. Provide them with a list of questions that they can answer in the recommendation letter, and provide examples of your work or achievements that they can use as references if necessary.
Keep in touch.
Check in with them on their progress. This one is optional, but it can be nice if you have some extra time on your hands and want to stay connected with someone important in your life. Ask them how they are doing and what they are up to professionally (and personally!). The best part about this step: You might learn some new things about this person that will come in handy down the road!
Ask them for help in the future. If there’s something specific that would be helpful for them as far as future recommendations are concerned—i.e., if there’s anything about yourself or why you’re applying for any specific role—this is another great opportunity for follow-up communication!
People are more willing to write a recommendation.
Make sure to ask the person for a recommendation. If you don’t ask, they won’t know they should be writing one. If a person is not asked, it can make them feel uncomfortable and like they’re doing something wrong by writing one without being asked (which isn’t true at all).
Provide the person with a template and instructions. For example: “Please use this template when giving me a recommendation letter.” Additionally, tell them what you want them to highlight in the letter (i.e., accomplishments or skills). You can also give them ideas of things that might be helpful for them if there are any gaps in your career history or any questions about why certain job titles/positions were held during that time period.
Give them a deadline to complete it by so that after 3 days from when you send out the request email asking for recommendations from each of these people, at least 2 or 3 have responded with something useful (or ideally all 4-5 have responded). This way no one feels rushed into doing something they’re not ready yet while still giving everyone plenty of time overall since most people take longer than three days anyway because life gets busy sometimes!
Specific project you collaborated on together.
Tell them what you did and how you helped them, especially if they might not be able to recall the project or its details. If it’s been a while since the two of you worked together, this will help jog their memory and make them more likely to agree to write you a great recommendation letter. Asking for a recommendation is like any other job interview—you’re trying to show off so that people will want to work with you! Use this time as an opportunity to brag about yourself while also showing appreciation for the person who worked with them (which may even make it easier for that person). It’s important not only because it shows respect but also because it makes everything else seem less awkward: “I was just working on our project together.”
Say thank you!
Thank your recommender for their time and consideration. Don’t forget to thank them for the recommendation letter they wrote for you. In a world where many people are quick to complain about other people and their actions, it’s important not to forget that we live in a society where people are generally good at heart. If someone has taken the time out of their day to write a recommendation letter on your behalf, take a moment to acknowledge their efforts and show them appreciation in return!
Be thoughtful and effective.
It’s important to be thoughtful and effective when approaching a former colleague, manager or professor for a recommendation.
First, be clear about what you’re asking for. Don’t expect your former supervisor to write the letter of recommendation on your behalf; instead, have them sign their name at the end of an already-written letter that you’ve crafted yourself. Then ask if they would be willing to give their feedback on this draft before it’s sent off in order to make sure it strikes the right tone.
Second, show respect for their time by keeping communication brief and specific in nature—and remember: No matter how much you want something from someone else (such as a glowing recommendation), never take advantage of them or ignore their boundaries! Thirdly…
Give the recommenders plenty of time.
As with everything else in this guide, it’s best to ask for a recommendation letter as early as possible. This is especially true if you have multiple recommenders; some may not be able to write the letters on time if you wait until the last minute.
Also, let your recommenders know that they don’t have to write a lengthy letter—a short paragraph or two will suffice.
Letters of recommendation aren’t always easy to ask for, but if you do it nicely, it can be done.
Asking for a letter of recommendation is not always easy. If you have ever been on the receiving end of one, you know that writing it isn’t an easy task either. When someone asks me to write a letter, I do my best to work with them to make sure they get what they need and I don’t waste any time doing so. But even if we both go into the process knowing this, there are still some things we can all do better so it doesn’t feel like such a struggle when we ask each other for help!
When you’re looking to ask for a recommendation, the most important thing is being professional and respectful. Remember that this person has already agreed to provide their name as a reference, so they should be willing to help if possible. Don’t take it personally if they are unable or unwilling; just move on with your search for someone who can give more positive feedback about your work experience and skills.
When sending an email asking for references, make sure that you communicate clearly what type of recommendation you want them to provide (i.e., what position would need this recommendation—is it entry level? Internship? Full-time job?). If possible, provide examples from past recommendations so that they can better understand exactly what type of feedback will be given by others who have worked with them before. This helps ensure that everyone involved is on the same page when submitting their names as references!
Contact us today if you would like our assistance with elevating your job search.