How to Ask for a Recommendation Letter
If you’ve started the application process for graduate school, then you already know the importance of lining up your three recommendations letters. Even if you aren’t applying to graduate school and instead are applying for full time jobs, you’ll see that you need to line up your references as well. These tips work for both situations and will ensure that you are asking for recommendation letters in a professional, polite, and successful way.
Ask someone who knows you
When it comes to choosing who you are going to ask for a recommendation letter from, make sure that you ask a professor, mentor, or manager who actually does know you and how you work. Ask the professor who’s office hours you attended or whose class you raised your hand in. Even if you didn’t get an A in the course, they’ll still be able to write you a quality letter because they’ve gotten to know you. What you don’t want to do is ask a professor in your 150 student lecture who might not even know your name. The people who read recommendation letters read hundreds of them and they can tell the difference between a letter written by someone who knows the student and someone who is writing a generic letter that could work for just about anyone.
Be mindful of the timing
It is important that you are respectful of the time of the person you are asking to write your letter. Make sure that you ask well in advance so that they know that they have an upcoming deadline and can plan their schedule accordingly. What you don’t want is to make them feel rushed to meet the deadline and they feel stressed or aren’t able to provide a high quality letter. Ask if they would be willing to write the letter about two months in advance. About four weeks before the deadline, follow up with them letting them know that the deadline is four weeks away.
Let them know your goals
In order for someone to write you a great recommendation letter, it’s important that you let them know why you’re applying for something. Let them see your passion in this next academic or professional move so that they can see the importance of you being accepted. The more details you give them, the more specific and compelling your recommendation letter will be.
Give them a copy of your resume
If you’re asking a teacher to write you a recommendation letter, they may know what you’ve been up to in the classroom but not outside of the classroom. By taking a look at your resume, they will be able to get a holistic view on how you spend your time and your experience.
Say thank you
Don’t forget to say thank you and send a handwritten thank you note. They have taken the time out of their schedule to help advance your education and career, so make sure that you let them know how much they appreciate it.