How to Request a Letter of Recommendation to Boost Your Job Application

How to Request a Letter of Recommendation to Boost Your Job Application
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 02 February, 2023
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Learning how to request for a letter of recommendation should be a top priority when you’re starting your career — or even as early as the first year you enter university. Asking another (credible!) person to describe you, enumerate your strengths, and list your areas of improvement is no easy task. Who do you choose to write it for you? How will you send your request? When can you send a follow-up prompt? These are some crucial questions you need answered before embarking on the mission at hand.

First, you need to know what exactly is a letter of recommendation. Nope, it’s not like any other letter you’ve encountered in your life. Don’t even make the mistake of confusing it with the cover letter companies also require from you — although preparing both letters need the same level of attention and precision. It’s high time to clarify all these nuances and learn the steps to sending that request. Learn all that below! Plus, you even get to review a sample email asking for a letter of recommendation.

What is a Letter of Recommendation?

Surely, this isn’t the first time you’re hearing about this all-important letter. You likely needed one when you were applying to get into your dream school or when you needed a scholarship. And you most certainly had to secure one when fulfilling job application requirements. It’s up there alongside your resume or CV and portfolio in the list of documents your target employer needs from you.

Ultimately, you need a letter of recommendation to vouch for your personality, qualifications, and accomplishments — anything and everything written on your resume. Treat it as proof to substantiate all your claims about your character. This letter should contain strong evidence to affirm your personhood.

It’s really just a single piece of paper, and sometimes it can even just be a digital file. But this letter can make or break your job application standing. A strong, shining recommendation can land you that dream job instantly. But a weak one can prolong the hiring process or even put it to a halt immediately.

The purpose of a letter of recommendation

Again, don’t treat it as a secondary document that doesn’t require your attention. Here are ways this letter can help you:

  1. To help the hirer learn more about you from a third-party perspective.
  2. To highlight the strengths and capabilities that helped you grow elsewhere.
  3. To showcase your potential to succeed in your new job.
  4. To create a better picture of your character.
  5. To prove your trustworthiness and solidify your credibility.
  6. To substantiate all items on your resume or your answers during a job interview.
  7. To give you a competitive edge over other job applicants.
  8. To emphasise the value you brought to a previous role company.

When to ask for a recommendation letter

You might want to secure a couple of recommendation letters right when you commence your job hunting. It’s better to be ready than to wait until the last minute. You’ll most certainly need one during these instances:

  • When moving to a new role in another company
  • When joining a leadership program or other related events
  • When securing a lateral jump
  • When applying for an internal promotion
  • When requesting a salary increase
  • When considering further studies

When to submit the letter of recommendation

Sometimes it will be part of the initial list of requirements you need to submit to the company. They’ll even say how many you need and include details your reference should mention. It can be one or three, and hirers can ask for it from a previous colleague, classmate, manager, or subordinate.

Other application requirements only call for a list of names that can vouch for you. Often, the company itself will call these people, interview them, and even ask them to fill out a questionnaire. Remember, don’t make the common job-hunting mistake of giving a random name. Make sure the reference knows that you chose them and that someone from HR might contact them.

You might also encounter a company that doesn’t require a recommendation letter or a list of references. Hooray! An easy way out! One less requirement to accomplish! But before you rejoice, you should still consider sending one to better your chances of landing the job. You can either attach the letter when you submit your resume or send one when making a follow-up on your status. You might also want to hand one over during your interview — just to help prove that you’re not making things up.

How to Request a Letter of Recommendation

Don’t know where to start? Follow these steps to help you formalise your request for a recommendation letter.

1. Select reliable people to write your letter.

Consider this the most crucial step. Who will write that recommendation letter to help you land the job? Create a list of 10 people you trust but are still outside your immediate circle. This means you should avoid family and friends as much as possible. The people you choose should still have an objective perspective of you.

From your initial list, narrow it down based on the company you’re applying to and the qualifications needed for the job. For example, you’d want to ask a former professor if you’re applying to enter the academe. Or, if you plan to join an advertising agency, ask someone who’s witnessed your creativity in the past. Make sure your list has a good mix of former coworkers, managers, mentors, instructors, coaches, clients, professional partners, and volunteer colleagues.

2. Ask informally.

Although you’re asking a person informally, this step helps in formalising your request. Talk with the person you want to write for you. This can be done via a quick call, private message, or even face-to-face. The goal is to get a feel if they’re up for the task. This is also a terrific way to know if they have the time and energy for it. You don’t want to send a formal request that will only waste your efforts.

3. Finalise your resume.

Besides sending your resume to your target company, you also need to show it to the person writing your recommendation letter. This way, they can insert facts in their draft and add supporting items that confirm your accomplishments. The document should include:

  • Your complete name
  • Educational background
  • Work experience with accomplishments
  • Your current position and company
  • Volunteer work
  • A short description of yourself
  • Your goals

4. Submit a formal request.

Once you get the go signal, send your formal request via email, snail mail, or in person. You’d want to prepare a briefer to include in your request. This should answer what the recommendation is for and why you’re qualified for the role. Make sure to also mention the deadline and submission requirements — some companies prefer that the letter be sent directly to them. If needed, you can also attach a sample letter.

5. Send a reminder before the deadline.

Don’t hesitate to send a reminder about the deadline. If they’re a busy person, they may forget about the task and mix dates. Send an informal follow-up to make you sound less naggy and demanding. A good way to do this is to ask if they need any additional information to help in writing the letter.

6. Send a thank-you message.

Once you’ve secured your recommendation letter or you’ve received an alert that the hiring company has received it, bring out your thank yous! You can prepare a thank-you message and send it the same way you sent your request. If you get the job, update them and extend your gratitude for their help in your job application process. You can even send a small token as a sign of your appreciation.

Sample email asking for a letter of recommendation

Here’s a sample you can use when sending your request.

Dear Mr./Ms. [insert complete name],Greetings! Although informally, I wish to thank you for already agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for me. This formalises my request to help start the drafting process.I am currently in the process of applying for the role of [insert role] at [insert company]. Because you witnessed my achievements as [insert previous role], I believe you are most capable of recommending me for the job and vouching for my skills.The company I’m applying to requires [insert top qualifications] for this role. I would highly appreciate it if your letter demonstrates my skills and qualities that can match such requirements. I am also attaching a copy of my resume to help with this purpose.The deadline for submission of the recommendation letter is on [insert date]. You may send it directly to the HR manager at [insert address or email]. Please inform me once you’ve submitted the letter so I can also alert the hiring team. And do not hesitate to reach out if you need any additional information.Please accept my gratitude for your support.Sincerely,[Your name][Your contact details]

Learning how to request a letter of recommendation is a critical skill any jobseeker should possess. Follow this step-by-step guide to breeze through the process, secure the all-important document, and ultimately land your target job. Good luck!

Looking to join an organisation that values your skills? #SEEKBetter jobs by updating your JobStreet profile. Identify the best companies and learn about their open roles by exploring careers. And visit the Career Tools page for more tips to help in your job hunt.

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