Job Searching Tips

How To: Get the Best Letter Of Recommendation

By: Emily Dawson
Jan 6, 2021 • 6 min read

How To: Get the Best Letter Of Recommendation

Most times, when applying to colleges or a new job, you will need a letter of recommendation. A strong letter about you and your abilities could be what gets you into college or the job of your dreams. However, not everyone knows how to cultivate a good letter of recommendation. It can be tricky to ask the right person to write a glowing letter! In this blog, we will cover how to ensure your letter of recommendation plays to your strengths and helps you get the job.

1. Create Good Relationships

Gaining work experience and exploring education opportunities will help you begin your journey to glowing recommendation letters. Try to interact with the people who have authority in your organization and get to know them. Let them see the work you do and maintain a strong relationship with them. This way, when it comes time to ask someone to write a letter for you, they will gladly do so.

If this is a professor, try going to office hours multiple times during the semester, so you feel comfortable asking them for a letter later. You can even offer to meet for coffee if you hope to get a letter of recommendation from someone you collaborated with long ago!

In the workplace, you can meet with your boss and ask for feedback at the end of each quarter to show your commitment to growth and success. This will ensure a great letter of recommendation when it comes time for you to move on and explore bigger and better things.

woman in orange long sleeve shirt sitting on chair

2. Reach Out to Multiple People

When you are reaching out to colleagues with the hope of asking for a letter of recommendation, you want to ask multiple people so that you have a variety to choose from and include in your application. One person may not have seen you work or perform in a way that another person did. Look at what you accomplished around these people. Next, reflect on what you think they would say about you. When reaching out, make sure that they will provide relevant content to the job or college you are applying to. Maybe they know an alumni or have a connection you wouldn’t otherwise know about!

3. Pick Colleagues Who Think Highly of You

There are chances that you were shy when interacting with colleagues you worked well with. If this was the case, that is ok! As long as you know someone who knows how you work and has a good opinion of you, you will likely get a good letter of recommendation. Don’t bother sending an email to a teacher or supervisor with who you didn’t always see eye to eye. Choose colleagues who will have nothing but nice things to say about you. Bad relationships are a lost cause when it comes to letters of recommendation. You want to choose someone who can highlight your strengths!

letter of recommendation

4. Include Details About The Application

Make sure to include the details of the position you are applying for when you contact your letter writer. If you are applying for a job, send them the job description. The more details that your writer has, the more specific your letter will be. They’ll know which details about you to include and might be able to pull some relevant points that directly relate to the description. Also, feed them details that you would like included in your letter. If you had an experience you shared with this person that showed a part of you that would be excellent in what you are applying for, ask them to write about it! Details make it easy for the writer, and the easier, the better.

5. Ask for a Draft

You want to review what they have written before it gets sent out into the universe. Ask them if you can look over the letter before they deem it finished. This is so that you know what direction they are going in and if it was what you had in mind. Try not to give them any corrections or tell them how it should be written. Instead, you can ask them if they could make minor changes or additions. If they are willing to work with you to craft the letter, then you will likely have a glowing letter since it was collaborative. You can suggest things like including details about something or make the tone of voice more casual.

letter of recommendation

6. Give Them a Due Date

If you don’t give your writer a due date, who knows when you will receive the letter. Tell them when you would like the letter by maybe include a time frame and see if that works for them. Also, give yourself enough time if the letter is not to your liking, you may have to ask someone else. Give yourself at least two weeks before the application’s due date, so you don’t have to scramble at the end. The more time, the better. Don’t tell your writer, “just give it back whenever,” they may take their merry time and completely forget about it. Due dates help keep everyone accountable. As a result, your application process will be less stressful!

7. Thank Them

Once you have received the letter and submitted it (or not, if it didn’t work out), thank them for their time and effort. Your writer is likely a person with who you have been out of touch for some time and is doing you a favor. Make sure they know that what they have done for you is appreciated. If you properly thanked someone and made this process easy for them, you will have a great resource for the future. You know that you have someone to go to if you need another letter of recommendation or reference for a job application, say this one doesn’t work out.

letter of recommendation

Overview

Asking someone for a letter of recommendation is easy; it’s the process that can be more challenging. As long as you are gracious and give the person you pick all the resources they could need, you will likely receive exactly what you are looking for.

A lot of what makes a good letter is who you pick, so remember to keep good relationships with everyone you work with. Think proactively because everything you do can affect your future.  With these tips, you will always have success in receiving a glowing letter of recommendation.

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