Jesse Stein

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how to ask for a letter of recommendation

Do you know how to ask for a letter of recommendation? While not quite the common practice it once was, a letter of recommendation can hold enough sway in a competitive job market to turn the tides in your favor when searching for employment. A craftily written letter of recommendation from a respected leader in your industry or professor in your field can make a world of difference for your prospects.

A letter of recommendation functions as a personal endorsement. Whether from a former employer, a former professor, or a respected colleague, they are vouching for you. Most people only ask for a letter of recommendation when seeking a new job or a promotion, and they can hold much sway with prospective employers.

Letters of recommendation are excellent tools for making a great first impression. The bottom line is that a recommendation from the right professional can help you land your dream job. How do you ask for a letter of recommendation? 

Ask in Person When Possible


Asking in person might feel like you’re putting someone on the spot, but it allows you to see their genuine response. When you ask someone to write a recommendation letter, they will either respond favorably or show reluctance.

Don’t let reluctance sour a friendship or ruin a great relationship. If someone is hesitant, move on and ask someone else.

Also, don’t allow an adverse reaction to the request make you doubt a friendship or relationship. You never know why someone might hesitate to write a letter of recommendation. 

More often than not, it has nothing to do with you or how they feel about you. However, asking in person does put pressure on the person you’re asking and improves the likelihood of a favorable response.

The Big Ask – Why a Handwritten Note is Important


Many of us have spread out since college or when leaving a role with one company and going to the next. With that in mind, sending your request in writing is possible. When doing this, you’ll want to begin in the same place.

Start with a handwritten request seeking a letter of recommendation. Don’t worry if your handwriting isn’t the best. AI-powered robots create handwritten notes on your behalf in record time. Using tools like these can help you enjoy various benefits of handwritten notes to request letters of recommendation without the hassle of writing yourself.

Benefits of Handwritten Request Letters


When asking someone to do you a favor that requires their time, effort, and attention, you don’t want to appear as if you’ve “phoned it in.”

Instead, you want to invest your time, care, and attention. Handwriting your note helps.

Other benefits include:


  • Stands out among a pile of form letters and junk mail.
  • It’s more appealing than typed mail that often gets a passing look.
  • Improves the odds of a favorable reaction from the receiver over typed communications or email requests.
  • Reaffirms the relationship in a way that typed or electronically transmitted letters could never accomplish.
  • It makes the other party feel special and appreciated.


Ultimately, handwritten letters and notes elicit better responses than typed letters. Emails, by contrast, are easily ignored and may even be filtered out by various SPAM programs, and a handwritten note is by far the best way to go.

Offer all Pertinent Details


In addition to the request, provide an updated copy of your resume or some “brag sheet” that lets the person recommending you know about your recent accomplishments, skills, and any other details you hope they’ll highlight on your behalf.

While you don’t want to take up too much of their time or wear out your welcome, ensure they have the information necessary to write a glowing letter of recommendation highlighting your skills, talents, and employability.

Ask for a Letter of Recommendation Well in Advance


As in all things, timing matters when requesting that someone write a letter of recommendation for you. Ask ahead so the person in question has sufficient time to write the letter.

If the person agrees, follow up as the deadline approaches to remind them of the need. A week or two ahead of time is best. A “Thank You” note is a beautiful way to provide a subtle reminder while also thanking them for their support.

Write a Heartfelt Thank You Note


Taking the time out of your schedule to write a Thank You note is expected after someone writes you a letter of recommendation.

However, a handwritten Thank You note is another opportunity to stand out and be memorable, so the next time, if that time arises, you need a similar favor, they will be more likely to help.

The most important part of writing this note is the opportunity it offers you to make them feel appreciated for their effort on your behalf. Make sure you write a “Thank You” card for each person who wrote a recommendation letter.

While some view letters of recommendation as a lost art, it remains a powerful force in business. One that holds more sway than the average person realizes when it comes to seeking employment, advancement, and more.

Mastering the skill of requesting letters of recommendation can help you advance through your career journey.