How to Request a Letter of Recommendation

Posted On August 31, 2022

Written by Dr. John Tweeddale, vice president of academics and professor of theology

So, you’ve been asked to submit a letter of recommendation. Perhaps you are looking for a new job. Or you might want to volunteer at a local organization. Or maybe you are even applying to a college such as RBC.

Asking someone to serve as your reference is an integral part of the decision-making process for many of life’s most important moments. What exactly goes into the process of requesting a letter of recommendation? Here are five tips for you to keep in mind.

1. Picking the Right Reference

Asking someone to write a recommendation on your behalf might seem daunting. Remember that a letter of recommendation is a formal occasion for someone who already knows you to introduce you to someone who likely doesn’t know you, usually in a professional setting such as a job or college interview. You want to ask someone who can speak to your character and to your achievements. Normally, you would not ask a family member or close friend. The best person is someone who has had the responsibility of overseeing and observing your work in a variety of settings. Think of a teacher, a shift manager, a sports coach, or a church leader. This person should be qualified to assess your strengths and weaknesses.

2. Ask Permission

Once you have someone in mind, ask him or her for permission to serve as your reference. Never assume someone will write you a letter of recommendation. Perhaps a person is willing but doesn’t have the time—or maybe they do have the time but are unwilling. The point is that you want the full support of the person writing a recommendation for you. Also, do not give the name of a reference to a prospective interviewer without first speaking with your potential reference. That could create an awkward situation, both for your reference and for you.

3. Communicate Expectations

Let the reference know why you are asking him or her to write the recommendation. Tell your reference about the opportunity for which you are applying. Give this person a time frame for when he or she would need to write the letter. Be specific. Give a deadline. Send information about the organization or college. Get your reference’s feedback.

4. Check In

Follow up with your reference a few days prior to the deadline for the letter of recommendation. See if he or she has any questions. Make sure this person has all the information needed to write your recommendation. It is your responsibility to ensure that a future employer receives the letter of recommendation on time.

5. Send a Thank-You Note

Regardless of whether you have landed the job or have been accepted into the college of your dreams, let your reference know the outcome of the process and how much you appreciate his or her willingness to serve as your reference. Send a thank-you note. Asking someone for a letter of recommendation is not only about reaching a career or educational milestone; it’s also about building stronger relationships with the people who have shaped your life.