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A job recommendation letter is a very important document that gives your potential employer some insights on your work capabilities and personality traits. Since it is written by a direct manager or professor, it serves as a trusted and unembellished source of information about your character, skills and accomplishments. If you’re eyeing a job position, then getting an employment recommendation letter will help boost your chances.

While it is an important document to have, we understand that you may be a little afraid of asking for a testimonial from your former bosses and colleagues. Asking for favours is always difficult. It can be nerve-racking if the person on the other end is someone you used to report to, as you won’t know if they would be willing to write one for you.

Fortunately, we have some tips on how you can avoid all that awkwardness when asking for a letter of recommendation. Plus, you can also find a pre-crafted email reference template ready for your use in this article!

how to ask for a reference letter
how to ask for a reference letter

request for a recommendation letter

Follow these simple steps on how to ask for a reference letter to get the much-deserved testimonial you need without making it awkward — or even worse, harm a valued relationship.

1. identify the right people

The quality and trustworthiness of your recommendation letters depend on who you would ask to help write you one. To have a good job recommendation letter, get your references from someone you had a good working relationship with.

Ideally, the person who you should ask to write your recommendation letter should be someone who knows you best as they will most likely give you good references and perhaps some solid employment recommendations. This could be the professors who graded your work in school, the colleagues who worked with you or the managers whom you reported to for work.

It’s also better to request a recommendation letter from your former employers or colleagues instead of someone you’re currently working with. Because they have nothing to lose here, they are more likely to be objective when explaining the work you have done and your personality traits.

Keep in mind that you should only ask people who would most certainly give you a glowing testimonial. If you’ve been let go in your previous role, it’s probably best not to ask your ex-manager for a letter of recommendation.

2. be polite in your outreach

As far-reaching as your career goals may be, you need to ask others to support you in that quest without overreaching. Know that your former co-worker or boss doesn't have an obligation to write an employee recommendation letter for you. You’re asking them for a favour, so be sure to ask nicely and politely.

Asking for a letter of recommendation over email is the best approach because it gives people time to think it over and get back to you when they have the time. Don’t rush them into making the decision and keep it open for them. If they genuinely care about you and your career prospects, they’ll make time to respond to you.

If you’ve kept a close relationship with your ex-colleagues and ex-bosses after you left the company, you can always reach out to them via text messages. However, try to keep your outreach professional and avoid using social media channels such as Facebook or Instagram for such requests.

3. give them time

Don’t wait until the very last minute to pop the question. (For that matter, why let ticking timelines and escalating stress dictate the outcome of your job search process?)

This means that you should start asking at the start of your job search instead of waiting till you have a potential offer on the line. Have your recommendation letters lined up so you won’t be scrambling at the last minute and risk losing a potential job offer just because you could not get them in time.

It’s your career and you’re in the driver’s seat. Manage your expectations properly by giving your referrers enough time to write the testimonial that may very well determine your career success. Try to give them at least a month’s advance notice to draft a good recommendation letter for you.

4. provide the supporting materials

While you wait for them to accept (or turn down) your request, you can offer to provide some pertinent supporting materials for your reference letter. They may have forgotten about the qualities that you possess which makes you qualified for the job you are pursuing currently, especially if they haven’t worked with you for the past two to five years. But that doesn’t make you forgettable, they are just humans after all!

For instance, your ex-colleagues and former bosses would be familiar with what other employers in the same industry look for in a job candidate, and hence they should be able to share more relevant information such as your contributions to the team and work accomplishments. You can also remind them of the glowing reviews they’ve given you in the past or major projects you have worked on to jog their memory.

5. ask consent for disclosure

Privacy matters a lot these days, especially in the professional work environment. As the reference letter is a testimony, all the statements and information provided should be true and accurate.

recommendation letter privacy disclosure
recommendation letter privacy disclosure

Ask for their permission to share their names and contact information with your prospective employers who could be reaching out to verify the information.

It’s a polite, respectful and forward-thinking gesture. You wouldn't want to be caught in an awkward situation where they find out that their private contact information has been given out without their permission.

That’s it — 5 simple steps that are almost guaranteed to take you closer to your ultimate goal. To help you out, here’s a simple recommendation letter sample that you can customise when it’s time to ask for your own awesome letter of recommendation in the future.

how to ask for a letter of recommendation via email sample

Use this recommendation letter template email request to get you started. Compose your own tone and language when making the necessary changes to the below template and those letters of recommendation should start stacking up in no time.

Dear [FIRST NAME],

I hope all is well with you.

I’m reaching out because I’m currently looking for a new job to further my career, and am in the process of compiling letters of recommendation to show that I’m qualified for the roles that I’ll be applying for.

We’ve worked really well together in the past, and I remain grateful for all the help and support you have given me during my time at [ex-company’s name]. I’ve learnt so much from you and have always held your opinion in high regard. Hence, I thought you would be the best person to write a letter of recommendation for me, detailing our work relationship, as well as your thoughts on my expertise, skills and contributions.

I understand you’re busy so there’s no rush nor obligation for you to do so. If you wish to help me out, please let me know. I have attached the relevant documents and information to this email for further reference.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if you’d like to meet for a chat! If you prefer, you can also call me at [mobile number] for a discussion.

Thank you,
[YOUR NAME]

key takeaways

Just one final piece of advice: if you really want to go above and beyond, send your benefactor a thank you note or even a token of appreciation when it’s all said and done, regardless of whether you get the job or not.

If you’re looking for even more actionable, hands-on career advice and interview tips, check out all of our career resources for job seekers. Or if you are ready with your letter of recommendation, reach out to us and our friendly specialist consultants will be more than happy to help you secure your next employment! Alternatively, you can explore all the latest job opportunities and submit your CV.

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