How To Ask For Letter of Recommendation Over Email (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Sep. 3, 2020

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Applying for a new job can feel like a highway without any exits.

Filling out an application, creating an outstanding resume, and nailing an interview. Exhaustion is understandable. Somewhere along the process of being hired by your new employer, it’s likely you’ll find yourself needing a letter of recommendation from a past supervisor.

A recommendation letter acts as your professional character witness. It’s a testimonial from a trustworthy source about your work-ethic, skills, and reliability. The goal is for advocacy. To have one more person saying you’re more than qualified for the job position.

When submitting a school application, a letter of recommendation will usually be required. Beyond needing a good recommendation for your college applications, though, they can be very helpful in getting your job application pushed to the top of the pile.

While an employer might not always explicitly ask for a recommendation, positive feedback from a previous position will always reflect you as a better candidate.

Why just meet the expectation when you could exceed it?

Submitting a letter of recommendation with your resume sets you apart from the rest of your competition. It’s content has the capacity to propel you into landing the job.

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Who to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

Recommenders fall into two categories: professional and personal references. When applying for a new job, it’s strongly preferred that references be professional. Even though your best friend may have a lot of great things to say on your behalf, it’s best to keep it to individuals who can attest to your work skills. Although you should steer clear of family and friends, ‘professional references’ doesn’t necessarily mean only your last boss. A character reference can come from anyone who knows you in a professional atmosphere. For example:

  • A professor that you really clicked with in a related subject

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary
  • An academic advisor

  • A supervisor at an organization you volunteered with

  • An administrator at an internship

The person you choose to request a recommendation from should be someone who’s worked with you directly and can attest to your experience. A recommendation letter from a company superintendent who you barely spoke to, or a job that you haven’t worked at in 8 years may not add value to your application.

Before sending out your request, you should take a moment to evaluate what this person is going to say about you. They may be perfect on paper, but if they have negative comments or simply nothing positive to add, it could seriously hinder your resume. Request a letter of recommendation from a person who knows your work and will emphasize your strengths.

How To Ask For Letter of Recommendation Over Email

Kelly Williams
Career Strategist and Owner of Expert Resume Solutions and Security Cleared Careers

Who should I ask?

It is good practice to ask individuals who have supervised or evaluated you in an academic or professional setting. Avoid personal references (family, friends, etc.) unless the target application specifically indicates that would be acceptable.

When should I ask?

Approach your evaluators early on by giving them a minimum of two weeks notice to fulfill your request. By taking this approach you are more likely to receive a favorable response to your request, while also increasing the likelihood of receiving a quality and personalized letter.

How should I ask?

Always try to meet face to face to request a letter of recommendation, but if this is not possible send an email and follow up with a phone call. Be sure to explain why you are asking this individual to write you a letter, and be specific when explaining if there is anything in particular you hope they could cover in the letter. This will help the evaluator focus their comments on what is most relevant for your target opportunity.

How to Ask for A Letter of Recommendation In Email

Once you’ve decided the perfect professional reference to ask, it’s time to figure out how to go about requesting a letter of recommendation.

  1. Give Advanced Notice. Before you write a word of your email, refer back to that infamous saying, ‘timing is everything’. Turns out, everything includes requesting recommendation letters. Give your referees as much notice as possible to write you a killer recommendation before your application deadline. Aside from being more considerate, giving advance notice also gives your recommender more time to make sure they incorporate all of your great qualities.

  2. Use a Concise Subject Line. The subject line is the first thing your referee will see in their myriad of emails. Get to the point, and let them know who you are. For instance:

    Letter of Recommendation Request for Sally Jones
    or
    Reference Letter for Sally Jones

  3. Paragraph 1 – Remind Them of Who You Are. Whether you’re requesting a reference letter from your former supervisor or a college professor, they’re busy and have worked with a lot of different people. Re-introduce yourself. Remind them of who you are and how you knew each other.

    When requesting from a former teacher, it may be helpful to include the semester and exact course you took with them. If your recommendation is coming from a former employer or volunteer supervisor, tell them which location, when you worked there, and what your position was.

    Don’t be afraid to make note of some of your accomplishments in your time working with them, in a humble and appreciative way. You can even attach a previous assignment that went particularly well. Let them know how much you enjoyed your time working with the company, or being in their class. It’s helpful to give a refresher, especially if it’s been awhile.

  4. Paragraph 2 – Politely Make Your Request and Be Aware of Tone. By the end of your first paragraph, it’s been established who you are to the recommender. The second paragraph should be about putting your request out on the table. Asking for your recommendation letter should be direct, but friendly. Mention the opportunity that you’re submitting the letter for, and explain how their input would be valuable.

    You went through a list of past advisors, professors, and bosses before deciding to reach out to them. Tell them why you want a letter from them, specifically.

    While you’re saying all these things, though, make sure it’s coming from a genuine place. Keep away from language that seems inauthentic or obnoxiously praising. Be real with them and keep it professional. Think about how you would feel reading the request if you were the recommender.

    Make sure to address how they can deliver the letter of recommendation once they’re finished.

  5. Keep it Short and Thank Them. This may sound like a lot of information and reminding to do, but try to be as succinct as possible. A sentence or two for every point you want to get across will probably do the trick.

    Be sure to express your gratitude. Thank them for the experience in their class or job and everything you learned. Close your letter by thanking them for considering your request, and sealing it with a professional signature.

How To Ask For Letter of Recommendation Over Email

Jerome Imhoff
Career Coach & Resume Writer

It’s important not to underestimate the power of a strong letter of recommendation especially since so many companies are now hesitant to respond to requests for references and often have policies against providing anything more than a verification of employment. I think it’s also helpful to assist the person writing the letter know what you as the job seeker consider important to mention, for example highlighting a special project you contributed to, showcasing your leadership skills, or commending your willingness to go the extra mile for a client.

Things to Keep In Mind

After sending your query, follow up with the recommender after a reasonable amount of time. Keep in contact before they submit the reference, and follow up again after it’s been submitted. Thank them throughout the process for the effort that writing the letter took. Remember, they took valuable time out of their schedule to accommodate your success or increase your chances of getting a job.

Requesting a recommendation letter doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get one. There’s always a possibility that the recommender will be too busy, or simply uninterested, to write a professional recommendation for you.

Accept it for what it is.

Always have a network of people that you can consider for recommendation letters. There’s multiple supervisors out there who have excellent things to say about your skills, and will be more than willing to write you a letter of recommendation.

How To Ask For Letter of Recommendation Over Email

Natausha Slaughter
Career & Business Strategist

Choosing the “right” person to write your Letter of Recommendation is vital. This gives insight into the applicant’s ability to communicate and make sound decisions based on the person(s) selected to write a recommendation.

Example: Email Requesting a Letter of Recommendation from a Professor

Subject Line: Letter of Recommendation Request for Sally Jones

Sally Jones
867 N Front St
San Francisco, CA, 94103
(845)-616-3456
SallyJones@gmail.com

September 2, 2020

Mr. Thomas Allen
Professor
Golden Gate University
4128 College Dr.
San Francisco, CA, 94103

Dear Professor Allen,

My name is Sally Jones. I was your student in Business Marketing 101 for the Fall 2019 Semester. You may remember me from my final paper, “Ethics in Marketing”, which I’ve attached below for your consideration. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in your class, so much that it inspired me to begin a career in marketing after graduation.

I am contacting you today to request a letter of recommendation on my behalf. I am currently in the early process of applying for a position as Junior Marketer at Chance Financial. I feel your input on my strengths and work in your class would be helpful in making me an ideal candidate.

If you decide to write the recommendation, the final version can be sent to: ChanceHiring@Chance.com

Thank you for taking the time to read my email, considering my request, and everything I learned in your course.

Sincerely,

Sally Jones

Example: Email Requesting a Letter of Recommendation from a Former Boss

Subject Line: Professional Recommendation for Sally Jones

Sally Jones
867 N Front St
San Francisco, CA, 94103
(845)-616-3456
SallyJones@gmail.com

September 2, 2020

Mr. Andrew Baxter
Branch Manager
Lexington Clothing Co.
899 Lexington Ave.
San Francisco, CA, 94103

Dear Andrew,

I’m reaching out to request a letter of recommendation from you regarding the time I spent working at Lexington Clothing Company. Between 2015 to 2018, I worked under your supervision as a retail salesperson at the Northern Branch.

I’m in the process of applying for a few different sales positions. I believe that your insight on my work-ethic and reliability could improve my chances of being offered a job. Your opinion is very valuable to me because of how long we worked together and how much I learned under your supervision.

If you can find the time to write me a recommendation and can speak to my skills as a salesperson, I’d greatly appreciate the recommendation. I’d be happy to send you any additional information you need.

Thank you again for all your help.

Sincerely,

Sally Jones

Example 3 – Email Requesting a Letter of Recommendation From a Volunteer Supervisor

Subject Line: Letter of Recommendation for Sally Jones

Sally Jones
867 N Front St
San Francisco, CA, 94103
(845)-616-3456
SallyJones@gmail.com

September 2, 2020

Mrs. Lydia Green
Volunteer Manager
ASPCA
415 Elk Dr.
San Francisco, CA, 94103

Dear Lydia,

My name is Sally Jones. I volunteered at the San Francisco ASPCA on Elk Dr. under your supervision about three years ago. I volunteered as an animal caretaker from 2015 to 2017.

I am emailing you to request a letter of recommendation. I’m applying to the School of Veterinary Medicine for the Fall of 2021. This is an amazing opportunity to pursue my dreams of becoming a veterinarian. I feel you would be the perfect person to write me a letter of recommendation because you know firsthand how important animals are to me. Your perspective can be a really important part of my admission.

Please let me know what you decide.Recommendation letters are accepted through the university website: VetinarySchoolofMedicine.edu/Recommendations

I really appreciate having your guidance while volunteering with the ASPCA. Thank you for taking the time to consider my request.

Sincerely,

Sally Jones

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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