How to Request a Professional Reference Letter

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A professional reference letter that is done well can make the difference between you being a top candidate for a position and being left out all together. Keeping a supply of professional reference letters in your files can help you land that big job quickly. When requesting a professional reference letter do not be shy. Sometimes the person you are asking will consider it an honor that you asked him to write such a letter for you. Knowing who and how to request a professional reference letter can make the difference between an okay recommendation and an outstanding recommendation.

  • Think about people you know who would give you a good letter of recommendation. Consider those whom you know fairly well or who will have something good to say about you.

  • Ask for your reference indirectly, such as in an email. Use words and phrases such as "Do you think you know me well enough to write me a letter of recommendation?" This gives the person you are asking a way out of writing the letter without seeming rude.

  • Gather letters of recommendation from every job or position that you have.

  • Ask for a letter of recommendation that you can keep on file. This should be done before you start looking for a new job. Two weeks before you are leaving a job or after you have given notice is not the right time to ask for a letter of recommendation.

  • Assign a role for each person. Ask one person to write a recommendation about your leadership skills; ask another to write a letter referencing you work ethic.

  • Provide your reference writers with a copy of your new job description and a copy of your résumé. Most people are not going to know everything about you and having this information to fall back on can help improve the letter.

  • Thank your references and keep in touch with them throughout the hiring process. If you get the job or get into the program, write a personal thank-you note.

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