Five Quick Tips for Requesting a Reference Letter

Post by Open Colleges on March 16th, 2023

Are you looking for a new job in 2023? A professional reference letter can help you stand out from the crowd and get you that dream job.  

A professional reference is someone who can vouch for your qualifications—typically a former employer, supervisor, colleague, teacher, or client.? 

Whether you’re just beginning your career or have plenty of experience under your belt, a professional reference letter can help you back up any claims you’ve made in your resume or job interview.  

But how do you go about requesting one? Here are 5 quick tips to help you succeed. 

Identify the best potential referees 

If you really want a wonderful recommendation, it’s best to reach out to people you’ve worked closely with, rather than someone who doesn’t know you and your work ethic well. 

Ideally, your referee would be an employer, manager or mentor, but if you’re just entering the workforce, it could also be a professor or contact from a volunteer position. The most important thing is that it’s someone you know quite well and had a good working relationship with. 

Let them know why you value their opinion

When contacting your chosen referees, let them know why you value their opinion. Cite specific examples of qualities you admire or things you’ve learned from them. This will not only help you to get on their good side but will also give your request a more personal touch. 

For instance, you could say something like “I very much appreciated your insights and unique approach to problem solving during the time we worked together. I’d love it if you would consider writing me a letter of recommendation.” 

Be clear about what you need 

A simple format for your reference letter will not only make the content easier to read but will help your referee to provide you with what you’re looking for. Consider providing your referee with a customisable template. The template can be a basic outline with specific bullet points you’d like included. Or you could send a completed draft that highlights your most important (and relevant) skills and attributes.  

You might feel a bit odd praising yourself, but keep in mind that doing so will make it a lot easier on the referee. Of course, you should also emphasise that they’re free to put it into their own words or change and add anything they like.

Give them plenty of time to respond 

Don’t contact your referee on a Monday if you need a reference letter by Friday. Be mindful that your referee is probably quite busy, so be respectful and give them several weeks’ notice to respond. 

This also gives you time to find another referee if your first choice falls through. Always make it easy for your referee to decline by including a line like “I know you’re busy and I completely understand if you’d prefer not take this on,” so they won’t feel pressured into doing something they’re not comfortable with.

Follow up with a thank you note

If your request is successful and you receive a great recommendation letter, be sure to send a personalised note or email thanking them for taking the time to endorse you.  

And if you do get the job, definitely reach out to let them know you were successful and thank them again for their help.

Good luck!

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