Tips for Requesting Letters of Recommendation

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If you're interviewing for a new job, you should expect to have your references checked prior to getting an offer. Having good references can be the clincher to getting that new job. Choose the right people to request letters of recommendation from, and make sure you ask them far enough in advance so as not to inconvenience them. Planning ahead and compiling a list of references and lining up letters now will insure you're prepared when a prospective employer requests them.

Review sample reference letters so you know what information to provide when you ask for a recommendation, to make it simple for your reference writer.

Who To Ask For References

Who should you ask to provide a reference for you? On the average, employers check three references for each candidate, so have at least that many ready to vouch for you. You can’t have too many people in your corner, and it can be helpful to have a selection of people to refer you who are knowledgeable about different aspects of your abilities, depending on the company you’re applying to.

Select People Who Will Give You a Strong Endorsement
It's important to know your references, to select the right people, and to get their permission to use them. You need responsive people that can confirm where you worked, your title, your reason for leaving, and other details - such as what your strengths are and why you would make a great employee.

It's also very important to have a good idea of what they are going to say about your background and your performance. Make sure that any information provided by your references corroborates with what you have indicated in your own documentation and interviews. Inconsistent information can jeopardize your chances at a job offer, or even cause it to be withdrawn.

Your References Don't All Have to Be From Employers
It's perfectly acceptable to use references other than your employer. Business acquaintances, professors or academic advisors, customers, and vendors can all make good references. If you volunteer, you can consider using leaders or other members of the organization as personal references.

Get Recommendations in Writing
When leaving a position you should ask for a letter of recommendation from your manager, particularly when you had a good working relationship.

As time passes and people move on, it's easy to lose track of previous employers. Also, the memory of exactly how vital you were to the organization during your tenure may fade, so with letters in hand in advance, you'll have written documentation of your credentials to give to prospective employers. If there are supervisors you didn’t ask for a letter of recommendation when you moved on, it's perfectly acceptable to contact them now to ask for a letter to include in your personal files.

How To Ask For a Letter of Recommendation

Don't simply ask "Could you write a letter of reference for me?" Just about anyone can write a letter. The problem can be what they are going to write about.

It’s better to ask "Do you feel you know my work well enough to write me a good recommendation letter?" or "Do you feel you could give me a good reference?"

That way, your reference writer has an easy out if they are not comfortable writing a letter, and you can be assured that those who say "yes" will be enthusiastic about your performance and will write a positive letter.

Always offer to provide an updated copy of your resume, and information on your skills and experiences, so the reference writer has current information to work with.

If your recommendation writer asks you to provide a sample of the kind of reference letter you need, here are some recommendation letter samples you can share.

In addition to references, you may be asked for contact information concerning your present supervisor.

Most prospective employers are aware that you may not have shared the details of your job search with your current employer, and will ask your permission before contacting your supervisor to avoid jeopardizing your current position.