Whether it is an application for admissions into a university, for an internship or for a job, a recommendation letter or reference letter is a critical part of the process. These are especially important as they vouch for your character, as well as serve as a testimony to the skills you hope to demonstrate. They help give an insight into you as a person beyond your grades, your experience or your achievements. It also matters who the recommendation is coming from and how well-known the person is in the field you are hoping to get into. Having good recommendations from the right people can help you turn from a potential candidate to the preferred choice. What is your role in making sure you get the kind of recommendation you need and deserve? Take care of these five things, and the rest will take care of itself.
1. How you ask matters –
Always reach out to someone who actually knows you and you have been more or less in touch with. Even if you haven’t kept in touch with this person in the sense of the term, it shouldn’t be the case that you haven’t spoken to him/her in years and end up asking for a recommendation out of the blue. Provide context and explain why you think h/she is the best person to recommend you. Word your email/conversation in a manner where you are actually asking him/her and not taking it for granted that (s)he will be writing one for you.
2. Ask well in advance before deadline –
The deadline is in a day or two and you suddenly remember you haven’t reached out for the recommendation. One of the worst ways to go about getting a recommendation, ever. Value the time of the person you are asking a recommendation of, and make sure you reach out well in advance, with at least two weeks’ notice, so that there is ample time for the letter, and the follow up and any edits if necessary.
3. Be specific in your requirement –
Mention exactly what you need the recommendation for. You may be good in a number of things, but writing any of that in the recommendation letter wouldn’t matter if it doesn’t speak about how good you are at what you are applying for. Make sure your recommendation letter is perfectly suited to the opportunities you are aiming for.
4. Include all relevant details –
Include your cover letter/statement of purpose, your resume and any other document which may give your referer a good sense of your accomplishments in the area. However, include only the relevant details so that your referee doesn’t have to spend time looking for parts which are important.
5. Be patient, and polite with the follow up –
Allow at least one week before sending a polite reminder enquiring about the status of the recommendation letter. Sending frequent reminders is a sure way to sabotage a fine recommendation letter. Understand that your referee is doing you a favor and not the other way round. It can be hard to be patient during this time, but it is a virtue worth mastering!
One of the most important things in the process of asking for a recommendation letter is to remember to be grateful and thank your referee appropriately after (s)he submits it. It would also be nice if you kept your referer updated about your application process, regardless of whether or not you make it. Keeping in touch and investing time is always worth it, having to ask for a recommendation is only one of the many situations where this effort pays off!