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How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

Character references and recommendations are an expected component of any application process. Give yourself an edge by using the tips below—a persuasive letter could make all the difference.

Meaningful Merits

Whether you are applying for a job, to college, or need letters for scholarship applications, think about who knows you best: your accomplishments, the challenges you’ve faced, your unique strengths, and your personality.

The best letters are not rushed! Decide whom to ask as soon as you can and give them plenty of notice – at least 2 to 3 weeks (not including vacation days). A good letter will take 1 to 2 hours to write. Giving your letter writers adequate time to prepare shows you respect their time and effort and you’re much more likely to get a letter that best your accomplishments.

Here are some guidelines you can follow:
  • Schedule appointments with each letter writer to discuss your goals and ambitions so they’ll be more prepared to write about you.
  • Provide letter writers with a copy of your resume and any papers or portfolio pieces you’re proud of so they have a quick point of reference.
  • Don’t be afraid to remind them about your accomplishments, your hobbies, extracurricular/volunteer activities, and any obstacles you’ve overcome.
  • If they are part of the process, give the letter of recommendation forms to those you have chosen, along with stamped, addressed envelopes so they can send them directly to the employers or colleges (be sure to fill out your name and address on each form).
  • Don’t forget to note the application deadline for each.
  • Follow up with each letter writer by writing a thank you note.