How to Ask for References and Recommendations
Who to Ask?
- Three to four persons: If you're a student or recent grad, ask a faculty or staff member who knows you well (you can ask two or three)
- Former or current employer/supervisor
- Colleague / co-worker
- Personal reference (close friend, business acquaintances, professors/academic advisors, customers, and clergy, can all make good references. If you volunteer consider using leaders or other members of the organization as personal references.)
- Do not use family member as references
The person giving the recommendation, or writing the letter should:
- Know and be able to describe your work (i.e., academic, employment, or volunteer)
- Have a high opinion of you, and be able to favorably compare you to your peers
- Know that you are applying for the position
- Know your educational or career goals
- Be able to write a good letter (if necessary)
- Don't 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. Rather, 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?"
How and When to Ask?
- Ask references early in the semester if they will be required to write a letter (allow three to four weeks minimum)
- Explain why you need the reference, and why you selected him/her as a reference
- If they will not be required to write a letter, ask for permission before including their name on a reference sheet attached to a resume
- Again, ask reference if he/she knows you well enough and feels comfortable giving, or writing a positive recommendation for you
What to Provide?
Make an appointment to speak with your references and provide them with the following information:
- Postage-paid addressed envelope (if letter will be mailed)
- Academic Transcript
- Résumé or vita
- Future goals
- Research experiences, internships and other applicable experiences
- Due date for the application (if writing a letter)
- Confidential letters tend to carry more weight; therefore, it is highly suggested that you waive your right to see the recommendation letters.
- Follow-up with your references after about 2 weeks to make sure the letters are being written, then again in another 2 weeks.
- Send each reference a thank you note immediately following the completion of a letter.