How to ask for a reference letter
Whether you are thinking about switching jobs or applying for a program, you’ll likely
need to ask for reference letters.
Having been on both sides of that conversation, I can tell you from experience, asking for
a recommendation is a lot more awkward than giving one.
Well, don’t worry.
In this video, I’ll share my three step process for asking and receiving recommendations
letters you can use for years to come.
Hi, it’s Brian Dixon and you are watching The Advance Show, innovative shortcuts and
actionable strategies to help you dream bigger, take action, and move forward.
Asking for and receiving recommendation letters is an essential part of advancing your career.
And, when you think about it, it makes sense.
Nobody wants to take a risk on you.
They want to minimize that risk.
That’s really the purpose of recommendation letters.
Your future employer wants to know three things:
1. Does this person have the skills? 2. Is this someone I can trust?
3. Is this someone other people like?
A great recommendation letter answers all three of these questions.
Here are my three tips for receiving recommendation letters you can use for years to come.
First. Warm up the relationship. [1. Warm up the relationship]
Some of your best recommendation letters are going to come from people you haven’t worked
with in a while.
Instead of just reaching out and asking for recommendation letter, work backwards.
Start with the fourth communication.
Write your email request and then craft three communications to help warm up the relationship.
Depending on the situation, these might be face to face, communiation on social media,
or a phone call.
I would recommend a blend of the three if possible.
A first email could simply say, “How are you doing?”
A second, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
If they say yes, make sure to follow through.
Third, follow the natural progression of the conversation.
And then, and only then, on the fourth communication, ask for the recommendation.
Simply say, “Hey, I’m wondering if I could get your help on something…”
Now that the relationship is warm, they will welcome the opportunity to help.
Tip Two: Provide a template
[2. Provide a template]
The really powerful recommendations usually come from someone in a position of authority.
And these people are generally really busy.
So, instead of just vaguely asking them for a recommendation letter, provide them with
the perfect letter that you would love them to personalize and sign.
Most leaders will appreciate the extra effort you have made to make it easy on them.
In your request, simply say, “I’ve included a template to help make it easy for you.”
Here are a few tips.
Write the draft to match the job you are applying for.
Include details they may have forgotten such as job title, dates, and responsibilities.
Send the template in an editable format such as word.
That way, they can just changed a few words, but it on their letterhead, and send it back
If you don’t use a template, you may get an awesome recommendation letter that you
I once had a pastor write a great recommendation letter that just wouldn’t have been appropriate
for the position I was applying for at a public school.
Even if they don’t use your template, they’ll have a better idea of what you are trying
to accomplish with the recommendation.
And a third tip to use when asking for a recommendation letter is to return the favor.
[3. Return the favor]
When you do receive a letter recommendation don't look at that as the end of the conversation.
Instead, realize that relationships last a long time.
Thank them personally for writing the letter of recommendation and return the favor.
Write them a letter of recommendation.
No matter who it is, even someone much further ahead than you in their career, they’ll
They might apply for a board of directors position, or a new job, or funding for a new
They’ll likely lean on their network of big shots for a number of their recommendations.
But, a nice recommendation from a former employee can go a long way.
You never know how your recommendation letter might just help them reach their goals.
A great place to write the recommendation is on their linked in profile.
Not only does this help them out, but it is also publicly displayed on their profile,
allowing you to gain more exposure to their professional network.
And now, for a bonus tip.
[Bonus tip: share the results]
Share the results of the recommendation letter.
They are likely wondering whether or not you got the job.
If you did, they’ll want to celebrate with you.
If you didn’t, they’ll likely think about other ways to help you.
They are now invested in your success.
Although it might feel a little embarrassing to tell them that you didn’t get the job,
the encouragement they give you might just be exactly what you need to move forward.
Plus, you never know how they’ll be able to help open doors for you in the future.
So what about you?
Do you have a tip for receiving recommendation letters?
Leave me a note in the comments below.
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