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How to Request a Professional Reference Letter

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A professional reference letter that is done well can make the difference between you being a top candidate for a position and being left out all together. Keeping a supply of professional reference letters in your files can help you land that big job quickly. When requesting a professional reference letter do not be shy. Sometimes the person you are asking will consider it an honor that you asked him to write such a letter for you. Knowing who and how to request a professional reference letter can make the difference between an okay recommendation and an outstanding recommendation.

Think about people you know who would give you a good letter of recommendation. Consider those whom you know fairly well or who will have something good to say about you.

Ask for your reference indirectly, such as in an email. Use words and phrases such as "Do you think you know me well enough to write me a letter of recommendation?" This gives the person you are asking a way out of writing the letter without seeming rude.

Gather letters of recommendation from every job or position that you have.

Ask for a letter of recommendation that you can keep on file. This should be done before you start looking for a new job. Two weeks before you are leaving a job or after you have given notice is not the right time to ask for a letter of recommendation.

Assign a role for each person. Ask one person to write a recommendation about your leadership skills; ask another to write a letter referencing you work ethic.

Provide your reference writers with a copy of your new job description and a copy of your résumé. Most people are not going to know everything about you and having this information to fall back on can help improve the letter.

Thank your references and keep in touch with them throughout the hiring process. If you get the job or get into the program, write a personal thank-you note.


Based in Las Vegas, Jody Wilber has been freelance writing since 2004. Her articles have appeared in "Christianity Today," "The Upper Room" and "The Review Journal." She is formally a high-school English and journalism teacher. She graduated from California Baptist University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and went on to achieve her Master in Education from Sierra Nevada College.