How To Get A Great Letter Of Recommendation

teacher sitting at brown desk writing a letter of recommendation on white paper

A good letter of recommendation can be a powerful tool. It can help you get into college, get a job, an internship, or even a scholarship. Personally, I needed two letters of recommendation to get into graduate school. I had a letter of recommendation from my previous boss to get the job I have now, and I attached a letter of recommendation to any scholarship that would let me.

A letter of recommendation is sometimes called a letter of reference and may be shortened to LOR. A LOR is a letter written by someone who can describe your skills, character, or academic performance. The purpose of the recommendation letter is to give potential employers or education programs a chance to understand your assets on a more personal level.

Knowing who to ask and how to ask individuals to write a letter of recommendation can be a little tricky. Below you will find all the tips and tricks you need to know.

Who To Ask For A Letter Of Recommendation

You want to get a letter of recommendation from someone who is NOT related to you. Teachers are the most common authors of recommendation letters. Therefore, it is important to build relationships with your teachers early to ensure that they will be willing and able to write you a good letter of recommendation. This is why your college professors are important because they can provide the best LORs.

Some applications may specify whether they want a professional or personal LOR. A professional LOR would be from a teacher, professor, employer, or coworker. A personal LOR would be from a family friend, community member, coach, or church leader. A letter of recommendation may also come from a school counselor, the leader of a club or organization you participate in, etc.

Ask The Right Person

Once you’ve identified who you can ask for a letter of recommendation, it’s important to narrow down your options to the right person. Many high school students ask their school counselors or teachers to write LORs. Therefore, these individuals may get inundated with several requests. Give them time to write the letter as they may have several to write. Also, make sure you have formed a relationship with the person you are asking so that they will follow through on writing you a great letter of recommendation.

Additionally, you want to make sure that the person you ask will be able to personalize the recommendation. A great LOR has a personal touch and explains how the author knows the person they are recommending, and the qualities and skills the person has displayed.

male college professor standing a white board teach class

How To Ask For A Letter Of Recommendation

It’s okay to ask for a LOR in person, via a phone call, or by email. Every person is different and has a different schedule, use the mode that you think would work best for them.

Let the person know what the letter is for. Be very specific. This helps them focus on your qualities and skills. You want them to cater to the exact position, internship, college, program, or scholarship you are applying for. Request for the letter of recommendation to be addressed to the specific organization you are applying to.

It’s important to communicate whether the author is expected to upload the LOR or if they are supposed to provide it to you. College applications and some job applications may request that the letter of recommendation is submitted directly from the author. This was required by my college when I applied for graduate school. While other applications will allow you to attach the LOR. Therefore, if the author needs to submit it, make sure they are aware and request that they send you an additional copy that is “To Whom It May Concern” just in case you need the LOR for something else later on.

Include A Letter Of Recommendation With Your Resume

If you are applying for a job, I highly recommend that you include a letter of recommendation with your resume. Many applications won’t ask for it, but if they receive it, they will read it. It might be what gives you an edge over someone else. Sometimes resumes all look the same. However, a letter of recommendation is individualistic, it is how you will stand out among the sea of faceless competition.

Make Copies Of Your Letter

If you are given a copy of a LOR, make copies both physical and digital. Having a letter of recommendation on hand is a time saver. Though it is best to have personalized LORs, having a “To Whom It May Concern” version can also be beneficial if there’s no time to request an update.

Send A Thank You

Be sure to thank the people who write you a letter of recommendation. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or too formal. Just a note or email thanking them for the letter, their time, and their support. Send another thank you if you receive the scholarship, or job offer, or get accepted into college. When I was accepted into graduate school, I let the two professors who wrote recommendations know that I was accepted into the program. I also reiterated that I would be forever appreciative of their part in my acceptance. Both professors celebrated my acceptance and noted that they would be willing to write another recommendation for me in the future if I needed it for anything else.


Sensei Side Note:

As you gain more experience, academically, career-wise, or personally. You will need updated letters of recommendations that accurately demonstrate your qualities and skills. Don’t be afraid to reach out to some of the same people that may have previously written you letters of recommendation. If you maintained a relationship with them, they will be more than happy to update what was previously written, even if it’s just changing the date to make it current. Be sure to start building your network early so you will have professionals who can write you a LOR, the LinkedIn Workshop For College Students will walk you through this process.