How to Ask For a Letter of Recommendation Over Email

If you want to improve the chances of landing your dream job and are looking for something that can distinguish you from the rest of the candidates, then you are at the right place.  One of the best ways to show that you are serious about getting your dream job is by asking for a letter of recommendation. Getting this type of document written in college can be very challenging, especially since professors do not always have time for students. It can take months or even years before you get to meet with your professor again and ask them to write one for you.

Besides filling the application form, tailoring an outstanding resume, writing a moving cover letter, and nailing the interview, there is another way to push your application on top of the pile. This is a recommendation letter.

What is a recommendation letter, why would you need one, who to ask, and how to ask for a recommendation letter over email? These are the things we will be discussing in this article.

What is a Recommendation Letter

A recommendation letter is a testimonial of your work ethics, character, reliability, and skill from a professional and authentic source. In simple terms, you have an extra person vouching for your qualification for a certain job.

Recommendation letters are usually written by mentors, employers, professors, or senior individuals in the industry. Some companies even ask for letters of recommendation in addition to an application form so they can get to know you better before inviting you for an interview.

You will also need a recommendation letter when applying for a college or scholarship.

Young professionals who do not yet have any particular experience or success can benefit greatly from letters of recommendation. But letters of recommendation are also becoming increasingly important for managerial positions.

In contrast to job references, the creation of letters of recommendation is not mandatory and they do not have to be worded benevolently. Therefore, they are usually only issued if the exhibitor really wants to recommend the applicant.

 In addition, work references are often formulated in very general terms and contain sentences that HR professionals have already read several times, while work references can also be formulated in a more personal way.

Why You Need a Recommendation Letter

A recommendation letter is an important part of your job application and offers several benefits:

  • It distinguishes you from other candidates: The more applications a company receives by the time your application is processed, the less likely it is that your CV will be taken into consideration. A letter of recommendation gives you an extra advantage over other candidates because not everyone can ask their boss or mentor for one. You are putting yourself out there and showing how serious you are about getting your dream job.
  • It can improve chances of getting hired: According to Linda Francis from Purdue Global University, employers often see letters of recommendation as proof that someone has good interpersonal skills and is willing to cooperate with others. So if both employees and managers notice this in your character, it could greatly increase the chance of being hired by them or at least make sure they are willing to take their time to consider your candidacy.
  • It can provide an edge over other candidates:   Whether you are applying for a graduate position or a job abroad, it is always better to have more recommendations than fewer. It can make the difference between getting hired and not getting called in because the candidate was too qualified.
  • It makes you stand out from others: Asking someone to write a letter of recommendation requires thought and initiative. It shows that you consider yourself as a serious and responsible person who will know how to meet deadlines and achieve stated goals. Not everyone can ask their professor for one since they do not teach students any longer, so having access to this type of reference demonstrates your professionalism and dedication even before starting work at a company.
  • It is a confirmation of your skills: The letter represents an endorsement from another person that you possess the appropriate knowledge and interpersonal attributes.

Letters of Recommendation vs. Reference Letters – Differences

The terms letter of recommendation and letter of reference are often used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same:

Letters of recommendation are addressed to a specific recipient and are tailored to the requirements of the potential new position. They are particularly popular when applying for a new job, but are also often used for promotions, doctorates, scholarships, degree programs (especially for masters and at private universities), semesters abroad, or internships.

Letters of reference are kept rather general and are particularly suitable for freelancers, as they are not entitled to a reference. Freelancers often publish these references on their websites or profiles.

Who to ask for a recommendation letter

There are two types of recommendation letters:

  • Personal 
  • Professional

When you apply for a job, it’s best if the recommendation letter comes from a professional who can testify your skills and other plus points.

The letter can come from anyone who has worked with you directly in a professional environment.

There are several people who can write you a letter of recommendation including:

  • Professors, mentors, advisers, supervisors, lecturers, etc.   Asking your professor is always a great idea because he can speak about your academic abilities confidently and recommend you based on personal knowledge. This type of letter carries significant weightage during the application process.
  • Previous or current employers.   It is a good idea to ask your previous or current manager if he/she would be willing to write you a letter of reference for future employment opportunities, provided that you have been working with the company long enough for them to take notice of your work and potential. This type of letter carries significant weightage during the application process.
  • Colleagues from work or school. Another great option is asking fellow colleagues with who you have become acquainted over time. They can express their opinion about your skills and abilities based on personal observations and experiences, adding an extra dimension to what others will say about you in a letter of recommendation.

Who can and should write my letter of recommendation?

In principle, anyone can write a letter of recommendation for you. The problem is that experienced personnel managers quickly recognize letters of favor as such. In addition, they usually find out very quickly whether the referrer is in any way in personal contact with you.

People who can really say something about their working methods and qualifications are therefore best suited. In general, the following applies: The higher the position, the more effective the letter of recommendation. 

However, you should also keep in mind that your direct superiors can usually make much more precise statements about you than, for example, the managing director, especially if he was based in a different branch.

Before sending a request, make sure the person does not have anything negative to write about you. The letter should be from someone who can emphasize your strengths.

How to Ask For a Letter of Recommendation Over Email

After deciding the best person to ask next step will be to request the letter.

Give an advance notice

If you are still an employee of the company, you must first inform your superiors of your intention to change. In no case, the request for a letter of recommendation should be at the same time as the announcement of your resignation.

You must have heard that timing is everything, and it’s the same in the case of a recommendation letter. Make sure to inform the referee sometime before the deadline so they can write a killer letter for you.

Write a clear subject line

Getting noticed by the referee among the countless emails can be a difficult task. So get to the point and let them recognize you instantly. The more concise your subject line, the better you can write. Here are simple lines that will get you noticed:

  • Recommendation letter for John Doe
  • Recommendation letter request for John Doe

Remind them about yourself

Make sure to remind the referee who you are. They must have worked with many people and might not remember you, so reintroduce yourself and remind them how they know you.

For example, if you want to ask for a recommendation letter from your professor, you should remind them of the semester and course you attended. If you ask a former administrator or volunteer supervisor for a letter, remind them of the location, position, and time you worked there.

Make sure to be polite

After reintroducing yourself in the first paragraph, put your application on the table. Make sure to stay authentic and polite. Tell them about the opportunity, its importance in your life, and how their recommendation letter can improve your chances. Stay professional and tell them why you choose them from countless other options. At last, do not forget to inform them how they can deliver the letter after finishing it.


If, in addition to a complete application including a letter of application, cover sheet, resume, and certificates, further references are requested, so-called letters of recommendation are important.

These letters of recommendation complete the picture of the applicant and can become a decisive factor in the selection of the applicant.

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