Sometimes you need to let good employees go. But you can help them with a good recommendation and share these tips with them to gather more. There’s no overstating the power of a sincere and favorably written recommendation. Recommendations from former professors, supervisors, other mentor figures, or people who have worked with you in a professional capacity—all of these matter in fields where personal attributes and soft skills are crucial in job performance, as a strong recommendation letter is a testament to a candidate’s capabilities and character.
Job seekers applying for office-based or work from home jobs, must understand how to secure a recommendation that accurately reflects their professional journey and demonstrates their personal credibility to the person making the hiring decision. To that end, here are some tips for asking for recommendation letters and putting your best foot forward in front of both your recommender and your recruiter:
1) Select the Right Recommender
Choosing who writes your recommendation letter is as crucial as the letter itself. Make it a point to select a recommender who knows you professionally and who can truthfully vouch for your abilities and work ethic. They could be a former manager, a senior colleague, or even a client, depending on your work history and the nature of the job you’re pursuing.
Try to choose someone who you can trust to provide specific examples of your achievements and skills. A generic letter from a high-ranking individual will not be as impactful as a detailed and personal letter from someone who has directly worked with you.
2) Provide Context to Your Recommender
Next, to help your recommender write a persuasive letter, provide them with ample context about the job you’re applying for. Share the job description and highlight the skills and experiences that are particularly relevant to the position. This will allow your recommender to tailor their letter to align with the job requirements and emphasize aspects of your professional expertise that are relevant to the role you’re applying for.
3) Give Your Recommender Enough Time to Write Their Letter
The timing of your request for a recommendation letter also matters. Be sure to approach your chosen recommender well in advance of the job application deadline. This courtesy allows them ample time to reflect on your work together and compose a thoughtful and well-crafted letter.
You wouldn’t want to receive a rushed letter that doesn’t capture the full extent of your abilities and contributions—or worse, ruin your chances of securing the job you want by not being able to receive a good recommendation at all.
4) Make the Writing Process Easy for Your Recommender
Another way that you can honor your recommender’s time is to make the writing process as straightforward as possible for them. For example, send them an email that has a ready summary of the professional achievements you’d like to be emphasized in the letter, on top of the actual request. This summary could include significant projects you’ve worked on, specific challenges you’ve overcome, or important milestones in your career.
If you feel that certain qualities or achievements are worth noting, don’t hesitate to let your recommender know. The more information you can give them to go by, the more detailed and personalized your recommendation letter will be.
5) Discuss Key Points with Your Recommender
While your recommender is the one writing the letter and should ideally be confident about their opinion of you, it would also help to discuss key points you believe should be highlighted in your job application. Remind them of your involvement in specific projects, for example, or instances where you demonstrated leadership or problem-solving abilities.
It won’t hurt to have such a discussion with your recommender, as it will make them more aware of what you deem essential in your professional narrative. This, in turn, can help them write your letter that aligns with and supports your career goals.
6) Offer to Draft the Letter
At times, your first choice of recommender might be extremely busy or need additional clarification on what to include in your letter. In such cases, it’s actually perfectly acceptable to offer to draft the letter yourself and ask for their review and signature. In addition to speeding up the process of obtaining your letter, this approach allows you to confirm that all key points for your application will be covered.
However, make it clear that your draft is just a starting point, and that your recommender is welcome to make any changes they see fit or to modify the tone of the letter to better reflect their natural communication style. Overall, this is a practical solution that adheres to your recommender’s time constraints while ensuring that the letter you get is appropriately customized to your needs.
7) Follow Up and Show Appreciation
After your recommender agrees to write your letter, politely follow up on their progress as the deadline approaches. Given that they may have other commitments to juggle, they’ll appreciate a gentle reminder from you.
Once the letter is written, be sure to show your appreciation for your recommender. A thank-you note, a simple token, or a small gesture of gratitude will go a long way in acknowledging the time and effort they’ve invested in supporting your career. This will also strengthen your professional relationship and keep the door open for future interactions.
8) Keep Your Recommender Informed of Your Progress
Though it’s not strictly necessary, it’s the thoughtful thing to do to keep your recommender updated on the progress of your job application. Inform them when you secure an interview or, better yet, if you land the job. Show your gratitude for their support and help them understand the impact of their endorsement.
Seal the Deal with a Powerful Recommendation
Remember that a request for a good recommendation is not simply about getting a letter and being able to submit it to your prospective employer on time. Think of it as a chance to broker important relationships that can attest to your professional journey. Approach this process with the same diligence and attention to detail that you would apply to your job responsibilities, and demonstrate good behavior and gratitude to everyone who’s taken the time to support you throughout any big change in your career.
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