How to ask for a recommendation from a long-lost acquintance

You spent the time researching and refining your expertise and now, you’re lastly prepared to apply for a new job, or submit that graduate faculty software. That’s additionally the second you notice you want references.

And if you wrack your mind for whom to flip to, you are feeling hesitance. You haven’t talked to your former bosses or professors in years. Your previous boss didn’t need you to depart her firm. You didn’t get an A in your most admired professor’s class, so that you’re undecided they bear in mind you. What do you do?

So as to get a nice reference, you want to ask for one. Your aim is to make it as straightforward as doable for your recommender to provide you with a nice recommendation Present them with all the data they want to current you in the very best mild for your dream job or program. Right here’s how to ask for a recommendation that can get you the place you need to go.


Begin early

Give lead time of a month or extra to write a letter of recommendation. Not solely that is thoughtful, nevertheless it additionally permits each of you to plan for different duties that will come up.

Select your recommenders properly

Your recommenders needs to be individuals who know you properly. It’s extra essential to have your direct supervisor than the CEO, or a professor who graded 4 of your papers relatively than a Nobel Prize winner who lectured at your faculty. The reference is about you—not about how spectacular your recommender is.

Take into consideration your strengths

Take into consideration the one to three details about your self that you really want your references to carry up. When you have a number of recommenders, take into consideration your completely different strengths every can convey. For instance, in case you are making use of to graduate faculty after having labored for a whereas, you might have considered trying to have one recommendation letter from a former professor who can focus in your educational aptitude, and one other from your boss who can talk about your potential to work in groups.

Attain out (and provides a reminder of who you’re)

Attain out to the recommender by their most well-liked technique. For many professionals, this implies telephone or e mail. And don’t overlook to embody reminder of who you’re. For those who’re selecting to correspond by e mail, embody in your message essential context your recommender will want. Listed below are a few strategies of what to embody.

  • Herald a private connection. Point out that you just loved seeing their household footage on Instagram. Remind them of what you’ve been up to, personally and professionally.
  • Inform them why you’re asking. Why are you asking this particular recommender? One pupil informed me that he requested me to be his recommender and never his grasp’s thesis adviser as a result of my suggestions on his writing was extra thorough and detailed than any he’d obtained elsewhere. You may inform a former supervisor that you just suppose they’re in the perfect place to consider you due to your work on a mission with them from which you realized tremendously. That is a probability to flatter them a bit.
  • Remind them of your successes. Remind your professor that you just took two lessons with them in 2018-2019 and wrote a remaining paper that obtained a nice grade and impressed your profession selection. Remind your former boss that you just had been worker of the month in January 2020 and introduced in 5 new purchasers to the agency. In different phrases, remind them why they might need to write a letter for you, and what particulars they could need to embody. This will additionally jar their reminiscence if they don’t bear in mind you at first.
  • Depart them an “out.” Give the recommender a chance to say no. That manner if they don’t suppose they can provide a good reference, they’ll graciously decline. Strive one thing like, “For those who’re too busy to write the letter, I perceive.” Or ask them instantly, “Do you are feeling snug writing me a robust letter of recommendation?”
  • The due date for the reference. This deadline is integral to serving to your recommender get you their supplies in time.

What to do if you get a ‘sure’

If the recommender agrees to provide you with a reference—congratulations! Now it’s time to ship some extra essential data and to carry the recommendation residence:

  • An outline of the place or program you’re making use of for.
  • Solutions of the one to three details you need them to make. Strive one thing like, “My former professor goes to write about my writing abilities. I might recognize should you might touch upon my professionalism on the job.”
  • To whom they need to handle the letter, and, if the specifics, the actual folks will see it. As an illustration, if there may be a hiring committee, inform your recommender who’s on it.
  • How they’ll submit the recommendation (to you, to a web based portal, and so on.)
  • Whether or not the reference is confidential
  • Your résumé
  • Any related software supplies (essays, job description, and so on.) which you could present to assist your recommender present a higher reference.

If doable, meet together with your recommender to focus on the reference. Ask them what different data they want. You can also ask them for recommendation in your future plans, ensuring to graciously thank them for their insights afterwards.


That is additionally a chance to handle any errors you’ve made in your work together with your recommender. Allow them to understand how you’ve realized from errors and corrected them. In case your recommender had a position in serving to you enhance, thank them for doing so. If you need the recommender to handle and questionable areas or gaps in your résumé, focus on that, too.

Lastly, be sure to let your recommender know the end result of your job or software course of. Together with following up in your recommendation, communicate after the method is over. You by no means know if you’ll want one other reference (This can be a good alternative to put them in your vacation card record).

The key about efficiently navigating references, bear in mind most individuals need to allow you to. Except you’ve proven constantly poor work habits or completed one thing unmentionable on the job or within the classroom, your recommender will need to write you the perfect reference they’ll. Your job is to put them in the perfect place to accomplish that.

Dr. Jill Goldenziel teaches legislation, management, and safety research at Marine Corps College-Command and Employees Faculty. Jill can also be a public speaker and guide.