How to Ask for a Job Recommendation

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When you are job searching, being able to provide solid employment recommendations is always important. Asking the right people in the most effective way for a reference can impact the quality of your recommendations, and help you get hired.

Both who and how you ask for a recommendation for a job are important. You need to be sure that the person who is recommending you for employment is willing and able to give you a good reference.

In addition, you shouldn't give out anyone's name as a reference without their permission. The individual who is giving you a reference needs to know ahead of time that they may be contacted regarding a reference for you.

Review guidelines for who to ask for a recommendation, the best way to ask for a reference, and the information you should provide to the reference writer.

How Many References to Ask For

On average, employers expect a list of three references, so have at least three or four references ready to recommend you. The extra one is handy, just in case the prospective employer can't reach the others in a timely manner.

Who To Ask for a Recommendation

There are a variety of people you can use to give you a recommendation for employment. Former employers and coworkers, business colleagues, professional connections, professors, teachers, academic advisors, coaches, volunteer coordinators, clients, and vendors are all options.

The most important step is to make sure that you choose enthusiastic supporters as reference givers. Trying to convince someone who is not comfortable writing a job recommendation for you can be a mistake, especially when you’re providing confidential references. You may not know what they’re saying or writing about you and your qualifications for the job.

The best strategy is to give your prospective reference writers an out. Let them know that you’re looking to assemble a strong set of recommendations and ask if they are comfortable supplying a highly positive reference.

Use Email to Request a Recommendation

When asking someone to recommend you, send them an email request. This way, reluctant writers can carefully choose the wording for their response and don't have to look you in the eye in order to decline.

You might ask, "Do you know me in a way that would allow you to write a really positive recommendation?" With your initial request, you should also mention that you’ll provide some additional background information to help should they choose to write for you.

Not sure what exactly to write? Here are sample email letters and messages asking for a recommendation.

Information to Provide to Your References

When a prospective reference writer confirms an interest in acting as a reference for you, it’s important that you provide them with as much information as possible. Don’t leave the writer floundering and trying to figure out the job you’re applying for or why exactly you’d be so good at it. Here’s a look at some of the information that might be helpful for your recommendation writer to have:

A copy of your resume. This will provide the person giving you the recommendation with a comprehensive summary of your background. Even someone who knows you well will benefit from being able to review your resume.

A copy of your cover letter. If the person is writing the recommendation for a specific job, this is crucial information. Your cover letter will show the recommendation writer how you’re framing your case, and might spur them to build upon some of the themes you’ve presented.

The address of your LinkedIn profile. This is especially important if you’ve included some highly laudatory recommendations and skill endorsements on your profile. Your recommender may be even more comfortable praising you after seeing these positive comments.

A detailed summary of the job duties and accomplishments. Of course, you want to focus on the responsibilities and accomplishments that relate to your work. This information can help your recommendation writer to be more specific and convincing when they recommend you. This will be especially useful if some time has passed since you worked together.

A copy of the job advertisement. The more information the writer has, the better. Giving them a copy of the job posting and description can help them see what the employer is expecting from the prospective employee. That way, they can tailor the reference to the specific position.

How to Ask for a LinkedIn Recommendation

It's easy to request a recommendation via LinkedIn's messaging system. When you request a recommendation, ask the person to recommend you if they can and if they have the time. This way, they have an out if they aren't interested in giving you a reference, are precluded by company policy from giving references, or don't feel they know you well enough to recommend your work.

Here's how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn.

Create a Reference List

Once you have your references set, create a reference list with the names, job titles, and contact information for each of your references. Print the list to bring to interviews and to send to employers who specifically request references with your initial job application materials.

Do not send unsolicited references, though, to employers who don’t ask for these. The best time to share references is at the end of an interview, after you’ve already acquired the employer’s interest solely on the basis of your strong resume and professional background.

Follow Up With a Thank-You Note

Take the time to thank your references and update them on the status of your job search. Keeping in touch will not only let them know that their reference was helpful. It will also cement your connection, so they will be willing to provide a recommendation the next time you need one.