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6 minute read

5 Tips on How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for a Job

Getting an employment recommendation letter can boost your chances of getting your desired job. Read on to learn how you can request one by following these tips and employing the pre-crafted email reference template in this article.

A job recommendation letter is an important document that gives your potential employer insights into your work capabilities and personality. Since it is written by a direct manager or professor (for fresh graduates), it serves as a reliable source of information about your character, skills and accomplishments. 

While it is an important document, we understand that it may be a little daunting to ask for it from former bosses and colleagues, as you may be unsure if they are willing to write one for you.

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Follow these simple steps to get your much-deserved testimonial without making it awkward or harming a valued relationship.

1. Identify the right people

The quality and trustworthiness of your recommendation letters depend on who helps you write them. For a good job recommendation letter, get your references from someone you had a good working relationship with.

Ideally, the person you ask should be someone who knows you best, as they will most likely give you good references and perhaps some solid employment recommendations. This could be the professors who graded your work in school, the colleagues who worked with you or the managers you reported to.

It’s also better to request a recommendation letter from your former employers or colleagues instead of someone you’re currently working with. Because they have nothing to lose here, they are more likely to be objective when explaining the work you have done and your personality traits.

Remember to only ask people who would certainly give you a glowing testimonial. If you’ve been let go in your previous role, it’s probably best not to ask your ex-manager or ex-colleagues.

2. Be polite in your outreach

As far-reaching as your career goals may be, you need to request support without overreaching. Remember that the other party is not obligated to write a recommendation letter for you. Since you’re asking for a favour, be sure to ask nicely and politely.

Asking for a letter of recommendation over email is the best approach because it gives people time to think it over and get back to you when they have the time. Don’t rush them into making the decision. If they genuinely care about you and your career prospects, they’ll make time to respond to you.

If you’ve kept a close relationship with your ex-colleagues and ex-bosses after you left the company, you can always reach out to them via text messages. However, keep your outreach professional and avoid using social media channels like Facebook or Instagram for such requests.

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3. Give them time

Don’t wait until the very last minute to pop the question. 

This means that you should ask for your recommendation letter at the start of your job search instead of waiting until you have a potential offer on the line. Have your recommendation letters ready, so you don’t scramble at the last minute and risk losing a potential job offer just because you could not get them in time.

Manage your expectations properly by giving your referrers enough time to write the work testimonial since it may determine your career success. Try to give them at least a month’s advance notice to draft a good recommendation letter for you.

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4. Provide the supporting materials

While you wait for them to accept (or turn down) your request, you can offer to provide some pertinent supporting materials for your reference letter. They may have forgotten about the qualities you possess which make you qualified for the job that you are pursuing currently, especially if they haven’t worked with you for the past few years. 

Your ex-colleagues and former bosses may also be familiar with what other employers in the same industry look for in a job candidate and hence should be able to share relevant information such as your contributions to the team and work accomplishments. You can jog their memory by reminding them of the glowing reviews they’ve given you in the past or significant projects you have worked on.

5. Ask consent for disclosure

As the reference letter is a testimony, all the statements and information provided should be genuine and accurate.

It’s a polite gesture to ask permission to share their names and contact information with prospective employers, who might reach out to verify the information. You wouldn’t want to be caught in a situation where they find out their personal mobile number has been given out without their permission.

To help you out, here’s a simple recommendation letter sample that you can customise when you plan to ask for your own letter of recommendation. Use your own tone and language to edit this template, and those letters of recommendation should start stacking up in no time.

Sample: How to ask for a letter of recommendation via email 


I hope all is well with you.

I’m reaching out because I’m currently looking for a new job to further my career, and I am in the process of compiling letters of recommendation to show that I’m qualified for the roles that I’ll be applying for.

We’ve worked well together in the past, and I remain grateful for all the help and support you gave me during my time at [ex-company’s name]. I’ve learnt so much from you and have always held your opinion in high regard. Hence, I thought you would be the best person to write a letter of recommendation for me, detailing our work relationship and your thoughts on my expertise, skills and contributions.

I understand you’re busy, so there’s no rush or obligation for you to do so. If you wish to help me out, please let me know. I have attached the relevant documents and information to this email for further reference.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if you’d like to meet for a chat! If you prefer, you can also call me at [mobile number] for a discussion.

Thank you,

One final piece of advice: if you want to go above and beyond, send your benefactor a thank you note or even a token of appreciation for writing you a letter of recommendation, regardless of whether you get the job or not.

This article is contributed by Randstad Singapore.

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