How to Secure a Great Recommendation


If you’re applying for an internship, job, or graduate program, you may be asked to provide a reference or letter of recommendation. This letter should come from someone with professional authority that can endorse you as an excellent candidate. How do you request one—and ensure it helps strengthen your application? Here are some tips to getting the letter of recommendation or reference you want.

Choose people who know you well

Make a short list of people you’d like to ask. Think about who you’ve spent a lot of time with, who can speak positively about your strengths, skills, and work ethic in the classroom, on the job, in extracurriculars, or beyond.

Reach out to professors, work supervisors, club advisors or managers who are familiar with your work. Have a few options in the unlikely event that one of the people you ask is unable to write a letter for you.

Reach out beforehand

Have a conversation with each person before sending a request. Talking with them early about your application process will help them learn more about your interests, goals, and why this opportunity is important to you. This will better equip them later when they start writing your letter ore preparing for reference phone call.

Ask them if they have the time and are able to write a favorable reference for you. Professors and supervisors have busy schedules, so ask them as early as possible. Ideally, at least two to three weeks before you need the letter or reference.

Include supporting materials & talking points

When your recommender has agreed, please send a follow-up email, and include copies of your application materials. These will go a long way to helping them speak to your overall abilities. Items could include:

  • The description of the internship, graduate program, job, etc.
  • Copy of your application
  • List of your extracurricular activities
  • Resume/list of relevant experience
  • Copy of your transcript

Be sure to include the application deadlines and any instructions they’ll need.  

Follow up and say thank you

It’s really important to send a thoughtful, handwritten thank you note to anyone that’s taken the time to provide a recommendation. And don’t leave them in the dark about your applications—update them on your progress and let them know if you’re accepted or hired. They’ll likely be as excited as you are for your next chapter!

Need a cover letter for your application as well? Learn the parts of a cover letter and download our free template.


Repost from Handshake student blog