Letters of Recommendation: Tips for Success

So you need letters of recommendations for an internship, job application or graduate school. Here are some tips to smooth the process:

  1. Time. Give the person you wish to get a recommendation from lots of time. We recommend at least 2-3 weeks before your deadline. Remember, these people have other jobs and priorities that come before writing your letter. Give them ample time so they can fit in writing your letter and so it is not rushed.
  2. Send your resume and brag sheet. Give these items to your recommend-er so they know what to include in their letter. A brag sheet should contain a list of all the things this person should know about you and would want to brag about. For example, it can include that you are very punctual, went above and beyond in class, volunteered, held leadership jobs, participated in extracurriculars, and more.
  3. Give a deadline. Make sure your recommend-er knows exactly when you need their letter. Again, don’t expect them to complete it within 2 weeks. Make sure to ask them to write the letter with plenty of time before your deadline.
  4. Be as specific as possible. Let your recommend-er know what you are applying for. Tell them who they can address the letter to, and what that person’s email address or street address is. Tell them what specific position you’re applying for, or what grad program you’re applying for, and make sure your brag sheet has things on it that would connect to the position you’re striving for.
  5. Thank them. After they have written your letter of recommendation, send a handwritten thank-you note. This will let them know you appreciated them taking time out of their busy schedule to help you and your future. It’s a great way to make an impact and they will remember it (and possibly be more inclined to help in the future). This is also a great idea after any interviews you go on – job/internship or school-related.
  6. Have back-up options. Not everyone has time to write a letter of recommendation, no matter how much they might like or respect you. Have other options if the person you ask can’t get it back to you in time.