How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

The real question here is, how do you become the kind of person your teachers and bosses want to write a letter of recommendation for? They’re putting their name on the line – give them a reason to.

Of course, you didn’t read this article until you needed a letter of recommendation, and you can’t exactly go back in time and change whatever interactions you’ve already had, so the real trick becomes choosing your recommenders carefully. Make sure they’re people who want to write you a letter of recommendation.

A Good Letter of Recommendation Trumps a Good Recommender:

There are a lot of schools of thought here, and everyone will tell you something a little bit different. In my experience, students are much better off having a letter of recommendation from a teacher or boss who knows them very well, rather than one with a prestigious resume or title. Of course, having both is ideal, but that goes without saying.

Be Sure It’s Pertinent:

Your English teachers can only vouch for your abilities in English related areas. If you’re applying to an engineering program – whether undergraduate or graduate – make sure your letters are from your science and engineering professors.

The Ask:

Asking someone to write you a letter of recommendation is a big favor to ask, and for some people, it can be horribly awkward and stressful. That’s okay. Asking for a favor is always nerve-wracking – especially if you’re on the shy side. Just remember for most people, it’s an honor, and for teachers, it’s usually their pleasure (and if it isn’t, find a different recommender!).

No matter who you ask, there are good and bad ways to do it.


  • Offer to help them with a draft
  • Print and e-mail them a copy of your resume
  • Send reminders as the deadline approaches
  • Say thank you and send a thank you note


  • Assume they’re going to say yes or act entitled
  • Wait until the last minute to ask
  • Forget to mention a clear deadline for the recommendation due date