How To
13 min read

How to Ask for Letters of Recommendation (Plus Email Templates)

Soniya Jain

June 2, 2022

When applying for grad school, post-graduate work, or a job, you often have to ask someone to write a letter of recommendation on your behalf. 

It might seem easy, but your professor or work supervisor may not know what they're doing and could write something that doesn't showcase you as a good candidate.

Writing a letter of recommendation is a tough job. You have to:

  • Find the right balance between being polite and honest
  • Make sure you're saying the right things
  • Ensure your letter aligns with your potential school's guidelines. 

However, it doesn't have to be so complicated.

In this guide, you’ll see examples of the best ways to ask someone to write your letter of recommendation and learn tips on how you can make sure they say YES!

What is a letter of recommendation?

A recommendation letter is an attestation to your abilities and accomplishments. 

It's a way for an independent third party to vouch for you when a hiring manager or admissions officer needs more information than you can provide them yourself.

white printer paper beside pens

Who should write your letter of recommendation?

While technically anyone can write one, the most helpful recommendation letters are written by people who know your work and can explain how it fits into the larger context of the field. 

Ideally, the person writing the letter should be able to talk about:

  • How your work has grown
  • How your work  fits with other people's work in your field
  • Where you might go next in your career

A coworker or manager is an obvious choice because they know you well enough to describe your strengths and weaknesses in an accurate yet positive light. 

However, it's essential to not ask someone like a family member to write a recommendation for you! 

While they may mean well, the hiring committee won't take their recommendations seriously.

Tips for asking for a recommendation letter

There's a lot to consider when asking someone to write you a recommendation letter. Here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Don't demand a letter of recommendation -- ask politely 

There are many reasons why someone may not feel comfortable or appropriate writing you a recommendation letter.

Don't make it awkward by demanding that they do so. Ask them politely and make them feel like they are doing a big favor to you.

2. Ensure they are interested in writing a recommendation for you

If the person you want to ask doesn’t seem willing to do it, ask if they feel comfortable writing one before you directly ask if they will. 

If they're not interested, you can move on without making the situation more uncomfortable than it needs to be.

3. Confirm they are not too busy to write one for you

Remember, this is a favor that you're asking. The last thing you want is to inconvenience them further by demanding a time-consuming favor when they already have enough on their plate. 

This could involve checking their schedule for the next couple of months (if you have access) or asking them about their workload. 

Don't worry about hurting their feelings by asking. They'll appreciate your thoughtfulness!

4. Tell them about your career 

Make sure the person knows enough about your professional life that they can write something accurate about your achievements and skills. 

If your relationship has been more social than work-based, ask them to meet for coffee and give them a resume or LinkedIn profile. 

This can help them get up to speed when writing your letter.

What to include in a request to write a letter of recommendation

Asking someone to write you a letter of recommendation is a delicate situation. 

To make sure it goes smoothly, here are some things you should include when making a formal request.

1. Your updated resume 

If applicable, include your contact information.

Also, mention any key accomplishments you’ve made since you last spoke with them.

white printer paper on macbook pro

2. The receiver's name and details

Tell the writer to whom the letter should be explicitly addressed, including their title (Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr, etc.). 

If you don't have this information yet, that's okay. Just let them know what company or school you're applying to and when the position will close so they can send it in time.

3. The position you're applying for

You don't need to go into too much detail here. 

Just give them an idea of what role they'll be recommending you for.

4. A personal statement 

Tell them what your purpose is for applying for the position. 

This will help them write a more specialized letter of recommendation that highlights specific skills or accomplishments relevant to the job.

5. A due date

Include a date by which you would like the recommendation returned to you. 

This gives people time to complete it while ensuring they will be able to get it to you in time.

Letter of recommendation templates and examples

Developing a good recommendation letter request is easier than you think. 

Here are some templates and example emails to help you get started.

Template 1

Hey [name]! 

I hope you're having a great day today.

I wanted to reach out and ask if you would be willing to write me a recommendation letter. I have attached my resume so that you can look over it if you would like.

If you agree, please address the letter to [whoever the letter is for], and let them know that I am applying for the position of [position].

You could mention that I am a hard worker and detail-oriented, but if there is anything else, in particular, you would like to say, please let me know!

I'm looking for a job because [personal statement about why you are applying for this job]. I believe I am qualified because [why you think you're qualified].

Please get back to me with the letter by [date two weeks from now], as that is the deadline to apply.

Example using template 1

Dear Ms. Smith,

I hope you are having a great day!

I wanted to reach out and ask if you would be willing to write me a recommendation letter for the position of Developer at XYZ Inc.

If you agree, please address the letter to Mr. John and let them know that I am applying for the position. 

You could mention that I am a hard worker and detail-oriented, but if there is anything else, in particular, you would like to say, please let me know!

I'm looking for a job because I want to grow as a developer. I believe I am qualified because I'm very passionate about coding and would bring exceptional attention to detail and organization to the job.

Please get back to me with the letter by August 15th, as that is when I must have it by.

Template 2

Dear [name],

I hope this email finds you well. I'm applying for a [position] position at [name of company] and wanted to reach out to see if you might have time to write me a letter of recommendation. 

If you feel so inclined, I would be very grateful, especially since your comments will make all the difference in my job search.

I've attached my resume, but please let me know if you need any other information or documents from me.

I'm applying because [reason for applying]. I believe I'm qualified because [reason #1], [reason #2], and [reason #3].

Would it be possible for you to send the recommendation by [date]? Any feedback or comments you can provide on that date would be helpful and greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much for your time, and let me know if there's anything else I can do to help you complete this recommendation for me!

Example using template 2

Hi Jane,

I hope this email finds you well. I'm applying for a marketing position at Casley and wanted to reach out to see if you might have time to write me a letter of recommendation. 

If you feel so inclined, I would be very grateful, especially since your comments will make all the difference in my job search.

I've attached my resume, but please let me know if you need any other information or documents from me.

I'm applying because I've worked as an executive assistant for two years, and I just recently graduated from college with a Bachelor's degree in Marketing and Management. 

I believe I'm qualified because I'm familiar with the day-to-day operations of a small business—from marketing to customer relations to sales—as well as some of the more advanced tactics and strategies that drive successful businesses today.

Would it be possible for you to send the recommendation by Friday? Any feedback or comments you can provide on that date would be helpful and greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much for your time, and let me know if there's anything else I can do to help you complete this recommendation for me!

Template 3

Dear [Recipient Name],

I am applying for a position as [position] with [company].

I would be grateful if you could write me a recommendation letter based on our professional relationship and the capabilities I have displayed throughout my tenure at [company].

This position is an important one for me, and I'm eager to demonstrate that I am the best candidate.

As you know, I've been working at [current company] for the last [x years/months], during which time I've served as [position] and have overseen/been responsible for [key responsibilities]. 

As part of this role, I've worked closely with you on [projects or tasks] and value the experience I've gained from your insights.

I believe that the skills I've developed in this role, as well as those honed in my previous positions, equip me well for a job at [company name]. In particular, I think my experience leading/managing/developing/creating [specific project or task] would make me an asset to their team.

If you are willing to provide a letter of recommendation, please let me know if there is any specific information you would like me to provide to help inform your recommendation. 

If possible, please return the completed letter by [date].

Thank you for considering this request. Please feel free to contact me.

Example using template 3

Dear Emily,

I am applying for a position as a content writer with Jirilli.

I would be grateful if you could write me a recommendation letter based on our professional relationship and the capabilities I have displayed throughout my tenure at Zingo.

This position is an important one for me, and I'm eager to demonstrate that I am the best candidate.

As you know, I've been working at Zingo for the last three years, during which time I've served as Content Writer and have been responsible for producing website content for clients in the meat/animal products industry. 

As part of this role, I've worked closely with you on developing case studies to promote services and value the experience I've gained from your insights.

I believe that the skills I've developed in this role, as well as those honed in my previous positions, equip me well for a job at Jirilli. In particular, I think my experience leading and creating case studies would make me an asset to their team.

If you are willing to provide a letter of recommendation, please let me know if there is any specific information you would like me to provide to help inform your recommendation. 

If possible, please return the completed letter by November 18th.

Thank you for considering this request. Please feel free to contact me.

Template 4

Dear [name of boss],

I'm applying for the position of [name of position] at [name and location of company], and I would like to ask if you would be able to write me a letter of recommendation.

I have attached my up-to-date resume for your reference. If you feel that I am qualified for 

this position, I would greatly appreciate a letter from you on my behalf. Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide you with in order to make your decision.

I would like the letter addressed to [name of the person receiving the letter], their title is [title], and their email address is [email address]. They are requesting that the letter speaks specifically about the following:

[list of things they want to be mentioned]

The last day they will accept letters is [date]. I would appreciate it if you could send me your recommendation by [earlier date]. This will allow ample time for both of us to edit before sending.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at [email/phone number]. Thank you very much for your time and consideration!

Example using template 4

Dear Frank,

I'm applying for the position of Chief Storytelling Officer at the National Association of Professional Storytellers, and I would like to ask if you would be able to write me a letter of recommendation.

I have attached my up-to-date resume for your reference. If you feel that I am qualified for this position, I would greatly appreciate a letter from you on my behalf. Please let me know if there is any other information I can provide you with in order to make your decision.

I would like the letter addressed to James Chavez, his title is President, and his email address is james@professionalstorytellers.com. He is requesting that the letter speaks specifically about the following:

  • My understanding of how technology can be used to tell stories in new ways
  • My passion for creating unforgettable experiences for people through storytelling
  • My ability to manage multiple projects and complex processes at once without losing sight of the big picture goals
  • How my background as a professional storyteller has prepared me for this role
  • How my vision aligns with NAPST's mission statement and values

The last day they will accept letters is November 16th. I would appreciate it if you could send me your recommendation by November 14th. This will allow ample time for both of us to edit before sending.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me at [email/phone number]. Thank you very much for your time and consideration!

Template 5

Hi [name],

I'm writing to ask you if you could provide a letter of recommendation for a position I am applying for. I've attached my resume, and I can provide any other information to help you write the letter. 

The specific position I am applying for is [position]. My purpose in applying for this position is [purpose].

It would be very helpful if you could mention [something they can vouch for that makes you  good candidate], but what's most important to me is that you convey your honest opinion about my competency and personal qualities. You know me best in this regard, so please do not feel obligated to say anything on my behalf that you do not sincerely believe.

I would be grateful if you could return the recommendation letter by [date]. Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Example using template 5

Hi Andy,

I hope this email finds you well!

I'm writing to ask you if you could provide a letter of recommendation for a position I am applying for. I've attached my resume, and I can provide any other information to help you write the letter. 

The specific position I am applying for is an upper-level research position at the University of Southern California's psychology department. My purpose in applying for this position is to expand my current grasp of human motivation and behavior to include research in higher-level cognitive functions, such as decision-making and personality.

It would be very helpful if you could mention my ability to manage large projects with lots of moving parts as well as my ability to work collaboratively with a team, but what's most important to me is that you convey your honest opinion about my competency and personal qualities. You know me best in this regard, so please do not feel obligated to say anything on my behalf that you do not sincerely believe.

I would be grateful if you could return the recommendation letter by Saturday, December 22nd. Thank you so much for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you!

How to ask for a last-minute letter of recommendation

It's best to ask for a letter of recommendation well before you actually need it. But what if you need it as soon as possible?

Don't worry! Here's how to ask for a last-minute letter of recommendation and make sure they don't say no.

turned on brass-colored train station analog clock

1. Have a good reason

The most important thing to do is be honest about why you're asking for the last-minute letter. 

Whether it was because you didn't have time to meet with them earlier or an emergency came up that made it impossible, they need to know that this isn't something you typically do. 

Remember, no one expects you to ask someone for a letter of recommendation without giving them some time to work on it.

2. Apologize immediately

Nobody wants to pull an all-nighter writing a letter of recommendation, so be sure to apologize for requesting one on such short notice

Let them know you realize how much time this will take away from their day. 

Even if they don't mind doing it and are happy to help you out, they still deserve an apology. You never know if they were planning on taking the evening off from work or had other plans.

3. Make their job as easy as possible

By providing them with details about what you're applying for and why you're qualified, you can make writing the letter a breeze! 

This way, they don't have to spend as much valuable time writing the first draft. They'll just need to edit what you've provided. 

Remember that this is your application, so it'll be more helpful for them to get information from the source about what makes you a good fit for this role.

4. It's okay if they say no.

Even the most prepared and thoughtful request may not work out, and that's OK! 

Sometimes people just can't write a letter when you ask them to. Their schedule may not allow for it, or they may not feel confident in their ability to write about you in a compelling way when they're pressed for time. 

Don't take it personally if someone says no. They may just need more time than they have available!

How to follow up on a letter of recommendation request

After you have sent a request for a letter of recommendation, it's important to follow up to ensure that the letter gets done and is sent on time. 

Following up can feel awkward, but it's actually helpful to your recommender and will ultimately help you get a better letter of recommendation.

1. Follow up a week before the their deadline

You should follow up on a recommendation request at least a week before their due date, but no more than 10 days. If they wrote your letter, call to see if they sent it. 

Otherwise, send an email or give them a call to ask about the status of your letter. 

For example, you can say: 

"Hi, Professor Jones,

I hope all is well! 

I wanted to check in about my recommendation and see how things are coming along. 

Thanks so much for assisting with my application!"

2. Call Them

If you sent a reminder and didn't hear from them within a couple of days, call them if possible. 

If that's not an option, send another email. 

For example, you can say:

"Hi, Professor Jones, 

I just wanted to remind you that my application is due by Monday. 

Thank you so much for your help! I'll be sure to stop by during your office hours this week."

3. Write a thank-you note

Once you've received the letter, remember to write a thank you note or email! 

Even if your relationship with this person is professional, thanking them for their help can go a long way toward building your relationships with them and networking contacts. 

For example, you could write:

"Dear Professor Jones, 

Thank you so much for writing me such an excellent letter of recommendation! It meant so much to me that you took the time to do that. 

Best wishes,

[Your name]"

Wrapping up

These tips should help you in the exciting process of preparing to ask for a recommendation letter.

It can feel a little weird to put yourself out there, but it's always good to have an extra set of eyes on your request before you hit that "send" button.

Remember to tell your potential recommender what a good fit you'd be for the program or position and offer to provide any necessary information (like your resume) in advance. 

Be sure to say thank you and follow up if they're taking longer than expected to respond.

If you need a little more help writing the request for a recommendation letter, check out how Copy.ai can help you write one quickly and painlessly.

How to write a recommendation letter request using Copy.ai

Ready to level-up?

Write 10x faster, engage your audience, & never struggle with the blank page again.

Get Started for Free
No credit card required
7-day trial of Pro
90+ content types to explore