When applying to jobs, many companies will ask you for a recommendation. For college students, this can be tricky. If you haven’t had lots of prior job experience, who do you turn to?! Luckily, many employers will accept high-praise from professors, coaches, and advisors. These can be a great resource, and will definitely be better than bribing your roommate to forge a letter praising your skills: “Rebecca would be a great candidate because she has a unique aptitude towards cleaning our room, and displays great generosity by sharing her Netflix.”
Even though you may feel buddy-buddy with some of your superiors, there is still an art to asking for a letter of recommendation. Here are some quick do’s & don’ts:
DO ask someone who has had enough interactions with you, so that they can actually write something of value. “I’m not sure if you remember me, but I would love it if you could write a recommendation for me.” If you have to preface asking with “not sure if you remember me,” this person is probably not your best bet.
DON’T wait until the last minute. People are busy, things get lost in the pipeline, and you should account for this when asking. “Hey, I was wondering if you could write me a recommendation letter. The application is due tomorrow so if you could do it tonight, that would be great!” No bueno.
DO remind him/her of your interactions together and why you chose them. “Hey Coach Q, throughout the years you’ve provided me with some invaluable lessons, and I feel as though you’ve seen what I am capable of as well.”
DON’T come across as braggy. “Hey Boss, over the years I feel I’ve been the best floor sales rep, and I’d like you to confirm by writing me a recommendation.”
DON’T feel uncomfortable if a professor or former employer asks you to draft a copy of the letter for them. The busier they are, the more helpful this is for them. When writing the letter on their behalf, be honest about your capabilities and keep them relevant to your experience. Sometimes talking about yourself can be tough, so draft a list of your strengths and weaknesses beforehand.
But what’s our biggest secret you ask? Build your resume and experience up with part-time jobs and internships so that you have an army of former employers willing to gush about just how amazing you are.