When you apply for a job, it is often necessary to ask friends and coworkers for reference letters. Asking for these letters can be very stressful. While many people simply ask and hope for the best, you can help assure that the letter of recommendation contains the information that you feel is most important, by asking that they include some simple facts. When possible, ask for the letter five to six weeks before you need it.
Choose Whom to Ask
The first thing that you should do is to carefully choose whom to ask. When possible, choose a former employer or a professor in the area. If you have no job experience or formal training, then you will need to obtain character references. Try to choose someone who is a leader in their community, if you need to use character references.
Highlight Their Qualifications
When you ask the person for the reference letter you need to do so in a letter of your own. Use the opening paragraph to state why you are asking them. Highlight their qualifications to provide this reference for you. Tell the person how they have influenced your life and your career choice.
Highlight the Position
In the second paragraph of your letter tell them exactly what position you are applying for and with what company. Also, tell the reference writer exactly why you have chosen to apply with that company. This allows the individual to start formulating the reference letter in their mind. If they have any contacts in the company, they may also put in a good word for you that might help give you the edge over other candidates.
Provide a Template
It is hard for the person you are asking to write the letter to know exactly what you want them to say. Therefore, provide the writer with a template of what you would like the letter to include. You can include a sample letter and encourage them to change it as they see fit, or you can provide a bulleted list of what you consider to be the most important information. This information can help the reference writer recall your past accomplishments, so they can include the most vital information. It also saves the writer valuable time, for which they will be grateful.
Allow Them to Say No
You are asking the person to go out of their way to help you, so use the first part of the last paragraph to allow them to say no. While your feelings may be hurt if they turn you down, it is much better than having a reference send a letter that does not help you or actually hurts you with a potential employer.
Thank Them Profusely
You are asking the person to take time out of their busy schedules to help you. Therefore, make sure to say thank you. In addition, make sure to include your contact information and offer to provide them any additional information that they may need.
Asking for a letter of reference can be intimidating. As soon as possible choose the person whom you are going to ask. Provide the person with reasons why you think they are the perfect person to write the reference letter for you. Also, provide the company name and title where you are applying. Then, provide a template for what you would like the letter to say. Close your letter by telling the reference that you understand if they choose not to do this. Finally, thank them profusely for their time and ask to see a copy of the letter when they are finished. When you follow this procedure, you will get job winning reference letters without a lot of stress.