Letters of recommendation from past employers play a significant role in helping you to attain a new position. Many companies require letters of recommendation. Letters of references are great to have to back up the claims you make about yourself.
Given that competition is fierce in today’s job market, having past colleagues and bosses sing your praises can make the difference between getting rejected and unnoticed, or moving on to the interview.
Strategies to Receive Excellent Letters of Recommendation
1. Carefully Choose Your Recommenders
First of all, generate a list of potential colleagues and bosses that you might ask to write recommendations. Start off with those you had a good rapport with and knew well. To decide which people to ask, assign each person on your list a score from 1 to 10 (1 = not good letter, and 10 = the best possible letter). After you’ve given each name a number, go back and circle the two people with the highest numbers. These are the two people you should ask.
2. Timing is Important.
Whatever you do, don’t wait until months after you’ve left a company to ask them to write your letters of recommendation! At that late date, what kind of job do you think they will do? They may not even clearly remember who you are by that point. Ideally, you should ask them for your letter after you’ve given your resignation, but before you leave. When asking, refrain from sending them a voicemail, email or text message; meet them face-to-face and politely ask about completing a letter of recommendation for you.
3. Make Writing Letters of Recommendation Easy
Letters of recommendation should provide potential employers with information about what kind of employee you are, and what kind of person you are. Help your recommenders with their jobs by providing your resume or portfolio, summarizing everything you’ve done, accomplished, or achieved while working for them. Take a few minutes and go over the resume with them so that you can answer any questions they may have. The more helpful you are, and the more comprehensive the information is, the better their letters will be. Your attitude toward them should be, “I want to make your job of writing my recommendation as easy as I can.”
4. Follow Up
People are very busy, it can be quite easy to get behind, and even forget to write recommendations. It’s important to give your references at least two weeks to complete your letter before checking back in with them. At that point, you can provide them with a gentle nudge. But remember, you don’t want them to resent the writing of the letter, as this can make your recommendation go from great to just ok.
5. Say Thank You
Remember that these people are under no obligation to write your recommendation letters. It’s something that they have chosen to do as a professional courtesy – some may refer to it as a special favor. Therefore, you need to thank them for their efforts and do it more than once. Thanking them is more than being polite; it’s the right thing to do. And you never know when you might need to come back to the person who recommended you for a follow-up letter.
By following the five steps above, you can make it easier on your recommenders and yourself, and end up with suburb recommendation letters that will help you land job interviews.
Have you written a recommendation letter or received a stellar one before? Comment and share below.
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