Seniors, spring commencement is almost here. This semester has passed by quickly. With graduation so close, many seniors are wondering what life after FSU might look like. Hopefully the process of writing your cover letter and resume and searching for a job is underway. However, the process of getting letters of recommendation is often overlooked. Recommendations are necessary for most job applications, as well as applications to graduate schools. Recommendations are different from a reference. A reference is generally brief, most often a call, discussing the general character of a person, while a letter of recommendation is often longer, more detailed, specific and discusses the skills and qualifications of a person for a position or program. Because of this, getting letters of recommendation takes more time so it is good to begin early.
While gathering your letters of recommendation, remember that the person is writing to describe you professionally, so family members and friends are really not appropriate. Whoever you ask, there is a particular way to do so. This week’s blog will cover How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation. You may feel comfortable writing your professor or anyone else an informal email to ask for a recommendation, but to secure a letter of recommendation, you should design your request to be very professional. If you need someone to look over your letter of recommendation request before sending it, schedule a meeting with a career counselor at http://starfish.framingham.edu/.
Before you Begin
In week five of this blog series, we covered networking, where tips to building your professional network were given. Before sending out a request for a letter of recommendation look over your network. Find the 3-5 individuals who you think know you well in a professional or academic setting. A letter of recommendation could come from a professor that you’ve had a few semesters in a row, an academic advisor, or your internship supervisor. You could ask a coach, a co-member of a club or organization you belonged to, a parent of someone you babysat for or a former boss. Anyone who could describe your professional skills and qualities is appropriate.
Request for a Recommendation
Once you have determined who you want to ask, make the request. You can do this in person, via e-mail or over the phone. The first step is to ask whether someone is willing and able to write you a favorable recommendation in the time frame needed. If the person says no, simply end the conversation politely and move to someone else. If the person is willing to write a favorable recommendation, send them a written request and provide them with information that helps them with their task. You will be providing this information in a second or follow up e-mail.
Your follow up email should include a few key details:
- Tell them what you are applying for, the name of the company and a little description of the position
- Briefly describe why and how it suits you.
- Why are you qualified, what are your relevant skills, successes and work habits that make you a good candidate?
- Remind the professor or former employer how successful you were in their class, or on the job, and what you learned from them, as they may have many students or employees that they have taught/supervised over the years, and they may not remember you in such depth.
- Update them on your latest accomplishments and provide all the relevant context for the recommendation you are requesting.
- Always provide them with a copy of your resume (and the job description, if possible).
- Let them know when you need the recommendation by and give them enough time to write it. (At least 2 weeks)
Sample letter/email asking for a recommendation:
Dear Professor Smith,
I am currently in the process of applying for a full-time Research Assistant position in the Immunology Laboratory at Boston Children’s Hospital. I have already had a phone screen interview, as well as a Zoom interview with three lab team members. They have now asked for me to provide them with letters of recommendation.
I am emailing to ask if you would be willing to write me a letter of recommendation that will enhance my candidacy for this position?
From being in your biology class and interning with you this summer to redesign the 3rd year bio discovery course, I feel that you know my skills, work capabilities, and my work ethic. Considering that you and this program have been so instrumental in helping me grow and develop as a scientist (and person!), I feel that your recommendation would go a long way in helping me secure this position. I am hoping you could talk about my collaboration skills, my motivation for learning, and my curiosity as a scientist.
I’ve also attached my resume. If you need more information or want to meet to talk about anything else, I am happy to share any additional information. I don’t have a deadline for the letters, but they’ve asked for the letters of recommendation to be submitted as soon as possible, within two weeks. If you are agreeable to writing this letter for me, could you please address it to:
Principal Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Boston Children’s Hospital
300 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Please email this letter directly to: Jane Doe at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you in advance for your time and for your consideration. I know the things I have learned from you and the biology program will be extremely helpful in my future career. Your support is most appreciated.
The Thank You Letter
Once you have made your requests, remember to send thank you notes or email. This note is not just a thankful and courteous gesture but will also likely ensure their future support of your success. In your thank you-letter, you can include the following: a greeting, sharing your gratitude with specific examples, additional thoughts or information, and a polite closing. An example of this could be:
Dear [insert name here],
I know it is a busy time of year, so I wanted to thank you, personally, for the letter of recommendation you agreed to provide to [organization name] by DATE. If you have any questions or if I can provide you with any additional information to help you write this letter, please let me know. I am very excited about the possibility of using my skills in the position of ____ and I appreciate you being a part of my job search process.
- Keep your request formal
- Make your requests with at least a two-week notice
- Keep them updated in the process
- Example: send them a follow up email if you get the job