School year success, The internship series

How to Secure a Great Letter of Recommendation

Tips for asking for a letter of recommendation that will boost your applications.

If you’re applying for an internship, job, or graduate program, you may be asked to provide a letter of recommendation. This letter should come from someone with professional authority that can endorse you as an excellent candidate. How do you request one—and ensure it helps strengthen your application? Here are some tips to getting the letter of recommendation you want.

Choose people who know you well

Make a short list of people you’d like to ask. Think about who you’ve spent a lot of time with, who can speak positively about your strengths, skills, and work ethic in the classroom, in extracurriculars, or beyond.

Reach out to professors, club advisors or managers who are familiar with your work. Have a few options in the unlikely event that one of the people you ask is unable to write a letter for you.

Reach out beforehand

Have a conversation with each person before sending a recommendation request. Talking with them early about your application will help them learn more about your interests, goals, and why this opportunity is important to you. This will better equip them later when they start writing your letter.

Ask them if they have the time and are able to write a favorable reference letter for you. Professors and supervisors have busy schedules, so ask them as early as possible. Ideally, at least two to three weeks before you need the letter. 

Include supporting materials & talking points

When your recommender has agreed to write a letter for you, send a formal request via email or mail, and include copies of your application materials. These will go a long way to help them write a detailed, personalized letter:

  • The description of the internship, graduate program, job, etc. 
  • Copy of your application 
  • List of your extracurricular activities
  • Resume/list of relevant experience 
  • Copy of your transcript

Be sure to include the application deadlines and any instructions they’ll need. If they need to send the letter separately from your application, give them an addressed, pre-stamped envelope as well. 

Follow up and say thank you

It’s really important to send a thoughtful, handwritten thank you note to anyone that’s taken the time to write a letter for you. And don’t leave them in the dark about your applications—update them on your progress and let them know if you’re accepted or hired. They’ll likely be as excited as you are for your next chapter!

Need a cover letter for your application as well? Learn the parts of a cover letter and download our free template.