How To Ask For A Letter of Recommendation

Do you have a letter of recommendation already?

With spring break around the corner, now is prime time for college students to apply for summer internships. Having a letter of recommendation can provide your character backing and/or academic accomplishments to help a future boss understand what a superstar your are.


Think about your professors that know you quite well, then keep the following guidance to keep in mind when you pose your letter of reference request:

  1. In emails, lead with your question, and then build your case.
  2. Even list the question in your email subject: i.e.: “Request for letter of recommendation to include with my summer internship application.”
  3. Personalize it (“I thought of you.”)
  4. Describe what skills are expected of the position from the job description so that their reco letter can “answer” the responsibilities being asked.
  5. Use their name again and thank them for their consideration (“Thank you again, [name] for your consideration.”)
  6. Include your phone and email.
  7. Follow up. If they agree to help you, then provide the timeframe and next steps.
  8. Send them a gracious thank you note.

Here is an example “ask” letter a college student could send to a professor:

Dear Dr. Lombardi,

Would you be willing to write a letter of recommendation on my behalf?

I am taking up (Major) and I am currently your student in (Subject).

I am in the process of applying for a summer academic internship program with the Green Bay Packers and I just learned that a letter of recommendation is required – so I thought of you.

My natural leadership skills, attention to detail, and excellent interpersonal skills make me an ideal candidate for this opportunity.

Thank you in advance for your consideration, Dr. Lombardi.

Best regards,

Molly Hopeful

(phone) (email)


Now, let’s say Dr. Lombardi writes back and would be thrilled to do this. Your response might be something like this:

Thank you, Dr. Lombardi. I appreciate your sponsoring me for this important prospect. As my application is due in three weeks on March 20, 2015, might I meet you before 9am class to pick up your letter in a sealed envelope on Monday, March 16? Or if you prefer, you may mail your endorsement with my name and internship application number 1252 to the following:

Mr. William Clay Matthews III

Lambeau Field 1265 Lombardi Ave

Green Bay, WI 54304

Thank you again, Dr. Lombardi.

Best regards,

Molly Hopeful

(phone) (email)

A final point – in some cases you will have a job description or more information about the role. If this is available then it is super helpful to provide it to your professor so they can tailor their endorsements of your skills accordingly. Send your Prof information about the company – perhaps offer their mission or brief company history so they can customize and align their comments with the company values.

What happened when you asked for a reco letter? @kellymc247

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Kelly Christiansen

A top columnist at MsCareerGirl, marketing guru Kelly Christiansen has 10+ years of strategic leadership experience and is a Senior Marketing Strategist on the Health Care team at Kahler Slater, an architecture firm in Wisconsin. An avid reader, runner, and recipe experimenter, you can follow Kelly on twitter @kellymc247

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