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Obtaining a Letter of Recommendation: Tips for a Successful Commendation

Updated on June 22, 2012

As many of you might be aware, finding a decent well paying job in this economy is a nothing less than an arduous and daunting task that often times has less than favorable results. Stiff competition in the job market combined with changing industries is making it harder for the average person to find employment. People with a criminal background or with little to include on their resume have experienced some of the hardest times – some already having years of unemployment under their belt. If you need an easy way to up the ante on the competition and increase your chances of finding the career you always dreamed of, then obtaining a few high quality letters of recommendation may be trick to get things turned around.

Where to Get Letters of Recommendation

Previous Employer

When most people want a letter of recommendation, they usually contact their previous supervisor and ask about getting one. However, this tactic can be hit or miss , especially if you are no longer employed with them. Your old boss may be too busy to take the time to write one for you or he/she may not even care. If you left your old job on bad terms, the chances of getting a letter of recommendation is probably close to zero. If you are still employed, it would be wise to get a letter of recommendation before you leave the job.


Other sources of letters of recommendation could include past clients and customers. If you work in any capacity with other people, then there is a potential for a great recommendation with each new hand shake. Being particularly helpful or going above and beyond for a customer could easily lead to a great review and recommendation. In my teenage years I worked some retail jobs and had the opportunity to develop a great relationship with some of the regular customers. When I informed one of the customers that I would soon be leaving she offer to write a letter of recommendation for me!


Sometimes teachers or college professors can be a great source to get a well written letter of recommendation. Teachers these days are often very busy and won't necessarily be willing to write a letter for you if you did not do well in the class, didn't participate, or were disruptive. It's best to choose a professor or teacher who taught a class that you did particularly well in or was an integral part of the classroom discussions or projects. Given the right mentor, your letter of recommendation could be the key to landing your next job.


If all else fails sometimes obtaining a letter of recommendation from a friend or relative may be a good option. Be sure to choose someone that you have previously done work for, helped out recently, or cared for in a time of need. They will need something specific to describe when writing their letter for you. Potential employers might not accept the words in the letter because your relationship with the writer, but they should recognize your efforts to obtain such a letter as an indication of your work ethic and employability.

Submitting Your Letters to Potential Employers

It is a good idea to include copies of your letters of recommendation when you submit a resume to a company for review. If the resume submission software that a company uses doesn’t allow you to include letters, there may be other ways of informing them that you have several letters of recommendation. If there is a comment field on the submission form, you can indicate that you have a letter of recommendation from your previous employer. You could also use a portion of your resume to convey this information as well. If all else fails, make sure to bring original copies of your letters of recommendation to a job interview or the pre-employment screening. It would also be a great idea to bring several copies of them to any career fairs that you attend.


Other Tips for Success

Obtaining a decent letter of recommendation that you can use sounds easy enough, but without some due diligence on your part your efforts could be wasted. Here are some tips to help making getting a letter of recommendation a success:

  • Some companies/schools have policies about letters of recommendation which may dictate who, when, or how one can be written. Don't be discouraged if you are turned down due to a company policy.
  • Be aware that some companies or school have standard or generic letters of recommendation that they give out to anyone who asks. These are fine to submit to employers but don't be surprised if they add very little value to your job hunt.
  • Make sure to ask for multiple original copies of a letter. You will need several if you are job hunting; original versions have much more of an impact on potential employers than do copies.
  • If a potential writer is particularly busy, offer to write a draft version of a letter for them so that they can quickly edit and sign it.
  • Make sure that your letter comes printed on company or school letterhead if possible. This adds to the authenticity of the letter of recommendation.
  • No matter who you choose to write a letter for you, make sure that they can honestly represent you in a positive way. Find someone whom you have worked with closely in the past and that knows your strengths and good qualities.
  • When asking for a letter of recommendation, make sure to tell the potential writer the purpose of your letter. This will help them tailor the words to fit the intended audience.
  • Make sure that the letter being written on your behalf is also coming from someone who has good character and is well respected. A letter from the dishwasher at your last job isn't as good as one received from the restaurant's owner.
  • Allow enough time for your writer to prepare a good letter for you. Let them know of your deadlines.
  • Be sure to thank anyone who takes the time to write a letter of recommendation for you. It couldn't hurt to send them a thank you card.


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    • CWanamaker profile imageAUTHOR

      Christopher Wanamaker 

      8 years ago from Arizona

      perrya - I agree that forgery and fraud is rampant. This is where validating the content of the letter and interviewing the candidate becomes a crucial. Generic letters are easy to spot as well. I have written many letters for people and was always sure to include specific and detailed information about the individual. I have never written a letter for someone that I felt didn't deserve it.

      Yes employers want skills but sometimes these letters can give someone a slight edge over someone else who is equally qualified but did not have any letters of recommendation. I'd say that in today's job market any edge that you can get, no matter how small, is worth the time and effort to obtain.

      Lets not forget that letters of recommendation are also valuable for other things besides employment. They can be used to get into colleges, obtain scholarships, and to qualify for certain professional awards (i.e a nomination), etc. The tips in this article are applicable to those situations as well.

    • perrya profile image


      9 years ago

      IMO, this is an outdated seldom has impact item. It use to be a feather in a cap when there was no online anything. In today's market, recruiters are too busy finding talent, verifying refs and backgrounds. Everyone knows they are easy for forge, so most simply take it a grain of salt. Most letters provided are generic in many ways. I have had some excellent ones in the past, they made no difference whatsoever because employers want skills that I lacked in.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Voted up useful and awesome!


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