Wednesday, July 14, 2021 Gerald Moore/Workforce Development Team

 Reference letters are commonly used to verify a person’s skill set, character, and accomplishments. If you are applying for a job, you will need a letter of recommendation at some point.  If you are a supervisor, manager, or person in a leadership role within an organization, you will most likely be asked to write a letter of recommendation.  Whether you are doing the asking for the recommendation letter or writing the letter, a certain level of etiquette is required.  Here are a few tips to use when asking for a recommendation letter.


  • Ask the appropriate person.   The right person to ask for a recommendation letter knows your work ethic and has the needed credentials to review your skill set.   This person would also know how said skills will transfer to the new job opportunity.  Avoid asking for a recommendation letter from someone just because they are a professional contact.  Ask yourself, “What does this person know about me and my job skills to justify asking them for a recommendation?”
  • Cloak the ‘ask’ in a compliment.  Flatter the person in your request.  Remind the person why you value his or her opinion.  Use an example phrase like, “You helped me grow as a professional,” or “Your mentorship has been a crucial part of my success with this company and I would greatly appreciate your recommendation.”
  • Explain why you need the letter. Suggest topics and include talking points.  Use an example phrase like, “When I managed that system-wide program you had real insight into the decisions I made as a part of the committee.  Perhaps you can highlight that in your recommendation letter.”
  • Be clear about the submission process and deadline.  Give the letter writer a copy of your resume’ and/or job posting so the writer can tailor the letter to the job opportunity you are applying for. Let them know the timeline in which the letter needs to be submitted.
  • Say ‘Thank you’ to the person who wrote your letter of recommendation.  If someone was considerate enough to take the time to write a letter to recommend your job readiness and abilities, it is fitting to reciprocate in kind. Do not merely thank them. Send a thank you note to the writer once the recommendation letter is complete.

For more tips on requesting a letter of reference, check out the article How to Request a Recommendation Letter from an Employer from  If you are writing a letter of recommendation, here are a few tips to consider.


  1. It is okay to say no. If you do not know the requester well and you cannot honestly provide a recommendation, it is alright to politely decline.
  • If it is against company policy for anyone outside of HR to provide references, it is okay to decline.
  • Simply, if you are too busy to write a letter, it is okay to decline.
  • Remember, when you write a recommendation letter, you are putting your name and reputation on the line.
  • If your inner intuition tells you not to do it, do not write it.  A lukewarm recommendation might hurt more than help.
  1. Give a positive response to a perceived negative. If you turn down a request, be brief but honest about why you cannot write the letter, and suggest an alternative person to ask.  A few phrases you could use are:
  1. “I do not think I am the best person to write your reference.”
  2. “Unfortunately, my company’s policy is for all references to come from HR.”
  3. “I am sorry, but I do not think I worked closely enough with you to provide a reference.”
  4. “Right now is just not a good time for me.”

If you decide to write a reference letter, make sure you are aware of all the details surrounding the request such as:

  1. When is the letter due?
  2. Why is the letter needed?
  3. Make sure you know whether the letter is to be submitted confidentially, or whether the requester will see it prior to submission
  4. Ask for a copy of the resume’ to refresh yourself on the applicant’s qualifications
  5. Ask the question, “Which of your skills would be most beneficial for me to highlight?”

Other tips to remember as you compose the recommendation letter are:

  1. Begin the letter by stating that it is your pleasure to recommend the candidate
  2. Explain how long you have known the candidate and in what capacity
  3. Offer two or three examples of impressive work by the candidate
  4. Close out the letter by including your contact information and making yourself available to discuss the candidate further

For more tips on writing a letter of recommendation, including a template you can use and an example of a reference letter, check out the article How to Write a Letter of Recommendation (with Template and Example) from

With a little bit of practice and self-patience, you will be ready to take on the next steps in your future career.  If you would like more information about how to apply for jobs online, assistance in finding resources, tips on how to get the job-hunting process started or more, please reach out to us at CCPL by email, chat, or text. Remember, you are not alone.