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Best advice for requesting letters of recommendation

Letters of recommendation are one of the best ways to show potential employers more about their future hires. It could be the place where personality shines through.  – Photo by Pxhere

An important aspect of life at university, outside of academic life, is looking for some some sort of employment on or off-campus. Filling out job and extracurricular applications are an exciting but nerve-wracking process. We often spend hours tweaking our resumes and curriculum vitae, editing our cover letters and perfecting our essays with friends, family or career advisors. 

To supplement our transcripts and other materials, organizations often ask for letters of recommendation that can make or break their decision when it comes to your application. The next time you fill out an application for a certain position, keep these tips in mind when contacting potential references.

Know them well

Professors and past employers are the most typical, as well as the best, choices for a letter of recommendation. Make sure you have a friendly relationship and well-established rapport with your recommender as this will enhance the quality of their letter. Employers see an applicant through a recommender’s eyes, and it helps to have someone write about you from not only a professional but also a personal perspective. 

When asking someone to be a reference for you, do so over email so you can have your correspondence in writing. But approach them in person if you see them often, such as at work or in a class they are teaching. Face-to-face conversations are sometimes easier to hold and further your familiarity and comfort with your recommender.

Ask professors and employers to be your recommenders well in advance so that they have enough time in their schedules to commit to writing a letter for you.

It’s in the details

Give your recommender all the information and documentation necessary for them to efficiently write a comprehensive and thoughtful letter. Sending them your resume or CV will help them understand your past experiences as a student better. 

Some sort of description of the internship or job you are applying to and the contact information they would need to send the letter to, which is supposed to be confidential in most cases, to the organization are also helpful in the long run. 

If your recommender has the time, see if they can proofread your personal statement or application essay as it will give them a better idea of what your goals are.

Follow up

Be mindful of any deadlines you have, as you are ultimately responsible for making your recommender aware of these deadlines as well.

If the deadline is fast approaching and you do not know if your letter of recommendation has been submitted, do not hesitate to contact your recommender in person or over email and remind them about the letter. Be polite and ask them if they would need anything from your end, as in additional information or documentation. If needed, follow up a month, two weeks or a week in advance.

If you hear back from an employer about an in-person or phone interview or an acceptance, be sure to keep your recommender updated on the progress you make throughout your job application process.

Say thank you 

Don’t forget to express your gratitude to your recommenders. Thank them for supporting you and vouching for your abilities as a young, aspiring professional. Professors especially have incredibly busy lives and if they agree to take the time out to write a letter of recommendation for you, they must believe in your ambitions.

Showing your appreciation by writing them a “Thank You” card or even a brief but heartfelt email doesn't take too much time or effort, but can mean a lot to someone. 

Apart from these tips, utilize the on-campus resources like Handshake and visit the Rutgers Office of Career Exploration and Success at the Gateway Transit Village Building on the College Avenue campus or at Student Center on Busch campus for further guidance on job applications.

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