Letters of recommendation may not be a requirement when you’re applying for jobs, but having some on-hand can help ensure you’re ready to send them. For some positions, offering to provide letters of recommendation could help you stand out as a candidate. Online, recommendations could help increase your visibility among candidates on sites like LinkedIn.
If you’re new to letters of recommendation or need a refresher for your job search, learn what to look for, how letters of recommendation can benefit you and how to get high-quality letters of recommendation.
What Are Letters of Recommendation?
A letter of recommendation is an endorsement written by someone a candidate has had a professional relationship with. Depending on where you are in your career journey, a “professional” relationship may be a college professor or an industry professional who has mentored you. If you’re established in your career, it could come from someone who’s managed you, a coworker you’ve collaborated with or someone you’ve managed yourself.
Some job applications will request a letter of recommendation or several. The general format of a letter of recommendation looks like:
- A 1-page document that fills as much space as possible with text in a standard 10- to 12-point font
- A heading that addresses the recipient, such as “Dear Hiring Manager”
- An introduction to how the writer knows the person they’re writing about, which can include:
- The relationship
- The length of time of the relationship
- Specific points about why the writer would recommend the professional for a specific type of role
Recommendations can be used similarly to testimonials. Some people will create a Recommendations section on their own professional website, for example.
Benefits of Professional Recommendations
Regardless of whether or not a new job you’re applying for asks for recommendations, collecting them now can give you a professional advantage for the following reasons.
1. Recommendations help you build relationships with professional contacts
The mere asking for a professional recommendation can help you boost your network abilities and deepen your relationship with meaningful people. You’ll stay at top of mind when relevant job opportunities come up. You can also offer to return the favor and write a recommendation yourself, which enables you to provide value to someone else.
Pro tip: If you’re a college student, connect with an advisor who can help you gather recommendations and find relevant companies to apply for. Begin working on your resume as early as possible in your student journey, so when you near graduation, you’ll have a robust amount of skills to showcase. Register with Pipeline AZ for additional student resources.
2. Recommendations can help you show up higher in search results
Online on the most popular social network for professionals, LinkedIn, users also have the ability to ask for and give recommendations to their contacts. With these recommendations, there’s no formal greeting necessary, just an explanation of how the person knows the other and why they’d recommend them for similar roles. A more complete LinkedIn profile that contains more high-quality recommendations could help you stand out among candidates and potentially elevate you higher in search results when recruiters and hirers are looking for talent like yours.
3. Recommendations strengthen your candidacy
Recommendations can help you understand how your professional contacts view you. They can give you ideas for strengths to mention in a resume, in cover letters and in job interviews. Being able to offer them to someone you’re interviewing with could make you more attractive as a candidate.
It’s helpful to have a few strong letters of recommendation available if you’re on a job search. You can offer to send them to the hirer as you begin the application process.
How to Get Letters of Recommendation
The best time to get a letter of recommendation is when you’re currently in a strong relationship with a professional contact. This ensures the writer knows your strengths and capabilities now, instead of having to refresh their memories years after they’ve worked with you.
A good opportunity for asking for a recommendation is when you’re moving on from a company or other professional-minded environment, like college. As you get ready to make the transition, you can ask those who know you well and who you’re confident will be able to write something meaningful for a recommendation.
Offer to provide helpful information, like a resume that gives the writer more background to work with as they write. Let the writer know whom to address the letter to, if you have that information.
Give suggestions for what they might include. For example, you might suggest highlighting a challenging project you worked on together. Or, you might look at the skills and requirements of a job you’re interested in, and ask the writer to highlight similar skills in their recommendation.
You can increase your likelihood of getting a “yes” response to a recommendation request by offering to write one for the person you’re asking, as well. If you wouldn’t be comfortable writing a recommendation for the person you’re asking, you may want to move on to someone you have a more mutual beneficial relationship with.
What to Do with Letters of Recommendation
You can maximize the results you get with your recommendations by using the following tips.
- Repurpose recommendations for a professional website. If you create your own website or digital portfolio, you may be able to add recommendations to a testimonials page.
- Ask for updates when relevant. If you’re applying for a new job that’s looking for a different set of skills, you can ask the writer if they’d be willing to update their letter with those skills.
- Build a relationship with the writer. If someone’s willing to write you a recommendation, they could be helpful to your career journey in other ways. Maybe they’re someone you can build a mentor/mentee relationship with. Or, maybe they’d be willing to look out for job opportunities for you. Stay in contact with the writer to see how the relationship could benefit you professionally.
As you create connections in each stage of your professional journey, think about which contacts may be good recommendation providers. Taking a proactive approach to getting recommendations can provide you with valuable endorsements that could help you advance your career.
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