How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation (Templates + Examples)

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May 9, 2024
Edited by
Camille Trent
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • A well-structured email can help get your letter of recommendation request accepted. 
  • Getting a great letter of recommendation from the right person can support your academic and professional career.
  • Teal’s AI Resume Builder and job email templates will help your application stand out.

Gone are the days of the generic reference list on a resume. Many hiring managers prefer a recommendation letter in addition to a list of references.

Your role as the job seeker is to ask for a letter of recommendation. Doing so effectively will improve the strength of your application.

This article will help you approach the right person, at the right time, with the right message—with examples and templates to guide you along the way. 

Struggling to land interviews with your resume? Get started with Teal’s AI Resume Builder for free.

Why do you need a letter of recommendation?

A letter of recommendation is a formal document written by someone who can attest to your abilities, work ethic, and specific achievements. It’s typically created for a job application, college application, or other formal process.

When someone else can vouch for you, it holds a lot more weight with employers than your own self-assessment. A bad, generic, or neutral recommendation can sink your application.

This is why it’s crucial to get a “yes” from the right person who can speak highly of your job-specific abilities.

The letter of recommendation is not to be confused with a general reference letter. Need more help deciphering the difference? Check out this blog post on a reference letter vs a  recommendation letter.

Who to ask for a letter of recommendation

Your letter of recommendation should be written by someone who can provide insights into your work style, skills, and character. 

Here’s who to ask for a letter of recommendation, depending on the goal:

For a job opportunity

  • Former managers or supervisors, ideally someone with a job title relevant to the opportunity.

For a university program

  • Former teacher, professor, or guidance counselor, ideally in the same field as the program
  • Former or current colleague, if you’re entering or returning to school

For residency or fellowship

  • Physician and faculty, ideally in your chosen specialty
  • Physician you worked with during rotations
  • Physician who supervised your residency

Tips on who to ask for a letter of recommendation

  • Make a list: Have backups in case your top choice doesn’t get back to you in time.  
  • Focus on quality: Only ask people you are sure will leave you a positive reference. It’s better to have someone less “ideal” who gives a glowing review than someone with an impressive job title who writes a generic letter.
  • Prepare a summary: Keep in mind the letter writer may not know how to write a letter of recommendation—or they don’t have time. To lessen the burden, you can create a list of your achievements using Teal’s AI achievement generator to send to them.

How to ask for a letter of recommendation (template)

You know who to ask, so now you may be wondering how to formally ask for a letter of recommendation. There are two scenarios in which you may ask someone: in person or via email. Here’s how to ask for a letter of recommendation from your employer, teacher, or mentor. 

How to ask for a letter of recommendation in person

It can be nerve-racking to ask acquaintances for something this important in person. Preparing ahead of time can help you feel more confident. 

Consider the following letter of recommendation template to get started:

I wanted to speak with you briefly about a new opportunity. I'm currently in the process of pursuing/applying to [describe your journey e.g., applying to medical school, applying to jobs].

As you know, I value your expertise, and have come to rely on your insights throughout [brief description of your relationship/time together]. 

As I prepare to interview for [specific role/moment, e.g., application at X University, position at Y], I need a letter of recommendation. Would you be willing to write one for me? I understand if you're unable to commit due to your busy schedule, but your support would mean a lot to me.

How to ask for a letter of recommendation via email

If the person you plan to ask for a recommendation no longer lives in the same area, email is your best option for quick, professional communication. Email a formal written request to each individual who you feel confident would provide a positive letter of recommendation.

Dear [Recipient's Name],

I am writing to request a recommendation letter from you for [specific purpose]. I have greatly valued your [specific trait] and I believe that your perspective on my [skills/achievements/characteristics] would provide valuable insight for [the opportunity
or career path I am pursuing].

[Optional: Briefly mention why you are seeking this opportunity and how it aligns with your
personal qualities and aspirations.]

I have attached my resume/transcripts to the email, along with a description of the opportunity. I understand this task can be time-consuming, so if there are specific aspects of my performance/character that you would like me to highlight, please let me know. The deadline for submission is [specific date]. 

Thank you very much for considering my request. Your support continues to be deeply appreciated.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Contact Information]

How to ask your boss for a letter of recommendation

Asking an employer—boss, manager, or supervisor—is a common request. Reference the example below and create your own request.


Dear James,

I hope this email finds you well. I am reaching out to you to request a letter of recommendation for my application to the Creative Lead position at Walt Disney.

Throughout my time at Creative Co., I greatly valued your open-door policy, hands-on approach, and your ability to foster creativity within our team. Your leadership style challenged me to think outside the box and brought out the best in my creative abilities.

As my most recent superior, I believe you could offer insight into the range of key skills needed for the Creative Lead role, particularly highlighting my ability to foster teamwork within cohesive campaigns.

The deadline for submission of the recommendation letter is Friday the 20th, so I would be grateful if you could provide a review at your earliest convenience.

Thank you very much for considering my request. Your guidance and support have played a significant role in shaping my professional journey.

Warm regards,

Mike Ruiz

How to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation

If you haven’t yet entered the workforce, you may want to ask a teacher, professor, or guidance counselor for a recommendation letter to assist your entry-level job application. 

Here’s how to ask a teacher for a letter of recommendation:


Dear Professor Gold,

I hope this email finds you well. I am reaching out to request a letter of recommendation for my application to the position of Payroll Administrator at Balanced Business in Pasadena, California.

During my time at Obsidian University, I found that your ability to break down complex economic theories with passion and ease left a lasting impression on me.

As I transition from academia to the workforce, I am excited to apply the knowledge I gained from your classes into the real world. I believe that your perspective on my technical skills would add an invaluable weight to my application.

Attached to this email, you will find a job description and my cover letter. The deadline for submission of the recommendation letter is Monday, June 30.

Thank you very much for considering my request as I embark on my career journey.

Warm regards,

Michael Day

How to ask for a letter of recommendation for college

College applications typically require one to three recommendation letters. 

Here’s how to ask for a letter of recommendation for college or graduate school:


Dear Mrs. Alba

I trust this email finds you well. I am reaching out to request a letter of recommendation for my application to the Biology Program at Oregon State University.

Throughout my academic journey, your mentorship has been invaluable to me. Your dedication to safeguarding marine life through climate change inspired me to pursue a career in marine biology.

I have attached my transcripts, test scores, and a description of the course descriptions for the academic year to provide you with more context. The due date is June 18, so I would be grateful if you could deliver before then at your earliest convenience.

Thank you very much for considering my request. I am truly grateful for your support in this next step of my studies.

Warm regards,

Jake J.

[Your Contact Information]

How to follow up on a letter of recommendation request

Always thank the person writing for their time. Considering that the final recommendation letter will be sent via email, email is an appropriate way to follow up on a request for the letter.

Use the example below to create your own thank you note.


Dear Mr. Evans,

I wanted to express my sincere gratitude for taking the time to write me a recommendation letter for my college applications. Your invaluable endorsement of my endeavors mean a great deal as I pursue an MFA at Chapman University.

Thank you again for your kindness and support. Please let me know if there's anything I can do to reciprocate your generosity.

Warm regards,

Nancy Berry 

When to ask for a letter of recommendation

Ask for a recommendation when the specific opportunity has arrived. Here are a few examples of when you may consider acquiring letters of recommendation:

  • When applying for a role at a new company
  • When applying for an internal promotion
  • For your college application

Tips on when to ask for a letter of recommendation

  • Ask early to give plenty of time to respond—such as two weeks before the submission due date. 
  • Don’t ask too much of the same person. For example, don’t ask for a LinkedIn recommendation and a letter of recommendation at the same time. 
  • Ask when you are leaving an opportunity and your skills are fresh in the person’s mind, such as leaving a job or at the end of a semester.

How to use AI to write a letter of recommendation

To make sure you walk away with a good recommendation letter, provide the letter writer with key points to include using Teal's AI Resume Achievements feature. Teal's AI will help you craft metric-rich accomplishments that stand out.

You can write professional achievements with AI using Teal
Generate unlimited resume achievements with Teal's AI Resume Builder.

Use these achievements to not only write recommendation letters but also highlight accomplishments on your resume for a stand-out application.

Remember to also send your resume to the letter writer to ensure it aligns with your resume. This will help them easily craft a strong letter of recommendation that appeals to the job description or program requirements.

Propel your academic and professional career with recommendation letters

Whether it's to a professor, guidance counselor, or old boss, you’re now equipped with the etiquette knowledge and templates to request a recommendation letter. 

The task can seem daunting—but it’s well worth the time investment. Remember, providing the person with a “brag” sheet of your achievements can help them write a great letter for you. ​​You can use Teal's AI Resume Achievements feature to create those achievements for your brag sheet and your resume in a matter of seconds.

Sign up for Teal for free to create a resume today.

Frequently Asked Questions

How late is too late to ask for a letter of recommendation?

A same-day or even same-week recommendation request may be too late. Try to give the person two or more weeks to complete your request. 

How do you ask for a recommendation via email?

Open with a clear request, followed by why you’ve chosen this particular person. Conclude your email with any additional information to help them complete your request.

How do you follow up on an email asking for a recommendation letter?

In a follow-up email, be sincere, gentle, and respectful of the letter writer’s time. You can include something similar to “I know you’re busy. I just wanted to remind you that the upcoming deadline for [application summary] is [date].”

Is it okay to email asking for a letter of recommendation?

While in-person is best, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for a letter of recommendation via email.

How do you ask for a recommendation in one sentence?

Every letter will include one formal sentence, along the lines of “Would you be willing to write me a letter of recommendation for [specific purpose]?"

Kaleena Stroud

Kaleena is a freelance copywriter enamored with helping people catapult their careers. Originally from California, she's currently based out of Barcelona, Spain. When she's not reading or writing, you can find her picnicking by the sea with her family.

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