Letters of recommendation are an important part of any application to both further study in the social sciences and the job market!

Although they differ in their focus, one thing remains the same: asking for a reference letter seems intimidating. In the professional world such acts are common place and expected as you move forward in your career, and your faculty here at Mount are happy to write them. From our perspective, it is often seen as a responsibility (and sometimes an honour) to provide you with one. From your perspective, knowing how and who to ask for a reference letter can be an important part of advancing your career.

How to Ask for a Recommendation Letter

Don’t just go asking anyone. If the person you ask does not feel comfortable writing you a recommendation letter, it can create a really awkward situation. When you ask for the letter, make sure it is someone you feel would write you a positive one. Give them an easy out if you can. Instead of asking, “Can you write me a letter of recommendation?”, rephrase the question as “Do you feel we have worked closely enough for you to write me a good recommendation?” If you are asking someone you know and trust, this should be a comfortable question while still giving the person an easy way out. Remember, a strong letter is better than an okay letter or a bad letter. Qualifying the letter writer in this way is a good bet.

Who to Ask for a Recommendation Letter

The ideal letter writer should have a decent amount of knowledge about who you are. They should have working knowledge of what goes into writing a recommendation letter as well. Make sure to reflect on the courses you have taken or even the events/groups in which you have participated.

What to Include in a Letter of Recommendation

Your letter of reference should include specifics and be as relevant as possible. It helps to remind your letter writer of a few of your accomplishments or even extracurricular activities. You should also let them know where the letter is being sent. It is also a good idea to provide your letter writer with an unofficial copy of your transcript, a copy/draft of your statement of purpose or perhaps samples of your written work to give them as much insight into your academic career as possible.

When to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

Early is better than asking for a rush job! It is extremely frustrating to be asked at the last minute to write a letter of recommendation for a student. Please be clear about deadlines when you ask someone to write a letter for you.