Do you need a letter of recommendation when you apply for a job – or is it sufficient to have a list of references ready in the event a potential employer asks?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Job applications more commonly require a list, but regardless, attaching a strong letter of recommendation could give you a competitive edge over other applicants.

The Right Person – And the Right Ask

The best recommendations will come from people who know you the best – starting with former managers and colleagues who can speak to your skills, contributions and professional attributes, as well as your personality and character. Start by making a list of people who fit these criteria. It doesn’t have to be long: a few good choices are what you’re looking for.

  • If you have multiple bosses, identify the best one to ask. It should be someone you have worked closely with, are on good terms with, and ideally, with whom you have completed successful projects and milestones.
  • If you’re still in school and just entering the job market, ask professors who can speak positively about courses or projects you have completed or grades you have received. Also, consider your overall GPA, test scores, and other academic achievements.

Have a personable conversation with whomever you ask to write a letter of recommendation, and give them ample time to respond.

  • Be thoughtful about your request. Tell the person about your plans and ask politely for their endorsement. Remember: people are busy, so try and give them some time to prepare their letter. No one likes to be put on the spot.

Prepare a Brag Sheet

Make things easier for the person you ask to write a recommendation letter by providing them with an up-to-date copy of your resume. Even if you’re still in school, have a similar document ready. Start with a concise list highlighting your qualifications and best characteristics. You might include relevant courses you have taken, as well as extracurricular activities or work experience.

Say Thank You

When you receive letters of recommendation, send thank you notes to each individual who has responded. This is common courtesy – and it will likely ensure their participation in your future career growth and success.

Having the right plan in place to apply for a job can be tricky – including how and whom to approach for letters of recommendation. Partnering with an experienced career coach who knows you, your needs, aspirations and goals, as well as potential employers to help you reach them, is invaluable. You can find that partner at PrideStaff Northern Kentucky. Reach out to us today so we can tell you more.

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