When to ask for a letter of recommendation
The letter of recommendation has several benefits such as:
- Telling the prospective employer that a colleague, manager,
teacher or business associate appreciates your work and skills.
- It serves as a written reference.
- By giving you a letter of recommendation, the person already
provides you the permission required to use him or her as reference.
The best time to ask for a written reference is before you leave
the current employer. Don't wait until you are fired, retrenched
or the day you leave. If you resign, do so in a manner that will
allow you the opportunity to get a written reference.
What is the letter of recommendation?
It is a document stating that a person or company approved of your
character, integrity, skills, performance level, achievements or
expertise. It should provide a brief overview of the above to ensure
that it can be used as a written reference. Ensure that the person's
contact details are listed as well as the capacity in which has
Where to obtain the document
You can obtain this type of written reference from your:
- Professional acquaintance
- Volunteering project leader
How to ask for this type of document
You will be able to obtain a standard document stating the date
you started at the company or with the project, the date you left
and your position from the HR department. Always make sure that
you at least have this type of document. In addition also ask two
persons at each company, institution or volunteering project to
describe some of your positive contributions to the company, department
If you are in your final year of college or university, approach
each of the lecturers for a letter of recommendation. Ask them to
say something about class attendance, your marks, your willingness
to learn and your ability to finish projects within deadlines.
The same applies for the employer. Ask for a written reference
to your promotions, your achievements, time and attendance, ability
to work on your own and to work in a team, your leadership abilities,
competence in the workplace etc. The document should state the position
held, dates of employment, and the above information. You will for
instance, benefit from a document that states that you were always
on time, followed instructions well, handled job pressures well,
had good communication skills, etc. If you volunteered on a project
do the same. Even club membership can help for a reference.
Finally make sure that you ask the relevant people who will be
able to answer questions should the prospective employer contact
them. It doesn't help to ask one of the people you supervised. You
need a person of equal or higher rank. Work on your skills now to
ensure that you will have the freedom to ask for a letter of
recommendation whenever needed.