How to reply to a request for a letter of recommendation

Table of Contents

Understanding the Request

• When someone asks you to write a letter of recommendation, it’s important to understand exactly what they need and why they asked you. Take time to have a conversation with them about the details of the request.

Gather the Necessary Information

• Make sure you get all the details about the position or program they are applying to. Ask for a copy of their resume, transcript, personal statement, or other relevant materials. The more context you have, the better letter you can write.

Assess Whether You Can Write a Strong Letter

• If you don’t feel you can endorse the person strongly, let them know upfront. It’s better to say no than to write a vague or ineffective letter. If you do agree, explain what details and anecdotes you intend to highlight based on your experience with them.

Follow the Specific Guidelines

• Find out if there is a specific format or elements the letter needs to include, such as length or topics to address. Ask if there are any submission deadlines. Make sure you understand what method to use to submit the letter – electronically, by mail, uploaded to a website, etc.

Draft and Review Your Letter

• Set aside adequate time to write a compelling letter highlighting the person’s key strengths and achievements. Emphasize the fit with the specific program or position. Have someone else review the letter before finalizing.

Submit the Letter Professionally

• Proofread your letter closely before submitting it by the requested deadline. Follow any special instructions provided on how the letter should be emailed, uploaded or mailed. Let the requester know when you have submitted the completed letter.

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