Letters of recommendation from your college professors are often a great way to get your foot in the door with a new employer–especially if you handle them the right way. Getting a great one, however, can be a challenge! If you’re still not sure how to get those important letters of recommendation, however, these steps will make it easier.
Step One: Choose the Right Professor
When you’re desperate for a letter of recommendation, you’ll ask anyone to write it for you–but that’s not always your best course of action. Ideally, you want to choose a professor who knows you and who has a relatively high opinion of you. That professor you’ve had for one class in a huge lecture hall isn’t going to write as clear a recommendation as the one who worked one-on-one with you for hours on that big project a year or so ago.
Step Two: Provide the Right Materials
In some cases, you want a letter of recommendation to go directly to the individual who needs it, rather than going through you. In that case, you should provide your professor with all of the relevant information. If you’re sending the request via email, make sure to provide your professor with the correct address. If it’s going via snail mail, provide an addressed, stamped envelope as a convenience.
Step Three: Choose Your Timing
Rushing up to a professor minutes before class starts isn’t the best approach to getting a quality letter of recommendation. Instead, choose a time after class when you know they aren’t busy or during their office hours. Ideally, you would also approach your professor as early in the semester as possible, before they are inundated with other responsibilities.
Step Four: Be Polite and Clear
Ask nicely! A “please” never hurt anyone, and since your professor is doing you a favor, it’s appropriate to express your appreciation. Be sure to let them know about any upcoming deadlines or other things that might impact their ability to write the recommendation on time. If you are stuck asking for a letter of recommendation from a professor you don’t work closely with, it can also be helpful to provide them a brief overview of your recent accomplishments, especially those related to their class.
Step Five: Accept Rejection With Grace
If you approach a professor, who isn’t willing to write a letter of recommendation for whatever reason, accept it with grace. The professor may simply be too busy to give it the time and effort it deserves, or they may not have positive things to say about you. Either way, trying to force the issue won’t get you the recommendation letter you need–and it might just get you a bad one, instead. Opt to approach another professor instead.
Receiving a great letter of recommendation can open a lot of doors for you in the future. Make sure you make a great impression on the professor you’re asking to help you so that when you do get that letter written, it contains the praise you need.