References/Letter of Recommendation Etiquette:
There are a couple of things you will want to think about before asking someone to be a Reference for you or write a Letter of Recommendation.
It is always best to actually ask the person if they are willing to give you a reference, but you want to make sure you do it in a way that allows them to refuse without feeling awkward. Sound strange? You never want to have someone be your reference or write you a letter who doesn’t really want to do it, or feel that they can’t really do it justice. To be sure, you should ask them if they feel they can provide you with a good reference.
Poor Example: Can you be my reference or write me a letter of recommendation?
Better Example: Do you think you would be able to provide a good reference for me?
Even Better Example: Do you think you know my work well enough to provide me with a good reference?
By asking this way, you allow the reference to refuse your request gracefully. Again, you only want those who will provide you the best reference to write your letters or be a reference on your resume.
It’s very important that you provide your references enough time to complete the task you have given them. Typically, two weeks is an appropriate amount of time to write a letter of recommendation, but remember, your instructors and former employers have busier times of the year, just like you. If you work in a retail store, two weeks is not enough time for your supervisor to write a letter during the Christmas season. Likewise, it may not be wise to approach your instructor during Midterms with only two weeks to complete the letter. Give yourself a break and be sure to work in some extra time in case your reference can’t complete the letter on time. That leads to the next point
Be sure you are aware when your applications are due. As stated above, it is ideal if you can contact your reference 4 weeks ahead of the deadline to write your letters. Keep in mind that many scholarship applications and summer internships have deadlines that can begin as early as October 1 for the next summer.
If someone is offering a reference for you, they are doing you a favor. You should make it as easy as possible for them to complete the task. Give them a copy of your resume and agree to waive your right to see the letter beforehand. If there is a scholarship program summary, job description, or expectations about the position, provide a copy of that. In addition, you should provide your reference with stamped, pre-addressed envelopes they can send their letter in.
It’s very important for your reference to know that you appreciate the work they have done for you. It is not a requirement or entitlement for your reference to write you a letter. Thank them after they have agreed to write the letter, and consider sending them a handwritten note afterwards.
Morningside College, 1501 Morningside Ave., Sioux City, IA 51106 (712)274-5000