How to Ask for Professional Recommendations

The right recommendation or letter of reference can make all the difference in your job search. Having the right recommendations can show the world you’re knowledgeable, trustworthy, and easy to work with.

There are a variety of social and professional networking sites that help you collect recommendations — for example, Monster’s BeKnown Facebook app — but many people are not sure about the right way to ask for one one. We asked Jesse Gant, the CEO of Recmnd.Me, a quick and easy way for working professionals and students to recommend and rate each other, for his tips on developing a successful recommendation strategy. Here’s what he had to say:

Ask politely and make it easy for them. Chances are, no one’s going to send you a recommendation unless you make it known you’re seeking one. Additionally, if you request an in-depth recommendation that requires answering several open-ended questions, it will appear too comprehensive and time-consuming for most. Make your colleague’s job a bit easier by instead asking for only a few seconds of their time. The simpler the solution, the more likely you’ll get one.

Know whom to ask. This can be tricky and often depends which platform you’re using. On a professional networking platform, asking everyone in your network to send you a recommendation can appear forced. In this case, ask only individuals with whom you’ve worked closely. On the other hand, some sites are dedicated to allowing professionals to gather recommendations from colleagues, in which case the more recommendations you have, the better.

Know how to ask. In addition to saying, “Can you recommend me?” ask your colleague if they feel they know your work well enough to give you a good recommendation. Wording it this way takes a bit of the pressure off your professional contact, because it informs them that you’re anticipating they may say no and you won’t be offended if they’re uncomfortable recommending you. After all, recommendations reflect on both individuals.

Let them know why. You could be asking for a recommendation for a variety of reasons, so let your professional contact know why. If it’s for a specific job posting, direct them to it so they have context to work from. If you’re just looking for something to enhance your reputation or your page on a networking site, let them know you value their professional input and think their recommendation would benefit help you to build your brand.

Provide some guidance. Knowing what to say in a recommendation can be tricky. Most people want to avoid generic comments such as, “This person is great to work with,” but aren’t sure where else to start. Provide your colleague with some guidance — ask them to comment on a project you worked on together, or try saying something like, “In my field, the most important skills include attention to detail, interpersonal communication, and self-motivation. Please consider commenting on these aspects of my work in your recommendation.” The same applies for sites that allow users to rate each other instead — the goal is to take some of the pressure off of your contact.

Don’t just take—give. Remember, recommendations are often a two-way street, meaning you won’t be as likely to receive any if you never dish any out. Offer to recommend a colleague, and they may be more likely to return the favor. Just make sure it’s someone whose work you admire, as recommendations you give can reflect back on you as well. Always remember to say thank you with a note or an email.

Professional recommendations can be a tricky path to tread, but it could mean the difference between a stagnant career and a sparkling reputation. Not to mention how much easier it will be to find a new job with all of those referrals under your belt.

For more tips, read “Get Your References Together for Your Job Search.”

What are some tips you’d give to professionals looking to ask for recommendations? Share your thoughts below, and connect with Jesse Gant at @RecmndMe or on Facebook at


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