Recommendations and References: How to Ask Your Contacts


Recommendations are a great way to highlight the quality of your work and your skill set. At the same time, they serve as an impactful self-promotional tool.

Recommendations and references can take different forms, of course. A a testimonial on a website or recommendation on LinkedIn, for instance. Or a letter of reference. And perhaps the most common: an employment verification (or phone reference).

So let’s take a look at each. Then talk about how to ask your contacts for quality recommendations and references.

LinkedIn Recommendations

As LinkedIn has a dedicated functionality and form to request recommendations from a first-degree contact. So this one is pretty easy. Also, the contact form takes the awkwardness out of emailing or messaging the person. Just remember to follow the instructions carefully.

Other Recommendations

Other recommendations and references require a different approach.

First, think about who you want to solicit for a recommendation or reference. First, what is their relationship to you? Hint: it should be professional in some regard. Second, what capacity can they speak to your experience and skill set?

This reference might be a former or current supervisor or a direct report whom you managed. They could be a colleague or peer. They might even be someone outside of the organization, such as a customer or vendor. The capacity in which you’ve worked with these people will differ. And so will the individual testimonial they can offer. And that is a good thing. Including recommendations from a range of individuals shows a broader picture of your capabilities and contributions.

What to Ask For

What makes people more receptive to writing a recommendation?

The answer is simple. Educate them on exactly what you’d like them to communicate in the reference.

In some cases, your contact may request that you prepare a draft of the recommendation. That way, all they have to do is edit and approve. At the very least, that draft will provide your contact with key points around which they can construct the recommendation. This, of course, makes it easier on them. And in the end, it also gives you more control over what’s presented on your behalf.

Sample Text You Can Use

Hi, Hillary–

As you may know, I am in the process of starting my job search. So I would love to have a strong portfolio ready to present to potential employers. As part of that, I’m looking to put together a couple of references/recommendations from people whom I respect, and who I feel can speak to my skill set and experience.

I was wondering if you would be willing to write a brief recommendation on my behalf. Specificallyy, emphasizing my experience in [X, Y, Z]. Of course, I’m happy to put together a rough draft.

Thanks in advance!


Remember, who you ask, and how you ask, can determine the quality of your recommendations. And quality recommendations are often the key to landing the job!


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Brooklyn Resume Studio.




DanaAbout the Author: Dana Leavy founded Aspyre Solutions, focusing on small business development and career consulting. Her mission is to support creative and socially-conscious small businesses. She also offers career transition coaching and business consulting.

Dana has helped hundreds of professionals execute effective career plans to find and DO the work they are passionate about. She has presented seminars on navigating careers, transition and work-life balance to several colleges and universities. Her advice has been featured on MSN Careers, Fox Business News, NewsDay,, GlassDoor and Follow Dana on Twitter!



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