5 Steps for Professional Recommendation Requests

by | May 26, 2020 | Strategy | 0 comments

There has, most likely been a point in your life where you have either asked for or have been asked to give a recommendation. In the not so distant past, this was done in a paper letter format. In today’s virtual work world, recommendations are online with the entire world to see.  Whether in paper form or in social media, there are several considerations to keep in mind when seeking or providing a recommendation. Before delving into the 5 factors of recommendations, let’s start with a working definition of a professional recommendation.

What is a recommendation?

A recommendation speaks toward an individual specific contribution in a project, job, or volunteer work. It is a way to bring to life an accomplishment from a credible source, whether that source is a leader in their industry or company. The reason a recommendation is powerful is the parties have an established professional relationship. The source is able to write about how the individual contributed to an outcome. 

5 Steps of a recommendation

  1. Determine the role or project you would like to have the recommendation highlight. This can range from a special task force to your actual position within an organization. Identifying roles that will demonstrate your growth or allow a shift in careers.
  2. Identify the people you not only worked with but whom you developed a professional relationship. Having a deeper understanding of who you are and where you want to be in the future will allow the source to write about your values and personality.
  3. Send a request, whether email or message, to the key individual you identified. The email/message should be very specific. Include the role/project, key concepts you want them to highlight, and offer to provide a draft. Include how you would like the recommendation given; LinkedIn or other form. 
  4. Success! They have agreed to write a recommendation. If they agreed to a LinkedIn recommendation, you can send then a request from your profile. Learn more at LinkedIn Learning.
  5. Thank you! A sincere thank you note (preferably handwritten) and a virtual gift card for their time and effort go a long way.  

Example of a request

Subject: Request for Letter of Recommendation

Dear Marie,

It has been a few weeks since we completed our IT project at The Hospital. You were gracious to suggest me to lead the team and I would like to ask for a recommendation on LinkedIn. The opportunity provided me the ability to demonstrate my project management skills and performance and leadership skills on this stretch project.

Having worked with you, I know how valuable your time is and would be willing to draft a recommendation that would require a quick edit. I also understand your current demands and that you may need to decline at this time. 

I was declined a recommendation, now what?

If a request is declined, don’t be discouraged. People are busy and tasked, especially during a pandemic. Take stock. 

  • Did you really have a professional relationship? 
  • Was your performance or outcomes at a level that a person could write a recommendation ethically?

Go back to your list, and send another request, again following the steps above. Best of luck.

I need to decline a request for a recommendation

There may be many instanced when a request for a recommendation would be declined. As mentioned above, the level of the professional relationship may be viewed differently by each party or you really don’t have time to write a recommendation.  A quick declination note can go a long way. Below are examples of declining a request:

Dear Mark,

Thank you for thinking of me to write a recommendation for you on the IT project at The Hospital. Assessing the request, I reached out to Ann with whom you had more frequent and in depth interaction. She has agreed to follow up with you and spoke highly of your project management and leadership skills.

Wishing you all the best on your next adventure.


Dear Mark,

Thank you for the note requesting a recommendation. My current job load would make even editing a recommendation overly taxing. I would recommend seeking an alternate at this time and wish you the best.

Source: LinkedIn Learning, Hootsuite, The Muse, Forbes.

Author: Dr. Barbra Olson

Dr. Barbra Olson is a virtual community researcher and writer, business person, and educator. Her career covers diverse industries with extensive experience in HR, Finance, IT and Operations Management. She served on the Executive Committee for the National Association of Women MBAs Minneapolis/St. Paul Chapter. She is a national speaker and covers topics from Connect with Confidence on LinkedIn and social media to big data analytics.

You can connect with Barbra on LinkedIn!


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