I Was Going To Give You A Recommendation Until… Etiquette Tips To Get You A Good Word

January 19, 2014  |  

At some point or another, we all need one. A recommendation. Whether it’s for school, a job, membership in a group… it’s always helpful to have someone vouch for all of our great qualities.

When an organization asks for a reference, they have no doubt that you’ll provide the names of people who will say wonderful things. Unless they don’t. There is a right and a wrong way to ask for a recommendation. And doing it the wrong way can make a person second guess whether you’re really worth the kind words they were about to say.

Rule number one: Be sure to ask first. The idea for this story came from an MN Business colleague who came to the office put off by the fact that they’d been contacted by a company looking for a recommendation for someone they didn’t know they were meant to provide one for. While your supporters want you to succeed, you have to give them a chance to organize their thoughts. Not only do they want to put your best attributes forward, they want to do so in a way that’s organized and coherent. It’s common courtesy to ask someone when you want something from them. Give them the chance to say yes.

Rule number two: Let them know who will be contacting them. That means name, organization, and position. Phone recommendations usually come with a couple of questions about the qualities that make you a perfect fit. A few specifics help put you in the right light.

Rule number three: Give a person enough time to write a good letter. Don’t take it upon yourself to squeeze into someone’s schedule. We were recently asked for a recommendation for a writer headed back to school. The request came about 2 1/2 weeks before it was due. This is good form. Bonus points: we got a reminder as the deadline approached.

If you plan on using someone as a reference during a job search, let them know in advance that the search is on and you’ll be calling on them. Even if there isn’t a hard-and-fast deadline, knowing it’s coming is better than nothing.

Rule number four: Thank the person after. You may have to ask them to make a recommendation a few times. Show that the effort is appreciated. Maybe there’s something you can do in return?

Follow these rules, and you’ll have your recommender singing your praises.

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