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Building Strong Relationships with Potential Recommenders

Building strong relationships with potential recommenders is crucial for anyone seeking professional or academic references. These relationships can greatly impact an individual’s chances of securing a job, admission to a prestigious program, or other opportunities. However, many people struggle with how to effectively cultivate these relationships and ensure that their recommenders will provide a strong endorsement. In this article, we will explore strategies and best practices for building strong relationships with potential recommenders, drawing on research and real-life examples to provide valuable insights.

1. Understand the Importance of Recommenders

Before delving into the strategies for building strong relationships with potential recommenders, it is essential to understand why these relationships are so important. Recommenders play a crucial role in vouching for an individual’s skills, qualifications, and character. Their endorsement can carry significant weight in the decision-making process of employers, admissions committees, or other evaluators.

Research has shown that strong recommendations can positively influence outcomes. A study conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 85% of employers considered recommendations to be an important factor in their hiring decisions. Similarly, a survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council revealed that 92% of business school admissions officers considered recommendations to be an important or very important part of the application process.

Understanding the importance of recommenders can motivate individuals to invest time and effort into building strong relationships with potential recommenders.

2. Choose the right recommenders

One of the first steps in building strong relationships with potential recommenders is selecting the right individuals to ask for a recommendation. It is crucial to choose recommenders who can speak to your abilities, accomplishments, and potential in a meaningful way.

Consider the following factors when selecting potential recommenders:

  • Relevance: Choose individuals who are familiar with your work or academic performance in the specific area you are seeking a recommendation for. For example, if you are applying to a graduate program in computer science, a professor who taught you a relevant course would be an ideal recommender.
  • Position and credibility: Select recommenders who hold positions of authority or credibility in their respective fields. Their endorsement will carry more weight if they are well-respected and recognized in their industry or academic discipline.
  • Personal connection: It is important to choose recommenders with whom you have a positive and professional relationship. A recommender who knows you well and can speak to your character and work ethic will be more effective than someone who only knows you superficially.
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By carefully selecting the right recommenders, you increase the likelihood of receiving strong and impactful recommendations.

3. Cultivate Genuine Relationships

Once you have identified potential recommenders, the next step is to cultivate genuine relationships with them. Building a strong rapport and establishing trust is essential for obtaining a recommendation that truly reflects your abilities and potential.

Here are some strategies for cultivating genuine relationships with potential recommenders:

  • Engage in meaningful conversations: Take the time to have substantive conversations with your potential recommenders. Show genuine interest in their work or research and ask thoughtful questions. This demonstrates your enthusiasm and commitment to the field.
  • Attend events or conferences: Whenever possible, attend events or conferences where your potential recommenders will be present. This provides an opportunity to interact with them in a professional setting and establish a personal connection.
  • Offer assistance or support: If you have the opportunity, offer to assist your potential recommenders with their projects or research. This demonstrates your willingness to contribute and can help strengthen the relationship.
  • Stay in touch: Regularly update your potential recommenders on your progress, achievements, or any relevant developments. This keeps them informed and engaged in your journey.

By cultivating genuine relationships with potential recommenders, you create a solid foundation for a strong recommendation.

4. Provide Relevant Information and Context

When requesting a recommendation, it is important to provide your potential recommenders with all the necessary information and context to write a strong endorsement. This includes details about the opportunity you are pursuing, your accomplishments, and any specific points you would like them to address in their recommendation.

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Here are some tips for providing relevant information and context to your potential recommenders:

  • Share your goals and aspirations: Clearly communicate your goals and aspirations to your potential recommenders. This helps them understand the context in which their recommendation will be evaluated and allows them to tailor their endorsement accordingly.
  • Provide a comprehensive resume or CV: Share a detailed resume or CV with your potential recommenders. This document should highlight your relevant experiences, skills, and achievements. It serves as a reference for them to draw upon when writing the recommendation.
  • Offer specific examples: Provide your potential recommenders with specific examples of your work or accomplishments that they can reference in their recommendation. This adds credibility and depth to their endorsement.
  • Highlight key qualities or skills: If there are specific qualities or skills that you would like your potential recommenders to emphasize, make sure to communicate this to them. However, be cautious not to come across as overly prescriptive or demanding.

By providing relevant information and context, you enable your potential recommenders to write a recommendation that is tailored to your specific needs and goals.

5. Express Gratitude and Follow Up

After receiving a recommendation from a potential recommender, it is essential to express gratitude and follow up with them. This not only shows your appreciation for their time and effort but also helps maintain the relationship for future opportunities.

Consider the following steps for expressing gratitude and following up:

  • Send a thank-you note: Take the time to write a sincere and personalized thank-you note to your recommender. Express your gratitude for their support and let them know how much their recommendation means to you.
  • Provide updates on outcomes: Once you receive the outcome of the opportunity you were pursuing, whether it is a job offer or admission to a program, share the news with your recommender. They will appreciate knowing the impact of their recommendation.
  • Stay connected: Continue to stay in touch with your recommenders even after the recommendation process is complete. Share updates on your career or academic journey and offer support or assistance whenever possible.
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By expressing gratitude and following up, you demonstrate your professionalism and maintain a positive relationship with your recommenders.


Building strong relationships with potential recommenders is a critical step in securing strong recommendations that can greatly impact your professional or academic pursuits. By understanding the importance of recommenders, choosing the right individuals, cultivating genuine relationships, providing relevant information and context, and expressing gratitude and following up, you can increase the likelihood of receiving impactful recommendations.

Remember, building strong relationships takes time and effort. Invest in these relationships early on and nurture them throughout your career or academic journey. The support and endorsement of recommenders can open doors to exciting opportunities and propel you towards success.

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