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Common Mistakes to Avoid When Requesting Recommendations

When it comes to requesting recommendations, many people make common mistakes that can hinder their chances of receiving a strong endorsement. Whether you are seeking a recommendation for a job, college application, or any other professional endeavor, it is important to approach the process strategically and avoid these pitfalls. In this article, we will explore some of the most common mistakes people make when requesting recommendations and provide valuable insights on how to avoid them.

1. Failing to Choose the Right Recommender

One of the biggest mistakes individuals make when requesting recommendations is failing to choose the right person to write it. It is crucial to select someone who knows you well and can speak to your skills, qualifications, and character. This person should have firsthand experience working with you or observing your abilities in a relevant context.

For example, if you are applying for a job in the field of marketing, it would be wise to choose a former supervisor or colleague who has seen your marketing skills in action. Selecting someone who is unfamiliar with your work or lacks credibility in the field may result in a weak recommendation that does not carry much weight.

When choosing a recommender, consider the following:

  • Relevance: Is the person familiar with the skills or qualities you want to highlight?
  • Credibility: Does the recommender have a strong professional reputation?
  • Relationship: How well does the person know you and your work?

By carefully selecting the right recommender, you can increase the chances of receiving a compelling and persuasive recommendation.

2. Providing Insufficient Information

Another common mistake is failing to provide your recommender with enough information to write a strong recommendation. Many individuals make the assumption that the recommender knows everything about their qualifications and accomplishments, but this is often not the case.

When requesting a recommendation, it is essential to provide your recommender with a comprehensive overview of your achievements, skills, and experiences. This can include your resume, a list of projects you have worked on, or any other relevant documentation that showcases your abilities.

Additionally, it is helpful to have a conversation with your recommender to discuss your goals and the specific qualities you would like them to highlight in the recommendation. By providing sufficient information, you can ensure that your recommender has all the necessary details to write a compelling endorsement.

3. Using Generic or Vague Requests

One mistake that many people make when requesting recommendations is using generic or vague requests. Instead of providing specific guidance, they simply ask for a general recommendation, which often leads to a generic and unremarkable endorsement.

When reaching out to potential recommenders, be clear and specific about what you are looking for. Provide them with a clear understanding of the purpose of the recommendation and the specific qualities or experiences you would like them to highlight.

For example, instead of saying, “Can you write me a recommendation for my job application?” you could say, “I am applying for a marketing position and would appreciate it if you could highlight my strong analytical skills and ability to develop effective marketing strategies.”

By providing specific guidance, you can ensure that your recommender focuses on the most relevant and impactful aspects of your qualifications.

4. Waiting Until the Last Minute

Procrastination is a common mistake when it comes to requesting recommendations. Waiting until the last minute to ask for a recommendation can put unnecessary pressure on your recommender and may result in a rushed or subpar endorsement.

It is important to give your recommender ample time to write a thoughtful and well-crafted recommendation. Ideally, you should reach out to them at least a few weeks in advance, providing them with enough time to gather their thoughts and write a strong endorsement.

Additionally, by giving your recommender sufficient notice, you demonstrate respect for their time and increase the likelihood of receiving a positive response. Remember, your recommender may have other commitments and responsibilities, so it is important to be considerate of their schedule.

5. Failing to Follow Up or Express Gratitude

After receiving a recommendation, many individuals make the mistake of failing to follow up or express gratitude to their recommender. This can leave a negative impression and may discourage the recommender from providing future recommendations.

Once you have received a recommendation, take the time to send a personalized thank-you note to your recommender. Express your gratitude for their time and effort in writing the recommendation and let them know how much you appreciate their support.

Furthermore, it is important to keep your recommender updated on the outcome of your application or any other relevant developments. If you are successful in your endeavor, be sure to share the good news with them. This not only shows your appreciation but also helps maintain a positive and ongoing relationship with your recommender.


Requesting recommendations can be a critical step in achieving your professional goals. By avoiding common mistakes such as failing to choose the right recommender, providing insufficient information, using generic requests, waiting until the last minute, and failing to follow up or express gratitude, you can increase your chances of receiving strong and impactful endorsements.

Remember, the key to a successful recommendation is thoughtful planning and effective communication. By approaching the process strategically and avoiding these common mistakes, you can ensure that your recommendations work in your favor and help you stand out from the competition.

So, the next time you find yourself in need of a recommendation, take the time to carefully consider your approach and implement these valuable insights. Your efforts will not only enhance your chances of success but also strengthen your professional relationships in the long run.

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