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Recommendation Request Etiquette: What Not to Do

When it comes to requesting recommendations, whether for a job, a scholarship, or any other opportunity, it’s important to approach the process with tact and respect. A well-crafted recommendation can make a significant impact on your chances of success, so it’s crucial to handle the request with care. In this article, we will explore the etiquette of recommendation requests and discuss what not to do in order to maximize your chances of receiving a positive and effective recommendation.

1. Don’t Assume They Will Say Yes

One of the biggest mistakes people make when requesting a recommendation is assuming that the person they ask will automatically agree. It’s important to remember that writing a recommendation takes time and effort, and not everyone may be willing or able to fulfill your request. Instead of assuming, approach the request with humility and give the person an opportunity to decline if they are unable to help.

For example, instead of saying, “I need a recommendation letter for my scholarship application. Can you write it for me?” try saying, “I am applying for a scholarship and I was wondering if you would be willing to write a recommendation letter for me. I understand if you are unable to, and I appreciate your consideration.”

By acknowledging that the person may have other commitments or reasons for declining, you show respect for their time and make it easier for them to decline if necessary.

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2. Don’t Make It All About You

When requesting a recommendation, it’s important to remember that the person you are asking is doing you a favor. They are taking time out of their busy schedule to write a letter or provide a reference on your behalf. Therefore, it’s crucial to approach the request with gratitude and humility.

Avoid making the request all about you and your needs. Instead, take the time to acknowledge the person’s expertise and the value they bring to the recommendation process. Show genuine appreciation for their willingness to help and express how their support will make a difference in your pursuit of the opportunity.

For example, you could say, “I greatly admire your work in the field of marketing, and I believe your insights and expertise would greatly enhance my application. Your recommendation would mean a lot to me and would significantly increase my chances of being accepted into the program.”

By highlighting the person’s expertise and expressing your gratitude, you make the request more personal and meaningful, increasing the likelihood of a positive response.

3. Don’t Provide Inadequate Information

When requesting a recommendation, it’s important to provide the person with all the necessary information to write an effective letter or provide a strong reference. Failing to provide adequate information can result in a generic or ineffective recommendation that does not accurately represent your qualifications or potential.

Before making the request, take the time to gather all the relevant information that the person may need. This could include your resume, a summary of your accomplishments, specific details about the opportunity you are applying for, and any other relevant supporting documents.

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When making the request, be sure to provide this information in a clear and organized manner. You could create a document or email that includes all the necessary details and attachments, making it easy for the person to access and reference the information as they write the recommendation.

4. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute

Timing is crucial when it comes to requesting a recommendation. Waiting until the last minute to make the request can put unnecessary pressure on the person and may result in a rushed or subpar recommendation.

Instead, give the person ample time to consider your request and write a thoughtful recommendation. Ideally, you should make the request at least a few weeks in advance, allowing the person enough time to gather their thoughts, write the recommendation, and submit it before any deadlines.

By giving the person sufficient time, you show respect for their schedule and increase the likelihood of receiving a well-crafted and impactful recommendation.

5. Don’t Forget to Follow Up and Express Gratitude

Once you have received a recommendation, it’s important to follow up with the person and express your gratitude. A simple thank-you note or email can go a long way in showing your appreciation and maintaining a positive relationship with the person.

Take the time to send a personalized message, expressing how much their recommendation means to you and how it has positively impacted your pursuit of the opportunity. Be specific in your gratitude, highlighting the aspects of the recommendation that you found particularly valuable or impactful.

For example, you could say, “I wanted to express my deepest gratitude for the recommendation letter you wrote on my behalf. Your insights and personal anecdotes truly brought my application to life, and I am confident that your support played a significant role in my acceptance into the program. Thank you for taking the time to help me.”

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By following up and expressing your gratitude, you not only show respect for the person’s time and effort but also strengthen your relationship with them. This can be beneficial for future opportunities or collaborations.


Requesting a recommendation is an important step in pursuing various opportunities, and it’s crucial to approach the process with tact and respect. By avoiding common mistakes and following proper etiquette, you can maximize your chances of receiving a positive and effective recommendation. Remember to never assume that someone will say yes, avoid making the request all about you, provide adequate information, avoid waiting until the last minute, and always follow up and express gratitude. By following these guidelines, you can navigate the recommendation request process with confidence and increase your chances of success.

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