If you ask me to write a reference letter on your behalf, then I will always do my best to do so. There are some things that you can do to help make the task easier for both of us. The advice you are about to read comes from conversations with dozens of colleagues who have been asked to write reference letters. If you want to win friends and influence people, please do at least some of the following for those mentors who are preparing a reference letter for you.
Please give me enough time to write a good quality letter. I travel extensively and am frequently away from my office on projects. Please allow me enough lead time to get back to my desk to prepare your letter. In many cases, a week’s notice is sufficient. It takes about an hour to write your reference letter.
Make sure that I have something to write about. Please send me your resume and any additional information that you think would be useful in preparing your letter.
Please send me the full name and address of the individual receiving the letter. If it is an online reference system then please make sure that you tell me what you are applying for. I need to be able to reference your abilities for the academic or career endeavor you are applying for. Most school systems and universities use an online reference form. Please save your references time and effort by sending the link for this online form.
By sending me this request, you are agreeing that I can share information… about your academic performance, work performance, and any reasonable assessment of your abilities in relation to the position you are applying for. If you are applying for a teaching job, and I have never seen you teach, then the reference letter will be very short indeed.
Please indicate the deadline. When do you need the reference letter from me? This should be several days before your submission deadline.
If you need a reference letter to get into the UGA Graduate School,… Please send me a writing sample. This can be an essay or a paper that you wrote in school. Please send this writing sample along with your resume and any other information necessary to complete the reference.
Don’t send sensitive information through email. Please do not send any documents with identification numbers or social security numbers.
If it has been more than five years since we last spoke,… then my reference letter for you may not be very much help. Your “five-year-ago self” is different than your current self.
If you were a C-student… It is also important for you to know that if you were a student who never brought paper, pencil, or laptop to class and was habitually late with assignments, then that’s going to show up in your reference letter. I am writing your reference letter on behalf of the University. I have to maintain the integrity of the academic experience. If you are worried about what I might put in your reference letter, then that is a good sign that you should not ask me to write a reference letter.
Writing reference letters is part of my job. I don’t mind doing it. Please help me do a good job in writing your letter by following these guidelines above.