University of Vermont

Letters of Recommendation FAQs

When do I need letters of recommendation?

  • Most graduate schools and some employers will ask you to submit letters of recommendation as part of your application/interview process.
  • Be sure to give your recommendation writers ample time (at least a month) to write your letter. Keep in mind that you are probably not the only person asking your recommendation writer to write a letter, so asking months ahead of when you need your letter is a great idea.
  • Many employers will ask you for a list of references instead of a letter of recommendation. Read reference FAQs.

Who should I ask to write letters of recommendation?

  • Your recommenders should be a mix of people who have known you in different contexts. For example, you could ask a professor who knows you well, employers from several jobs, or someone who knew you in your capacity as a volunteer with a local organization.
  • People who write your letters of recommendation should be willing to say positive things about your skills and strengths. Be sure to ask your recommenders if they are comfortable writing you a positive letter of recommendation. Typically, three letters of recommendation are sufficient.
  • You should ask people who know you well, either through paid work, academic courses, internships or extracurricular activities. Recommendations from family members or friends are usually unacceptable.

How should I ask for letters of recommendation?

  • If at all possible, you should make your request in person. Doing this will allow your recommender to ask clarifying questions and for you to make yet another personal connection with your recommender.
  • If you are not able to make your request in person, it is appropriate to make your request over email or by phone.
  • It is always a good idea to stay in regular contact with your recommenders. You never know when you will need to call on them again!

Do I manage my own letters or can someone else help me with that?

  • You definitely can design an organized way to manage your own letters.
  • If you would prefer to have help with managing your letters of recommendation, there are other options. The Career Services office works with Interfolio to manage student and alumni credential files. In order to use the services of Interfolio, which includes the submitting, storing and organizing your letters of recommendation, you will need to open an account with them.

How can I help my recommenders?

  • Provide your resume and a description of the graduate program or job to which you are applying as well as any particular information that you would like them to highlight.
  • It is also a good idea to provide your recommender with the name, title, organization/company, and address of the person to whom the letter should be addressed.
  • If you would like to use the services of Interfolio to manage your letters of recommendation, you will need to follow their directions regarding important information to provide your letter writers.
  • If you are personally managing your letters and they need to be sent directly to a specific place, either a school or place of employment, provide your recommender with an addressed and stamped envelope. If your letter of recommendation is not confidential, you can ask your recommender to send you a copy of your letter as well. Make sure that you have an organized way to keep track of your letters of recommendation.
  • Be sure to give your recommender any relevant forms (including waiver forms) or other required paperwork.

Should I follow up with my recommenders?

  • Yes! You should definitely send your recommenders a thank you note — a written card is always nice and tends to be appreciated more than an email. Be sure to stay in touch with your recommenders so that you can request letters of recommendation from them in the future.

Last modified August 28 2012 02:26 PM