Written Reference

Recommendation letters

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When to ask for a letter of recommendation
Isebell Gauche

The letter of recommendation has several benefits such as:

  • Telling the prospective employer that a colleague, manager, teacher or business associate appreciates your work and skills.
  • It serves as a written reference.
  • By giving you a letter of recommendation, the person already provides you the permission required to use him or her as reference.

The best time to ask for a written reference is before you leave the current employer. Don't wait until you are fired, retrenched or the day you leave. If you resign, do so in a manner that will allow you the opportunity to get a written reference.

What is the letter of recommendation?

It is a document stating that a person or company approved of your character, integrity, skills, performance level, achievements or expertise. It should provide a brief overview of the above to ensure that it can be used as a written reference. Ensure that the person's contact details are listed as well as the capacity in which has been written.

Where to obtain the document

You can obtain this type of written reference from your:

  • Pastor
  • Supervisor
  • Manager
  • Client
  • Colleague
  • Teacher
  • Lecturer
  • Professional acquaintance
  • Volunteering project leader

How to ask for this type of document

You will be able to obtain a standard document stating the date you started at the company or with the project, the date you left and your position from the HR department. Always make sure that you at least have this type of document. In addition also ask two persons at each company, institution or volunteering project to describe some of your positive contributions to the company, department or project.

If you are in your final year of college or university, approach each of the lecturers for a letter of recommendation. Ask them to say something about class attendance, your marks, your willingness to learn and your ability to finish projects within deadlines.

The same applies for the employer. Ask for a written reference to your promotions, your achievements, time and attendance, ability to work on your own and to work in a team, your leadership abilities, competence in the workplace etc. The document should state the position held, dates of employment, and the above information. You will for instance, benefit from a document that states that you were always on time, followed instructions well, handled job pressures well, had good communication skills, etc. If you volunteered on a project do the same. Even club membership can help for a reference.

Finally make sure that you ask the relevant people who will be able to answer questions should the prospective employer contact them. It doesn't help to ask one of the people you supervised. You need a person of equal or higher rank. Work on your skills now to ensure that you will have the freedom to ask for a letter of recommendation whenever needed.


Recommendation letters


Recommendation Letters open doors in the business world.

Recommendation letters tip

Get as many as possible written references as you can.

Written references

Plan ahead - start getting recommendations from your teachers, lectures and project leaders now.

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