Asking for Letters of Recommendation

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How to ask for a letter of recommendation or reference when in-between a health care career is always tricky. The terms in which you left your last job, of course, has a direct bearing on who you feel comfortable going back to in asking for a reference. It’s also perfectly accepted and reasonable asking others who aren’t former employers – former associates, peers, even professors or advisors.

There are certain best practices to follow when asking for letters of recommendation or references. Your health care career could hinge on how you use them. For advice, we asked Reina Resnik, a Graduate Employment Specialist at Concorde’s campus in Miramar, Fla.

Asking for letters of recommendation/references when seeking a health care career

“In today’s competitive marketplace, prospective employers may ask you to contact someone in your past who can vouch for your performance and/or character,” Resnik said. “Think carefully about who you’d like to ask for a recommendation or reference.

“If you’re currently employed and applying confidentially to a new job, you may need to look back to a previous employer to provide a professional recommendation or reference to avoid jeopardizing your current position. For a professional letter or reference, seek out a boss or colleague who you believe you’ve impressed, with whom you’ve built a rapport, and/or who is known to go the extra mile for others.”

The same goes for academic letters or references, Resnik said, but make sure to first check your school’s policy on requesting recommendations. You might need to go through a centralized process – for example, via the president, dean or registrar – depending on your campus procedures.

Remember, the person providing a recommendation or reference is doing you a favor, so be considerate of their time constraints, Resnik said. Be prepared to offer bullet points of the qualities and/or accomplishments you’d be grateful for them to highlight. Ultimately, the recommendation comes from the recommender, but he/she might ask you to help with the wording. Be prepared to write a draft of your own letter or talking points for their consideration.

More advice for your health care career

If you are applying to numerous positions simultaneously, it might be wise to request a general letter of recommendation addressed, “To Whom It May Concern,” Resnik said. For important opportunities or specific applications, you might need to request a more tailored recommendation or reference.

“If it’s been a long time since you requested the reference or letter, reach out to your recommender with a head’s up that they might soon be contacted,” she said. “Always remember to be gracious and to thank your recommender(s) for all their help.”

Lastly, Resnik notes that this represents only general advice for those in a health care career. You should feel free to reach out to your campus Student Affairs and/or Career Services offices to discuss the particulars of any situation and/or to ask any questions.

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