Recommendations Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who should I ask for a recommendation?

A: It’s best to ask someone who’s familiar with your work either academically or professionally. You should also ask someone that you’re certain will report positively on your performance. Here are some examples of people you can ask:

  • professors you’ve worked with closely (more than just attending class)
  • supervisors from current and former jobs, internships, and volunteer positions
  • leaders from organizations you’ve volunteered with
  • high school teachers you’re still in touch with
  • student organization advisors
  • Academic Advisors who are familiar with your career goals, work experience, and interests
  • community leaders who are familiar with your work ethic, goals, and contributions to the community
Q: How should I ask someone for a recommendation or reference?

A: In person is always best. However, if that’s not possible, send a politely worded email that includes your current resume, a brief description of the job you’re applying for, and what makes you think you’d be a good candidate. If you haven’t seen or talked to your potential reference in a while, it’s also a good idea to briefly describe what you’ve been up to since you last saw them. This gives a potential reference all the information they need to speak highly of you to others. Also be sure to include important details like deadlines and any other information requested by the potential employer.

Q: My parents have a business, and I’ve worked for them for several years as my direct supervisors. Can I ask them to be my reference?

A: In a professional setting, it’s best to avoid using references from family members if at all possible. If you’ve worked for the family business, try asking someone other than your family members who also works for the company. You could ask another manager or supervisor who’s also familiar with your work.

If you feel you must use a family member as a reference, it would be best to make sure that the other references are completed by non-family members who are familiar with you in other ways (teachers, professors, other community leaders).

Q: Can I ask a co-worker (not a supervisor, but someone with the same job) to fill out a recommendation?

A: Yes, but if one of your references is a co-worker, the other two should be someone who has worked with you in a supervisory or other leadership role. It would be best if all references were from people with positions similar to the examples listed in the first question.

Q: What’s on the recommendation form?

A: The form asks your references to comment on your:

  • analytical skills
  • communication skills
  • presentation skills
  • motivation and diligence
  • emotional maturity
  • leadership skills
  • ability to take initiative
  • ability to work independently
  • ability to work in teams
  • your overall strengths
  • judgment and common sense
  • areas in which you could grow professionally