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How to Ask Your Professor for a Letter of Recommendation Via Email

  1. Who will you be asking?
  2. Prepare long in advance
  3. The subject should be something formal and succinct
  4. Gauge the level of formality
  5. Introduction
  6. Explain who you are
  7. Note why you have specifically asked the professor in question for their recommendation


“How to get a job you’ll love” by John Lees is a very well respected and enjoyable book. A best seller, it can help you achieve your potential and walk you through the minefield of job seeking!

How to Get a Job You’ll Love

How to Ask Your Professor for a Letter of Recommendation Via Email

Knowing how to ask your professor for a letter of recommendation via email can really help your future career prospects. This article will provide with you a template of how to do it effectively yet politely.

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1- Who will you be asking? Choose the appropriate professor. Does one carry more weight and therefor more influence than another? Does one have a more personal relationship with you? As much deliberation should be put into choosing the appropriate professor as you would put into the actual application. Find balance between their level of influence and how good a recommendation that they would likely give you.

2- Prepare long in advance. Any serious piece of writing should be written and then slept on and re-visited. Then account for 2 weeks for a response from your professor prior to the recommendation letter receipt deadline.

3- The subject should be something formal and succinct, along the lines of “Request for letter of recommendation for (your name)”

3- Gauge the level of formality. Are you on first name terms with this professor? Do they prefer to be addressed formally? Aim to have your request written ever so slightly more formally than your usual correspondence with them, as this will show that you’ve carefully considered the request. Address the letter accordingly. If less formal, start the email with a usual general greeting before upping the formality. This will ensure a consistent personal touch to the email.

4- Introduction. Something along the lines of “I am writing to inquire as to whether you would be comfortable with composing a letter of recommendation for me?”

5- Explain who you are (if appropriate), what you need the letter for, and why you are interested in getting this job/being accepted onto this programme etc.

6- Note why you have specifically asked the professor in question for their recommendation. The only type of flattery appropriate here is factual, ‘formal flattery’ i.e. “since you are a leader in the field of ____, I feel that a letter of recommendation from yourself would serve me very well”. It is here that you should subtly hint at what you’d like the professor to say about you in their letter i.e. “a letter from yourself would prove my capacity to ______”, or “following our conversation on the topic of _____, I’ve involved myself heavily in _______”. Let the professor know what it is that the shortlisting professional will be looking for, and highlight how the professor ‘knows’ that you answer to this criteria.

7- Provide details of: Where the letter should be sent, who the letter should be addressed to, what point of reference does the recipient need to appreciate that the letter is regarding you, and when the letter needs to be received by. Say that you will prepare an addressed and stamped envelope and will drop it around to them.

8- Thanks. “Thank you for your time and efforts”, and also thank them for the knowledge and skills that you have gleaned whilst under their teaching.

9- Close with your full name, course than you were/are enrolled on, your year of study, telephone number, and email address.

10- Should you not receive a reply, in good time, prior to the deadline for the receipt of the letter, stop around or call the professor, introducing yourself and enquiring as to whether he/she has had any time to read your email.

11- Once you have had word that the recommendation has been received, thank the professor once again by hand writing a letter.


Should you be concerned of a looming date yet wish to not appear to be pressuring, send a note of thanks to the professor, mentioning the date that the letter needs to be sent by.


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