What If I Have Been Asked to Write a Reference Letter?

What if I have been Asked to Write a Reference LetterSo, what do you do if the tables are suddenly turned? Someday, or maybe already, someone may ask you to write a reference letter on their behalf.

A Great Reference Letter can mean the difference between the applicant or candidate being accepted or rejected. This one simple, yet critical fact means that you need to be 100% sure that you are the best person to write this reference letter.

If you have been asked to write a reference letter for someone, you should ask them to let you think about it for a few hours or overnight before you answer them. This is obviously an important letter and both you and the one requesting the letter want to be sure you are the best on to be writing it.



There are five basic questions that you need to ask yourself before you agree to perform this important task:

  1. Do I have the time to write a great reference letter?
  2. Do I honestly feel comfortable writing a reference letter for this person?
  3. Am I truly the right person to compose a reference letter for this person?
  4. Do I know the person well enough to discuss his or her strengths and accomplishments?
  5. Can I honestly write positive things about the person who has requested the reference letter?

If you cannot answer “yes” to most or all of these questions, you should bow out gracefully right from the beginning. A reference letter is designed to make someone look good to another person who is in a position of influence. If you feel that you cannot honestly paint a good picture of the person, you will be doing them a disservice by agreeing to write the letter.

It is far better to politely decline right at the outset than to waste your valuable time trying to do something that you know in your heart will not have the result that your requester desires. Also, the person asking for the reference letter will be much better off and be able to quickly move on to someone who can write a glowing recommendation for them.

That is not to say that the person who asked you is not worthy of a Great Recommendation. We all see each other in a different light based on our experiences with each other and how we perceive those experiences. While one person’s experiences with the letter requester may be mostly positive ones, you, on the other hand, may have had a totally different set of experiences or you may see things from a different perspective.

Remember, a reference letter is meant to be an honest summary of your thoughts about a particular individual. Also, keep in mind that this individual needs to look their very best to their potential readers. You should not waste your time or keep your requester hanging on a limb if you believe that you are not the best person to write a glowing recommendation for them. Again, you’ll both be better off by simply politely, but firmly, declining right from the beginning.

The bottom line is simply this: If you cannot give a strong positive recommendation, express your regret and suggest that someone else would be in a better position to write their letter.

“Never, EVER write something about someone that you do not believe in 100%…….NO MATTER WHAT!!”

Now, let’s assume that you have answered “yes” to most or all of these questions. You believe that you are qualified to make a reasonable, positive assessment of the person who has asked you to write the reference letter, and you also believe you have the ability to compose a very well-written, expressive reference letter on their behalf.

Watch next week for Steps to Ensure you will write the BEST Reference Letter Possible!

Good Luck!

Lyle MacPherson
Author

How to Write a Great Reference Letter

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