Who to Ask for a Recommendation Letter

By Alyssa Laffitte on December 14, 2019

As college students, we are often applying to internships, scholarships, extracurriculars, and jobs. These applications often require a letter of recommendation. If you find yourself needing a letter of recommendation, here are some people you could ask to write you one:

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Former supervisors

The best person to ask for a letter of recommendation is a former supervisor. Even an internship supervisor will be a good choice. Your former supervisors will be able to attest to your work ethic and your ability to work as a member of a team. They know you very well in a professional sense, and they can vouch that you are a good worker. A letter of recommendation from a former supervisor will carry a lot of weight because your future supervisor will probably read it and be convinced that they should hire you.


You can also ask a co-worker, especially a more experienced (or an upper level) one, to write you a letter of recommendation. A letter from a co-worker might not carry the same weight as a letter from your supervisor, but they can still write you a letter because they likely know you well in a professional sense. They can provide specific examples that demonstrate your strong work ethic, since they work alongside you every day. A letter from a co-worker can be very powerful. For this reason, it’s a good idea to ask a co-worker for a letter of recommendation.

Someone you know who is connected to the company

If you know someone who is connected to the company you are applying to, you should ask them for a recommendation letter. Use the connections you have! Because the company already trusts this person, they will take this recommendation letter very seriously. Of course, this person might not know you well in a professional sense, so their letter might not carry as much weight as your former supervisor’s letter. This person’s letter could be a secondary or supplementary letter. Still, if you can, you can ask someone you know who is connected to the company for a recommendation letter.

Someone you volunteered with

If you have done some volunteering, you can reach out to the supervisor of your volunteer program an ask for a letter of recommendation. Even though your volunteer program supervisor was not technically your boss, they will still be able to comment on your work ethic and your ability to work with a team. Including a letter from someone you volunteered with will show your future employer that you care about giving back to the community. Volunteering a great way to prove you are a well-rounded person. Your volunteer program supervisor can be a helpful resource, even if your volunteer experience was not in the field you want to pursue a career in.


If you are a recent college graduate, it is acceptable to ask your professor for a letter of recommendation. (Bonus points if the professor is somehow affiliated with the school or company you’re applying to, or if you have done research/a project under their direction.) You should try to ask a professor who knows you well, so it’s best to ask someone who has taught more than one of your classes. It’s even better if you can ask a professor that you have worked with (for example, if you have worked in their lab). These professors will be better prepared to write about your work ethic. Professors are great people to ask for recommendation letters.

Do NOT ask family members for a letter

It’s an important rule that you cannot ask family members (including spouses) for recommendation letters, whether it is for a job or for school. Because they are family members, hiring managers will believe their views of you will be biased. In other words, it’s a conflict of interest. It’s also likely that your family members do not know you in a professional environment, so their input might not be so relevant to the job you applied for. For those reasons, you should not ask family members to write you a letter of recommendation for a job.

Be careful when asking personal friends

Unlike asking family members, asking personal friends for a recommendation is not a definite no-no. It’s not automatically a conflict of interest. However, you should have a good reason for asking your friend. For example, is your friend an alumnus (or alumna) of the school you are applying to? Do they have an affiliation with the company you’re applying to? Did they volunteer with you? If so, it would be acceptable to ask them for a letter of recommendation. If not, your friend might not be the best person to ask for a recommendation letter.

If you need a letter of recommendation, there are many people in your life you can ask.

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