Be Selective About Who You Ask for a Recommendation
The most important step is to make sure that you choose enthusiastic supporters as reference givers. A common mistake is subtly pressuring reluctant writers. This can be a fatal error when you are furnishing confidential references, but can also backfire even when you get to see a recommendation that appears to be positive. That's because employers will often follow up with your references. Probing questions during a conversation could reveal damaging information from reference givers who may have doubts about your qualifications, but didn't mention them in writing.
The best strategy is to give your prospective reference writers an out. Let them know that you are looking to assemble a strong set of recommendations and ask if they are comfortable supplying a highly positive reference.
Use Email to Request a Recommendation
When asking someone to recommend you, send an email request. This way reluctant writers can carefully choose the wording for their response and don't have to look you in the eye in order to decline. You might say: "Do you know me in a way that would allow you to write a really positive recommendation"? With your initial request, you should also mention that you will provide some additional background information to help should they choose to write for you. Here are sample email letters and messages asking for a recommendation.
What Information to Provide
When a prospective writer confirms an interest in acting as a reference, you should provide them with as much information as possible, including the following:
1. A copy of your resume will provide the person giving you the recommendation a comprehensive summary of your background.
2. A copy of your cover letter if they are writing a recommendation for a specific job. Your cover letter will show them how you are framing your case and might spur them to build upon some of the themes you have presented.
3. The address to your LinkedIn profile especially if you have included some highly laudatory recommendations and skill endorsements. Your recommenders may be more comfortable praising you after seeing these positive comments.
4. A detailed summary of the duties and accomplishments which relate to their exposure to your work can help them to be more specific and convincing as they write for you. This will be especially useful if some time has passed since you have worked with them.
5. A copy of the job advertisement so they can see what the employer is expecting and tailor their reference to the position if they would like.
6. Supply a copy of your personal statement if you are applying for graduate school.