Having reference letters are essential as you embark on a career search. Although these letters are intended to be helpful, many times they are generic, dry, and lack value. Here are 5 tips to ensure you get sizzle in your letter.
- Keep the reference letter current. If you have a letter from an old boss in the early 90s, chances are the person has moved, the firm is closed, or the industry no longer even exists. Source people who know where you work NOW.
- Tell the person the exact type of job you are seeking. Be specific. Let them know the key skills that the readers will be looking for when they are screening candidates.
- In keeping with the previous point, give a gentle reminder to help spur some meaningful content. “Spoon-feed” them with specific, key examples. Use numbers, percentages, timelines, or whatever other relevant quantifiable information makes sense in your industry.
- Soft skills matter. Try your best to ensure the writer emphasizes relevant soft skills such as patience, diplomacy, or sense of humor. If this can be backed up by a specific example, all the better!
- Make sure there is an invitation for further contact or questions if needed. These letters must have contact information in them allowing for any needed follow-up.
Sometimes people are busy and give you free rein to write your own reference letter and they will sign it. If you should be so lucky, these points still apply.
Keep the letter once you get it. Never give away the original. You can scan and email the letter as an image or give a color photocopy to the interviewer.
Hopefully these tips will help you get the “write” letter.