How to Request a Recommendation Letter
Ask for a recommendation letter from people who know you and your capabilities, i.e., former employers, teachers, coaches, community or corporate leaders, influential friends—people who have known you a long time. Relatives are not a good choice. Three recommendation letters are enough.
Be sure to give them enough time (3-4 weeks, if possible) to write the recommendation letter.
When you talk to them, state your goals and suggest what they might write to help you achieve those goals. Coach them to be specific; general praise is a waste of space. Don't be shy. A recommendation letter is a sales letter to sell you. Now is the time to brag!
Follow up your request for a recommendation letter by writing a review of your conversation. Give suggestions for your recommendation letter. You may need to put words in their mouths. When you send them the follow-up letter, be sure to include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Then, feel free to contact them in a couple of weeks to confirm that they are aware of your deadlines.
Once you receive your recommendation letter, send a thank-you note. Tell them about your success and how they helped you.
Write only complimentary, yet factual, observations. Avoid unflattering or derogatory remarks. If you cannot do this, you should decline to write a letter of recommendation.
Remember that potential employers are adept at 'reading between the lines,' and any negative implication may destroy a person's chance at getting the new job.