How to ask for an Engineer Letter of Recommendation [with Template]

Dan Klos
Pass Interviews
min read

A couple of years ago, becoming a software engineering student felt like the right call. All software engineering students had to do was enroll in an engineering program and complete a few projects to get a six figure salary.

However, as time passed and a large lump sum of students decided to graduate school with a computer science degree, the programming job market became saturated and it became extremely difficult for applicants to get an engineering job. Thus, the only way to stand out from the sea of candidates was to attain a reference letter from someone internally.

Now it's almost impossible to get your foot through the door into a new company without a reference letter. Businesses want to know that they're investing time and effort to onboard a high-quality candidate who will be a great fit for the team.

In the dynamic field of engineering, where both innovation and precision are required, a well-crafted letter of recommendation can be the only reason that a company would even consider your application. A professional letter of recommendation speaks volumes about an engineer's competencies, ability, work ethic, and fit for the role.

It's pivotal that you ask for a letter of recommendation from HR professionals, engineering managers, peers or even fellow engineers to articulate your defining qualities and boost your career path.

This comprehensive guide shows you how to construct an engineer recommendation letter that stands out for all the right reasons. We also provide a downloadable recommendation letter template that your reference can fill out with details about your connection and collaboration together.

Why Engineers Need Recommendation Letters

When an engineer wants to advance their career (with the same organization or at a new role) a letter of recommendation can be the catalyst that boosts their credibility. Some companies won't even consider an applicant without a well-written letter of recommendation.

An engineer's letter of recommendation serves several purposes. Beyond validating the resume, it endorses the candidate's application by a respected professional, offering insights that can't be analyzed from a standard CV. 

A strong recommendation letter can:

  • Vouch for your technical skills
  • Validate your experience and achievements
  • Provide insight into your character and work ethic

How to Find a Reference

The first step to securing a recommendation letter is identifying the right person to be your reference. There are many steps you should consider before choosing who can write a positive letter of recommendation for you.

  • Consider what you're applying for
  • Choose the people who know you best or someone who's an industry expert
  • Ask early
  • Provide a template
  • Be clear with deadlines
  • Keep in touch with your referrers

Consider these methods when looking for someone to write your letter of recommendation:

  1. Find someone that works at the company you want to apply for.
  2. Identify a supervisor or professor who you’ve worked closely with and has first-hand knowledge of your abilities
  3. Look for someone who can speak to your strengths in the context of the position, team or program you’re applying for.
  4. Choose a reference within the industry you’re pursuing, as their reputation can carry more weight.

Getting in Contact with Your Referrer

Contacting a Personal Referral

Before making any requests, it’s crucial to get back in touch with your potential referrer. Reach out through professional channels such as email or LinkedIn with a polite reintroduction and update them with your current plans or achievements. This can also serve to jog their memory about your work. The best referrals to go after is someone who was part of your team. Remember, to be personal and check in with them first.

Contacting a Referral through LinkedIn

If you want to make a meaningful impression, follow these steps:

Step 1: Use the Search Bar on LinkedIn and type "Title/Industry : Hiring"

Step 2: Select People

Step 3: Find a person that works at a company you'd like to work for. 

Step 4: Instead of clicking "Message" (LinkedIn will try to get you to upgrade to Premium), click Connect and write a personalized messaged to get your foot through the door.

Some LinkedIn members will be happy to write a reference letter for you, but some may not connect. Don't be discouraged by the first few messages you send out! Perseverance is key in this game.

Try reaching out to 5 people from the same company. If you don't get a reply after a couple of days, send them a follow-up message. If they still don't reply, you should apply to the job anyways.

How to Ask for a Referral

Asking for a recommendation letter can be daunting. On one hand, you may be lucky enough to reach out to the right person on the right day. On the other hand, you can be ignored just like every other LinkedIn bot. The trick to locking in successful reference letters is how you ask.

Asking on LinkedIn

You will never get reference letters from strangers if you send messages like these:

  • “Please refer me to your company”
  • “Hi Sir, I am the most talented Coder of my College and I have won many hackathons. I think I can be the best fit for the SDE role in your company”
  • “Can you check if there are open positions for me in your company?”

All these messages have one thing in common: they're generic. These messages are unlikely to receive attention or responses because of:

  • No personalization
  • No specifications of what role you're interested in
  • No mention of relevant experience or qualifications
  • No Resume attached
  • No Job ID

Just remember, people don’t have enough time or simply don't care. Most people want to help, but if you don’t give them the specific info, you'll probably be ignored.

Since LinkedIn limits connection request notes to just 30-40 words, optimize your profile's headline to attract your connection's attention. List items such as:

  • Outstanding Achievements (Best with Metrics)
  • Your School
  • Current Companies
  • Previous Companies
  • Award Certifications

Then send them this short template to ask for a recommendation letter:

“Hi [Name of Person]

I am reaching out to you to ask if you can refer me for the [Job ID].

I have an experience 2 years of working in [Coampany/Companies] and I am highly proficient in [Skills]

I am attaching my Resume with this message.

Please review it, and see if you can refer me for the Job ID/Role.

Thanks & Regards”

This message is specific and can get you way more replies than you expect by following these guidelines:

  1. Be clear and direct with your request, ensuring that the individual knows that you're looking for a quality recommendation.
  2. Offer relevant information and materials—resume, work samples, transcripts—so they can draft a detailed letter.
  3. Express appreciation for their time and willingness to help, acknowledging that they are doing you a favor. It may be nice to offer them some sort of compensation for their help.

That's the best message you can send given the character limit restriction in LinkedIn connection requests.

Asking through Cold Email

If you're really adamant about getting hired at a specific job. We recommend that you research who the hiring manager is at that company and find their email.

Then you can send a well-crafted email that looks something like this:

Dear [Referrer’s Name],

I trust this message finds you well. I am reaching out to request a personal recommendation for [specific opportunity you’re interested in pursuing, e.g., the Mechanical Engineering master’s program at ABC University]. Given our successful collaboration and your expertise within the field, I believe your endorsement would significantly strengthen my application.

I have attached my updated resume and would be happy to provide any other additional information or materials you might need. Your support in this endeavor is immensely important to me, and I am appreciative of your consideration.

If it is convenient for you, I’d be happy to stop by your office and discuss this further.

Thank you for your time and support. I look forward to the possibility of working together once more.

Best regards,

[Your Name]

Alternatively, you can use a tool like Loom to record a personalized video to stand out.

Reaching out to their Content Creators

Another way to find a referral is to:

  1. Find a company you’re interested in
  2. Research where they post their content (blog, social media, etc.)
  3. Find the content creator’s contact details
  4. Ask them a question regarding their content

This method is more natural than sending a random email to a stranger. By asking them to elaborate on the topic they covered, you are showing genuine interest and building a relationship with that person. Relationships lead to referrals.

Asking Referrer Who to Contact within the Company When Applying

Another smart move is to ask your referrer for the best contact within the company or institution to address the recommendation. This ensures the letter reaches the right person and is filed with your application.

An inquiry might look like:

"Dear [Referrer’s Name],

Thank you so much for your help, [Referrer’s Name]. I wanted to share your letter with the hiring manager at [Company]. Do you have their email address or could you intro us via email?

Talk soon,

[Your Name]

[Template] Reference Letter for Engineers

Download this sample letter of recommendation template to write a strong recommendation. Even if you're not an expert at writing letters this template is a foundation to help you write a great letter of recommendation. It includes detailed examples of how your team member or former employee worked together to finish complex projects and other mentions about their character.

Download Recommendation Letter Template

Key Takeaways

  • Be proactive with your recommendation letter to ensure your referrer has enough time to draft a thoughtful and compelling letter.
  • Contact multiple references from the same company
  • Follow up with your reference requests after a few days
  • Email the company's hiring manager
  • Always offer to provide any materials that might help in the reference letter-writing process.
  • Be gracious, and follow up with a thank you note once you’ve obtained the letter.

The current job market is extremely tough and saturated for engineers. Whether you've worked a Fortune 500 companies or you're a recent graduate, everyone is struggling to reach the same goals.

A recommendation letter may be the only thing keeping you from evolving your engineering career. By following these detailed instructions and using the provided templates, you can streamline the recommendation process and ensure you present the best version of yourself to your future opportunities. Now, go on and ask for those recommendations with confidence and persistence.

Pro Tip:

There’s also a way for you to get referrals without getting a recommendation letter. 

Referral codes are assigned to employees with the goal of properly tracking referrals. Some companies may even reward employees with a bonus if their referrals are hired.

How to find referral codes on LinkedIn

  1. Type [your position] referral code in the search bar
  2. Click People
  3. You’ll find a list of people who are giving away their referral codes for free!

Although referral codes are easier to attain, recommendation letters will still hold more weight when employers are reviewing application candidates.

Dan Klos
Co-Founder & CEO @applypass
Dan has spent the last 8 years helping software engineers level up their career. He created Outco to help over 2,000+ engineers secure top-paying job offers. Currently, his entire focus is on building ApplyPass to aid engineers in getting 40% more interviews and saving more than 5 hours per week on job applications. When he's not at work, he's deeply involved in activism, challenging hikes, and canoeing.
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