How to Use a Personal Recommendation to Get a Job


Employers love a tight job market with a high rate of unemployment. It gives them the opportunity to choose from many excellent candidates rather than simply trying to find the best fit among those who apply. That means they need to gather as much information as they can about each candidate. One way they do that is by asking for personal recommendations.

Unlike professional recommendations, which address your performance in a particular job, personal recommendations tend to speak to who you are. A good personal recommendation highlights your character and draws attention to personality traits that would be applicable to any position. Here are some things to know about how to use a personal recommendation to get a job.

What is a Personal Recommendation?

Think of a personal recommendation in terms of a product endorsement. It’s as if your favorite actor endorsed a new product by saying, “I use this, and you should, too. Here’s why…”. A personal recommendation serves the same purpose. The person writing the recommendation is basically saying, “This person has my trust and respect, and you should hire him right away.”

What Should be Included?

A personal recommendation talks about characteristics that can apply to any job. Here are some things it should include:

  • Who the person writing the recommendation is
  • What your connection is
  • Why they’re writing the recommendation
  • Their general impression of you
  • Specific personality/character traits that make you likely to succeed

Whom Should you ask?

It’s best to stay away from family members and significant others. However, just about anybody else who knows you well can be a great source for a recommendation. Possibilities include:

  • Teachers/professors
  • Mentors
  • Volunteer agencies
  • Neighbors
  • Alumnae associations
  • Neighborhood associations


If you can, get recommendations from people in a variety of these categories. Knowing that people in several different capacities give you their seal of approval can go a long way toward convincing a potential employer of your value.

Do you Know a Source for a Platinum Recommendation?

A platinum recommendation comes from someone who knows the hiring manager or recruiter personally. Just as you’re more likely to trust a product recommendation from a close friend than one from a stranger, hiring managers give more weight to recommendations that come from people they know. Fortunately, finding a platinum recommendation often turns out to be pretty easy. All it takes is a little research, and the best tool is right at your fingertips: social media. For this task, LinkedIn is by far the best, because it’s set up to help you find connections between yourself and potential employers.

  • Start by doing a search for the profile of the person to whom you want to send a recommendation. When you find it, look in the top, right corner. If you see a little number there, you’re connected. Now you just have to figure out how.
  • Scroll down and look in the sidebar on the right. You’ll see a section labeled “How you’re connected.” Anybody listed in that section is a great potential source for a personal recommendation.
  • What if there are several steps in the connection between you and your potential employer? That’s not a problem. Simply ask the person writing the recommendation to make a reference to the connection: “Hi, I’m Bob Smith. My college roommate was John Jones, whom I believe you know through your work with the Red Cross.”

While LinkedIn is ideal for finding shared professional connections, you may also want to check Facebook and Google+. Facebook lets you see whether you have any friends in common and, if so, who they are. Google+ lets you see if you have any of the same people in your circles.

How to ask

This can be the hardest part for some people, but it doesn’t have to be. Business relationships are built on shared favors, so no one is likely to view your request as an imposition. Some people prefer a phone call because it seems more personal. Others prefer email because they think it doesn’t put the person the spot like a phone call does. Either way, just say something like, “We’ve known each other a long time, and I’ve always valued your guidance. I wonder if you’d be willing to write a letter of recommendation that explains our background and talks about any qualities you think would be valuable to an employer.”

Since not everyone is comfortable writing, you may want to refer the person to some sites that have templates for recommendations. Some people may even ask you to write the letter yourself so they can sign it. That’s fine, too; just try to be fair and objective. Take the opportunity to mention the qualities you want to highlight, but don’t be so effusive in your praise that it makes it awkward for your contact to sign it.

A personal recommendation is a great way to get a job, especially if you can find a shared connection between yourself and the person who’s doing the hiring. There’s nothing like hearing, “Don’t let this person get away,” from a trusted colleague.