To land a job or get into a university, we usually need someone to vouch for us. It can be tough to ask—recommenders are typically more senior than us, they’re busy, and we don’t always know where we stand in their eyes. When we work up the courage to ask, sometimes the request comes out polite and charming. But more often than we realize, we end up saying or writing the wrong thing.
Here are some of the most ineffective requests that I’ve seen as a manager and a professor, along with a running commentary on what a cynical recommender might read between the lines. My hope is that we’ll all get a little bit more thoughtful about who, how, and when we ask.
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