Asking Recommendation Letters from People You've Never or Hardly Met

  1. 0
    I have a question about the etiquette of meeting higher-ups, asking recommendations from them, and how to offer a means of meeting and compensation for their time without it seeming like a bribe. This has to do with my current situation, but I know that there will be others within my work environment. I'd really like to hear from people inside and outside of academia, and therefore keep this within General Nursing.

    I'm in an online RN-to-BSN program, and only go in for exams. I'm applying for a scholarship that requires letters of recommendation from two instructors and the dean or director of the nursing program. I've met three of my instructors in person, and I think that I have built enough rapport with them that I could ask them for the letters. I have never met the dean, and don't know how to break the ice or ask for such a favor.

    My plan so far: I'm going to state my situation, and offer to treat them to lunch since we've only met briefly. When offering this, I will briefly state that it's not a bribe, simply a means of meeting, discussing things, and compensation for their time.

    Is this a good tactic, or are there better ways? I also have no idea how to approach the dean of the school.
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  4. 9 Comments so far...

  5. 2
    Thankfully the time I had to get letters, I actually knew the people. Although asking my manager for a letter the week after I got in trouble was stressful. Perhaps for the dean you don't know, invite them to lunch not so much as just for the letter, but to ask for their advice on a number of things. That way it's a "bribe" for their mentorship, rather than just a bribe for the letter.
    For the ones that know you already, just ask for the letter. They're used to writing them, it's part of their job. When I did end up getting what I needed my letters for, I brought my recommenders a small bag of chocolate with a thank you card letting them know my happy news. But beforehand does seem a bit on "bribery" side.
    PeachPie and Hospice Nurse LPN like this.
  6. 7
    I wouldn't ask anyone you don't have a relationship with, and I wouldn't expect them to agree if you did ask. I think the lunch offer is inappropriate.
    mazy, redessa, Nurse_Diane, and 4 others like this.
  7. 14
    Call the dean's office and ask to speak to her (or him). Explain (either to the dean, or to their secretary if they won't just transfer your call to the dean) that you are applying for a scholarship that requires that one of your letters of recommendation come from your dean. Explain that you know they don't know you, but you are hoping that they could write a letter describing the program you're in, including how challenging and rigorous it is, their high standards for admitting people to the program in the first place, and your academic progress thus far. Ask to make an appointment to see them in person (in their office, not a restaurant!), so that you can go over your academic record, as well as to discuss your plans for your future career, so that they can include this in their letter.

    Honesty is always the best policy IMO. Good luck!
    llg, onedayitllbeme, mazy, and 11 others like this.
  8. 4
    Quote from noahsmama
    Call the dean's office and ask to speak to her (or him). Explain (either to the dean, or to their secretary if they won't just transfer your call to the dean) that you are applying for a scholarship that requires that one of your letters of recommendation come from your dean. Explain that you know they don't know you, but you are hoping that they could write a letter describing the program you're in, including how challenging and rigorous it is, their high standards for admitting people to the program in the first place, and your academic progress thus far. Ask to make an appointment to see them in person (in their office, not a restaurant!), so that you can go over your academic record, as well as to discuss your plans for your future career, so that they can include this in their letter.

    Honesty is always the best policy IMO. Good luck!
    This seems like the most straightforward way to proceed. Your intent and motivation will be clear and it should not be a difficult request. Working a lunch into his schedule might actually be more of an inconvenience for someone in a busy administrative role.
    llg, cabanaboy, canesdukegirl, and 1 other like this.
  9. 2
    I agree with making an appointment. Once in there, I'd be honest and mention that you felt a bit uncomfortable about asking her for a reference considering you don't know each other. That could be an ice-breaker, where she could get a feel of the type of character you possess (and could add that to you letter). She may appreciate the official meeting, rather than her writing a blind recommendation for you. I would hope that she would be understanding of your situation (being in the business herself). Good luck, and let us know how it goes
    wooh and canesdukegirl like this.
  10. 2
    I agree with Noahsmama. The dean likely gets requests often for this type of letter. Making an appt to discuss your request is the most professional course of action in this situation. Don't invite them to lunch...you don't want to be buddies; you want them to fulfill a professional request. Having lunch with the dean would open up too many uncomfortable scenarios: where to sit, what to order, making small talk, when to get the waiter's attention so that you get the check, the awkward 'arguing' over who pays for lunch, not to mention the dean's relative discomfort regarding the appropriateness of meeting a student for the first time outside of the office.

    I may be playing the Devil's Advocate here, but I like to consider every angle and view worst case scenarios prior to making a decision, just as I am sure that you do.

    What does your gut say? Do you mentally squirm when you think about asking the dean out to lunch to write this letter for you?

    It would make both of you more comfortable to talk about this in the office. Remember, you aren't asking them to co-sign on a personal loan for you. This isn't a strange request-it is perfectly fine for you to ask for a letter of recommendation. You don't have to offer any sort of 'compensation for their time' because this is part of their job, and they understand that. A nice hand written thank-you note would be in order after your meeting.

    Good luck! I hope you get the scholarships!
    redessa and SentimentalGeek like this.
  11. 1
    I don't like the lunch idea; it comes across as quid pro quo. I think the other recommendations you got were good.
    redessa likes this.
  12. 2
    I agree, being the dean of a nursing program, as well as an instructor, I'm sure they are used to these types of requests. I think asking them to lunch is way to personal, and stepping over the boundaries of the profession/teaching relationship.

    Simply explaining that these letters are required should solve the problem.
    llg and redessa like this.
  13. 0
    I agree with the way Noahsmama says to handle it, and especially in the issues that you want addressed in the reference. The dean doesn't know you, but he/she knows the program, what they look for in a successful candidate, and how you live up to that. Also, discussing your future goals is a good way for the dean to get some insight into who you are -- and he might remember that in the future.

    I also with the posters who point out that this is probably a very normal request for the dean. Yes, and a lunch would probably be a huge time suck for him, not to mention the fact that what do you talk about for the rest of lunch once you've asked for the reference? This is a professional request and lunch would force you into an awkward social interaction.

    Best of luck.


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