If you’re looking to get a job or apply to college, you’ll likely need a reference letter. Not only can a reference letter set you apart from other applicants, but it can shine a light on your talents in a way that a resume never could. But how do you go about asking someone to be your reference or for a recommendation? Surprisingly, it tends to be more difficult than people realize. So if you’re in need of a letter of recommendation, below are a few tips to ensure you get the best letter possible.

Don’t ask the first person you think of. 
Before you can even ask someone for a reference letter, you need to decide who you’re going to ask. It’s important that you not choose just your favorite person, but rather someone with a strong work ethic, leadership experience, and strong writing skills.

Give the person you’re asking an out. 
Especially at the end of the school year, when professors are asked by dozens of students for letters of recommendation, your first choice might not have enough time to dedicate to your letter. Make it clear that while you would love them to be your reference, you understand that they may not be available.

Make sure your reference knows they’re you reference. 
Never give out someone’s name or number without their permission. And even if they do agree to be your reference, let them know immediately after an interview that you used them as a reference, and that they should be on the lookout for a phone call from the employer you interviewed with.

Always ask politely. 
Writing a letter of recommendation, or being someone’s reference is a big responsibility — one that former employers and professors don’t have to take on. So always be sincere, warm, and polite when you ask.

If you or someone you know is looking to find their path on the way to success while having a learning or emotional disability, Debra Solomon of Spectrum Strategies offers group and individual coaching services.