Open with a short, but enthusiastic, bit of praise. Let the company know right off the bat that you believe in this person. You don’t have to be over the top or insincere, but a positive note to start will make a big difference. It makes me extremely happy to recommend Michael for the position of Director of Development at XYX Corporation. Any company should count themselves lucky to have an employee as bright, friendly, and dedicated as Gina. No matter what she does, Helena Bonham does it well.
When should I approach letter writers? What if I plan to take some time off before I go to graduate school? Professors and supervisors are generally pleased to write on your behalf; however, they are usually involved in many activities. Faculty are especially busy during the months of November and December. Be considerate of your letter writers’ time and approach them at least two months before you need the letter. If you plan to take some time off before going to graduate school, don’t wait until you want to apply to graduate school to ask for letters. Your professors could be on sabbatical, or you may not be fresh in their minds anymore. So, ask professors for a "general" letter of recommendation before you leave Cal and place their letters in a safe place, like the Career Center’s Letter Service. When you are ready to apply to graduate school, contact professors again, and ask them to update your letters.