How to Decline a Letter of Recommendation Request

Writing a letter of recommendation for someone should feel as an honor or a privilege but what happens when someone unfavorable asks you to write a request in their honor and their name? Do you simply state no or do you do it out of pity or wanting to be nice?

You should never write a letter of recommendation for someone that you absolutely don’t feel is right for a position so in this case, you should consider declining a letter of recommendation request by writing your own letter back to the sender.


Starting to Write


Greet the sender and thank them for taking the time to consider you as a recommendation.


Refuse them and let the sender down gently, don’t use too harsh of criticism, this doesn’t have to be lengthy.


You don’t have to write a detailed novel as to why they’re being denied, but simply state why even if it’s something such as not sharing the same views on the work place or university they’re trying to gain entry into.


If you know of an alternative person who will be more than happy to give them a positive recommendation, then do so.

Sample Letters

Sample Letter for Declining a recommendation request

Dear Marcus Reber

While I have received your request to write a letter of recommendation, I am afraid that I’m going to have to respectfully decline for a couple of reasons.

  1. We really didn’t work together too much and I didn’t get to see too much of your skills outside of the mathematics world that I taught in. The position you’re applying for requires a great deal of history research and knowledge and I have no idea if you’re knowledgeable in that field or not
  2. While you were a great student most of the time, you were often late to class without a valid excuse.

I wish you the best in life but I’m afraid I will not be able to help you with this recommendation letter request.


Professor Tomlin

Dear Alix Wallaby

Alix, I’ve reviewed your request over and over and I’m afraid that I have to inform you that I will not write a letter of recommendation for you. You were asking me to write a letter of recommendation so that you could gain easier entry into the Special Forces: Selection and Assessment Program that I feel you are highly unqualified for.

I firstly feel that you won’t make the physical requirements for Physical Training and I also feel that you’re not motivated enough. If you’re trying to skip out on a Unit event such as training, they’ll see straight through that and send you back here.

I wish you the best and I hope you make it, but you’ll have to go apply to Assessment and Selection without my recommendation letter.  I wish you the best.


Sergeant Morrose