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I am leaving my job soon and am looking for letters of recommendation. My problem is, I've worked more closely with my customers than my project lead (not technical) or manager (the customers usually talk to me first and rarely even if CC my lead if I don't). So in this case, the customer has seen my work more closely than my leadership and can better attest to my abilities, communication skills, and performance.

Are recommendations from customers viable, or will they be largely dismissed? Secondarily, can they be more useful than letters from managers that don't really know your work at all?

Note: I already have a letter from the only coworker I've really worked with, but I'm looking to get more than one for good measure.

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closed as off topic by Jarrod Roberson, HLGEM, ChrisF Jun 23 '12 at 19:14

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In defense of the on-topicness of this question, the FAQ recommends: "Most career advice questions are specific to the poster's situation and run the risk of being closed. Try to generalize your situation into a good subjective question." I think this situation definitely applies to other people; lots of programmers are the sole supporters for their application(s). –  dafrazzman May 4 '11 at 1:26
Have you tried using LinkedIn recommendation function? Worked for me. –  staticx May 4 '11 at 1:27
That sounds like a method of requesting recommendations... not quite what I'm looking for. If not, do you have a link? –  dafrazzman May 4 '11 at 1:32
Where are you located? In the US it is next to impossible to get any kind of official recommendation from any corporate organization or a personal recommendation from anyone that works at that organization for legal reasons. Even a positive review might cause you to not get a job and they could be sued for it. –  Jarrod Roberson Jun 23 '12 at 17:30

6 Answers 6

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Yes every recommendation helps a bit.

I personally (as an employer of developers) would look favourably on such a recommendation for a few reasons:

  • You didn't stick to the standard script. Developers who think outside the box are gold, I will take them ESPECIALLY if they think about business / real world not just the geeksphere.
  • Your (and thus soon to be MY) clients like you and respect you. This is critical for long term development. If there is an issue clients will work with someone they like and blame someone they don't.
  • You have actually developed a relationship with a client, which is VERY rare for developers, thus it would set you apart and shows promise for your career as a whole. This trait is VERY sought after, especailly if your capable of translating between the 2 worlds.
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A letter from a customer might help and it couldn't hurt. Typically you'll want three letters of recommendation, preferably glowing ones from former bosses or tech leads, but if your customer is knowledgeable about the kind of work you did then a recommendation from one such person might help you get an interview.

Note that this should not be a "gee whiz" kind of recommendation, where the guy says "I don't know anything about programming, but Bud sure got all the doohickeys and thingamabobs lined up for us real good." Instead it should knowledgeably discuss the kinds of work you did, how well what you built performed for them, how you were to work with (important), and so on.

Note also that I said such a rec might help you get an interview. That's all you can expect from any recommendation other than one written by someone at the company you want to work for, or the president's nephew, etc. Once you land an interview you are on your own. But you probably know that already.

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Good points.. My main POC is pretty sharp, so hopefully it won't come out like that (he tried to finagle write access for the production database). –  dafrazzman May 7 '11 at 2:50

I agree with the other answers here but reading your question made me think "do they not respect the opinion of their boss?" and "will they be someone who may build relationships with customers and go around the normal reporting heirarchy?" I still think it is a good idea but just be careful that you don't come off wrong.

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Yes. Suggests that it makes the reference from his boss even more important. Last thing you want is the guy who was encouraged to leave because he listened to the customer and not the boss. –  Мסž May 4 '11 at 5:09
Sounds like the boss is the one who should leave if the customer wasn't being listened to :) –  gbjbaanb Jun 17 '12 at 21:22

Client recommendations are a definete plus point. They will add weight to your resume. But I feel that your manager's recommendation is more important.

Your recommendation letters will be seen by two different (sets of) personell: the technical guys whose team you are joining and the HR folks of the company. My understanding is that HR folks will be more interested in what your own manager has to say about you more than what your client says. For the technical guys both will be equally good. SO do take your manager's recommendation.

Even if your manager may not keep a day to day watch over your activites, I'm sure he/she is aware of your overall status. Thats because , if the client is unhappy with you, they will definetly let your manager know. So if your manager doesnt hear anything from the client, it means it is a good sign that you are doing well.

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Not only should you get letters of recommendation from these customers, you should ask them to be references you can use during the interview process.

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You absolutely should get letters of recommendation from customers/clients. My friend collects these letters in a three-ring binder, each in its own vinyl envelope. He carries the binder around to interviews. I laugh and needle him but it works great for quite a few reasons.

For one thing, the new hiring manager might be shy about cold-calling his references; the letters give the manager a kind of springboard for his telephone calls.

When he submits a résumé, he just bundles copies of the relevant letters right along with the package. Body shops just love it: there's never a problem chasing you around to get references.

Plus he has those letters a few months or years later when his references have moved on and he can't find them.

Of course, it's a pain for your present manager to sit down and write a letter. You might hesitate to ask him to take that trouble. My friend solves the problem by writing the letter himself, printing it on company letterhead if possible, and asking the manager just to sign the thing.

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