Answered by Stephanie, Hiring Expert at AT&T Inc., on Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Hello, and thanks for putting voice to a question that comes up a lot!
Before diving in, it’s important to note that more and more companies now have policies that discourage, or even prevent, managers from providing letters of recommendation for various reasons. Other managers may simply not feel comfortable with the request. Either way, make sure you’re prepared to be politely declined.
To answer your question, the method of delivery is mostly negligible. It may be beneficial if your former boss is passionate about referring you and wants to draft a custom letter to each company about why you’re a great fit, or maybe has an existing relationship or connection with your prospective employer, but otherwise it’s mostly important that your prospective employer just get their eyes on the reference.
My suggestion? Ask for a glowing letter of reference that includes his full contact details and an invitation for prospective employers to contact him. Make certain in your interviews you draw attention to the letter, as well as his exuberant invitation to contact him. If they seem interested or you’re really passionate then feel free to ask your ex-boss to do you this favor, but do yourself and him the courtesy of saving it for a select few instances and not everywhere you’ve applied.