Letters of Recommendation

Most job postings request at least three letters of recommendation. Carefully consider who you’ll ask to recommend you. Each of your recommenders should know you and some aspect of your work fairly well. 

  • Think strategically about who should write a letter of recommendation for you and why. At the very least, you should have someone who can comment on both your research skills and your teaching skills.
  • Prior to requesting recommendation letters, discuss your career plans with the faculty member.
  • When asking someone to serve as a recommender, phrase your request so that the individual can decline graciously. You might say “I’m applying for XYZ position at XLY university and would like for you to serve as a reference on my behalf.  Do you feel you know me and my work well enough to serve as a strong reference?”
  • Follow up with an email confirming the faculty member’s willingness to serve as a reference (thank them as well!). In your email, explicitly state that you’re giving the recommender permission to discuss your educational performance with potential employers. This protects your recommender—and the information he/she provides about your educational record—from any legal concerns related to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
  • Provide your recommenders the following items:
    1. A list of the individuals/institutions to which you would like the recommendation letters to be sent.
    2. The due dates for sending the letters (about a week before deadline, check back to make sure everything's on schedule).
    3. A copy of the job announcement, listing specific requirements.
    4. A copy of your CV and any other job search materials (teaching statement, research agenda), if applicable.
    5. A brief statement (two or three sentences) discussing the reasons why you’re applying for the particular position.
    6. Stamped and addressed envelopes, if hard copies are to be mailed.
Give your recommenders plenty of lead-time and consider the time necessary for mail delivery. Keep in mind that they’re very busy and may not be able to respond to a last-minute request.