Inside Higher Ed has an article this morning, “Getting the Letters Right,” with advice for people asking for letters of recommendation, and nudging grad students and junior scholars to mentor your mentors into providing quality letters of recommendation on time. It’s good advice, and it all boils down to providing your letter-writers lots of details about you and about the job/s or fellowship/s to which you’re applying, and giving them plenty of notice before the letters are due. In my experience as a junior job- and fellowship-seeker, nothing was more anxiety-producing than wondering whether or not those letters of recommendation were sent on time. Now, with digital systems, letter-writers are prompted to submit letters on time by the institutions to which their students or colleagues are applying–at least, that’s been my experience with some recent letters I’ve written on behalf of professional colleagues. But–what they say remains (or should remain, I suppose) a mystery to the applicants.
In my experience as a faculty member and as a veteran of several search committees, I’m happy to report that the vast, vast, vast majority of letters of recommendation arrive punctually and they do their job of fluffing the job candidate thoroughly and fulsomely, if not also extravagantly. People who have the honor of training Ph.D. students recognize that the successes of their students will reflect on them, so that’s usually sufficient motivation for most grad advisors and committee members to do their duty. However, the occasional loser of a letter comes across the transom– Continue Reading »