Related Pages »

Undergraduate Recommendation Procedures

Most faculty recommenders write between 50 and 200 recommendations a year. It is an important part of our job and you should never feel shy about asking for a recommendation. However, the sheer number means it is easy for us to get confused or miss important details. And that means that it is your job to make sure that we don't get confused. So, the easier you make the recommendation process for your recommenders, the more precise and better their letter will be and the more likely they will be to give you a recommendation in future. Below are my instructions for asking for a recommendation from me, but lots of other faculty send their students to this page so I put this general note first.

Eligibility. I write recommendations for those who have taken a course with me and/or spent significant time with me. I should have knowledge of the person before recommending him or her.

Timeframe. Only under very rare circumstances will I write a recommendation that is due in less than two weeks. It is best to ask me for the recommendation a month in advance. If this is your first time asking me to write you a recommendation, I must have at least two weeks to write it.

Verbal recommendations. You must also ask me in advance about verbal recommendations; that is, whether I am willing to talk to the potential institution, professor, or employer over the phone or in person. That's because, to protect your privacy, I will never give information about you over the phone to someone whom you have not told me would be calling.

Format. Do not make me go through many emails to find all the details. Put all the information (links, forms, addresses, titles, resumes, cover letters, etc.) in or attached to ONE email with a subject heading suitable to the request (e.g., "Info for recommendation for XZ"). If you have sent the information in bits and pieces, send one last email with everything, telling me that it replaces all previous emails, which can now be ignored.

Recommendation Step-by-Step Process

Contact me. If you would like to ask me to write you a recommendation, please contact me by email. Be sure to include information about what the recommendation is for (e.g., a job, fellowship, graduate school) and when the deadline is.

Provide full information. If I agree to write the recommendation, please send me another email and in the body of the email, copy and paste the following list and provide all of the requested information, even if you think I know it:

  • What are you applying for (e.g., nonacademic job, academic job, grant, fellowship)?
  • What is the exact title of the grant, fellowship, job, department, etc.?
  • What is the address of the website that provides an explanation of the grant, fellowship, job, department, etc.? If there is no website, please provide a paragraph describing it.
  • When is the deadline for the recommendation?
  • Is the recommendation supposed to be in the form of a postal letter or entered onto some kind of print or online form? How should the recommendation be submitted: by email, on a website form, or by post? If by email, to which email address should it be sent? If by post, to which postal address should it be sent?
  • What is the name of the person to whom the recommendation should be addressed, along with his or her title? What is the postal address of that person?
  • What is your full official name?
  • What is your preferred gendered pronouns (e.g., she/her/hers; he/him/his; they/them/theirs)?
  • Have I written you a recommendation in the past? 
  • When did we first meet?
  • What course(s) of mine did you take and in what term?
  • What were the titles of some of your best projects/papers? It is wise to attach one of them if you still have them.
  • What makes you particularly suited for this grant, fellowship, job, etc.? (Please put this prose in quotes if it is direct from your application.)
  • What about you do you want me to make sure to mention?

Some other information that you may want to provide (depending on how important the application is, how long it has been since I taught you, or how detailed you want me to be):

  • Who else is writing you a recommendation? (For instance, it helps if I know that I am the only professor writing on your behalf, that the others are former employers.)
  • What kind of applicant do you think they are looking for?
  • Why do you want this particular grant, fellowship, job, etc.? (Please put this prose in quotes if it is direct from your application.)
  • What are your main strengths?
  • What are you career goals?
  • Can you remember any relevant anecdotes that I know about you?
  • What experiences outside of the classroom have we had together?

Attach your application. Attach to the email your own application letter or essay and, if they asked for it, your resume.

Reminders. I will let you know when I submit the recommendation. If you have not heard that I've submitted it, please send me an email a week before the email is due reminding me of the deadline and then another when it is due the next day. It is your responsibility to remind me; you can remind me as much as you want until you hear I've submitted it and I won't be offended.

Sending. Once I am done, I will submit the recommendation online or send it by post through my departmental office. I do not give recommendations to applicants to send.

Graduate Student/Faculty Recommendation Procedures

If you are applying for a faculty job, or jobs, here are the instructions. Please send me ONE email with everything, so that I don't have to go searching through old emails to find all the information. 

  • What is your full official name?
  • What is the recommendation for? TT job, VAP, lecturer, prize, postdoc, non-academic job
  • When did we first meet? On what occasions (e.g., courses, conferences) have we interacted?
  • If I am writing a teaching letter for you, in what term and for how many sections/precepts have you been a teaching assistant for me?
  • Attach your job application letter.
  • Attach your curriculum vitae.
  • Include to whom my letter should be addressed (e.g., Chair of the Search Committee or Prof. X X) and the full address that I should put at the top of my letter (i.e., Prof. X X, University, Hall, City, State, Zip).
  • If you want, attach your best published article. 
  • If you want, attach your book proposal, if you are writing a book.
  • What type(s) of department(s) are you applying to (e.g., history, comparative literature, German)? 
  • What are your main disciplines and scholarly fields?
  • When is the deadline for the recommendation(s)?
  • Will I get an email notice that I need to load the recommendation(s) to a website? Or does the letter need to be submitted another way?  
  • If you need a recommendation for only one or two jobs, send me the posted job descriptions. (Copy and paste them into the email.) If you need a recommendation for many jobs, send me a list of universities, departments, and what they are looking for (e.g., environmental humanities, global Anglophone).

It is also a good idea to provide me with answers to the following questions:

  • What about you do you want me to make sure to mention?
  • What are your main strengths?
  • What are you career goals?
  • In what capacities have I known you?
  • Can you remember any relevant anecdotes that I know about you or our time together?
  • What makes you particularly suited for jobs in this discipline or field? (Please put this prose in quotes if it is direct from your application.)
  • If you are applying to only one job, is there a particular reason you want this exact job? (Please put this prose in quotes if it is direct from your application.)

Reminders. If you have not heard that I've submitted it, please send me an email a week before the email is due reminding me of the deadline and then another when it is due the next day. It is your responsibility to remind me; you can remind me as much as you want until you hear I've submitted it and I won't be offended.