No more letters of recommendation!


It is a little ironic for me, as an instructor, to read an article in which the REQUESTOR of the letter of recommendation is making an argument for changing the process. Often it is the professor or former boss that is inundated by requests for letters and imagines a better process. However, it may be that the process could be improved on both sides. 

The author of this article has requested TWENTY-FOUR recommendation letters in the current year so far--and expects to ask for more. Why? Because they are required by grants, potential employers, internships, fellowships, residencies and others. Rosen, the author, suggests that the process could be streamlined by using one or more of the following:

Until there is a pervasive standard, however, there will be striving, duplication of efforts, occasional duplicity, and other problems. 

Source: "Please don't ask me for another letter of recommendation," by Kenneth R. Rosen, New York Times: Preoccupations, December 1, 2017.

Follow up:

  • Have you asked for letters of recommendation? What was your process? (include advance time, links provided, number of recommendations requested, and whether or not you thanked your recommenders) How did things turn out? What might you do differently next time, based on experience, or on having read this article?
  • Have you ever written a letter of recommendation? Describe the process and your feelings about it. 
  • Comment on the point of view expressed by the author of the linked article. Start by describing the hypothetical iRecommend, and how it might work.
  • Try this exercise: a subordinate with whom you have had several issues asks you for a letter of recommendation. On one hand, you can't think of what you might say that would be positive. On the other hand, you would REALLY LIKE him to get a new job. Write two or more drafts of recommendation letters aimed at meeting multiple objectives (including Doing the right thing; Meeting your own needs; Giving the subordinate the benefit of the doubt; and Skirting your responsibilities).