You’ve just asked for a letter of recommendation … now I need some things from you

This year, I wrote so many recommendation letters that I decided to put these “tips” into an online post so that I don’t have to continue to type my “list” into emails.  These are the things that I need to have from you when I contemplate or agree to writing a letter of recommendation. Perhaps other professors and academic professionals can share this list with their students.

Ten things to include in a “Recommendation Letter Request” packet

1.       Copy of resume or CV with lists of publications, presentations, participation in organizations (university level, regional, and national.)

2.       Research Statement

3.       GRE Scores (required for undergrads who are applying to graduate programs) – OR – Teaching Philosophy & Summary of students’ ratings w/list of courses taught (required for graduate students or postdocs who are applying for fellowships, faculty positions, or other appointments)

4.       List of places to which you’re applying

5.       Bullet point list of your own highlights (differentiators, innovations, superlatives)

6.       Electronic list of links for departments to which you’re applying; include the link for the advertisements or position announcements if applicable

7.       Transcript and GPA

8.       Due Dates

9.       Addresses, list of websites where letters should be sent (with labels if hard copies of letters are required.)

10.    Links to your websites

Please present all of the above information in both soft copy and hard copy (in a folder).

After you have gathered the information, please schedule a meeting with me so that I can talk with you further. If you are local, we must meet in person. If I am going to be at a conference that we are both attending, we can talk there. If you are in a state or country that is out of range for an in-person meeting, we can schedule a phone or Skype meeting. Meetings must be scheduled at least one month prior to the due date for your application.

Questions that I ask myself as I consider saying yes or no.

  • How do I know you?
  • How do you  fit the description (job, grad school application, fellowship?)
  • What is your experience? Is it relevant to the position that you’re applying for?
  • Am I able to speak to specific examples where I’ve experienced your expertise?
  • If you’ve worked for me, did you do a good job?
  • If I’ve given you advice in the past, did you follow through?
  • Why you are the best fit for the position?
  • Am I willing to put my reputation on the line for you?

For all of my students who ask me for a letter, I will be directing you to this post so that you can see exactly what I’m expecting from you, please respond accordingly.  I do not write weak letters.  I do not write “lukewarm” letters.  Therefore, I will not write a letter for you unless I can write it from a position of strength.  If I agree to write a letter for you, I give you my word that my recommendation will be very strong.


Thanks to Amanda Dove, originator of “the folder.” Amanda was my former University of Maryland College Park (Department of Hearing and Speech) Phonetics TA, who went on to receive a Doctorate in Audiology (Au.D) at Gallaudet. She was the first student to give me a packet of information after I agreed to write her a letter. The “folder” is now required for all students who ask me for a letter.