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. 

9 replies »

  1. Hey Dr. Tull!

    I remember when I first met you and you did a workshop on this. I am now applying to grad school and I definitely used these tools; especially putting this information in a bright folder so that all my recommending professors would not lose it!

    They were very appreciative that I took the time and it made them more willing to really focus on writing a great letter to the schools and & fellowship programs of which I am applying.

    -Arielle Benjamin, Howard University

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Arielle! I’m so glad that the advice helped!! It was good to see you recently. I hope that everything goes will with your upcoming process. Please keep me posted. I’ll be giving the same workshop in St. Louis for NSBE, so I’m looking forward to sharing the information with more people. Take care!


  2. Another comment came in to my Facebook wall:

    “Great post Dr. Tull. It’s funny but I just learned a viable tid bit of info about recommendation letters. When requesting a letter ask for a ‘favorable’ recommendation letter. At first this seems obvious – of course you want them to write you a favorable letter but they might not write a favorable letter. Iif you ask for a favorable letter and they cannot write you one then they should decline. You do not want unfavorable letters floating around about you!”

    -Jocelyn Reader, Ph.D.
    Greenebaum Cancer Center
    University of Maryland Medical School

    [Reprinted with permission.]


  3. From my Facebook wall:

    “You are the reason I was accepted for my masters prgm! I still have the letter you wrote for me!”

    -Erin Molin Reichert
    March 4, 2011

    [Reprinted with permission.]

    Erin is one of my former studentfrom the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was a student in my Phonetics class and an undergraduate researcher in my Speech Technology Lab.


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