From the Northeastern Section of the ACS, focusing on career management and development

September 2007
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Letter of Reference or Recommendation
Filed under: Interviewing, Public Relations docs, Mentoring, Mature professionals, Post-docs
Posted by: site admin @ 8:52 am

As some of you know, my situation
might be like yours at this point. 
Recently, two offers came in positively.

One mentioned that “your references
were excellent and described many of
the skill
s that make you a perfect

So it will be important for me to relay
to the people who so kindly provided the
references to offer some feedback and
especially personal thanks.

For this blog, several topics might be
worth covering.  They include:

References vs. recommendations (Main)


Steps in the process and some good practices (2)

Who to ask (3)

Internet social networking recommendations (4)

Questions asked of references (5)

Do’s and don’t’s (6)

Thoughts on situations (7).

To provide highlights of this in this blog,
each item above will be presented as a
comment.  Title element of each comment
will be at the beginning and the numbers
in parentheses above refer to the comment
to look up…

Let’s see if this works…

Martin Yate points out “the better the job
and the higher the pay, the tougher the
screening process. So if you’re being
considered for a top job, it’s likely that
your references will be checked thoroughly.”

“Surprisingly, few candidates realize that
a primary reason they don’t earn a job offer
is because their references failed them.
Instead, they assume a better candidate
beat them out of the job, or that they
performed poorly at some stage of the
interview process.
But about half of all checked references
fall into the mediocre to poor category,
say human resources professionals.”

“At this stage of the job-search process,
you must be certain that your references
will seal the deal, not blow it away.”

The RileyGuide hits the nail on the head
for describing the difference between
letters of reference and recommendation.

References are … for most job
situations.  If you have a former supervisor
you can approach for a reference, or a
former colleague, these are the best
references to list on an application.
Most references are oral…

If you have been laid off, request a
letter of reference from your current
supervisor.  Calls to the HR department
will only result in verification of your
dates of employment and job position
and won’t discuss how well you did in
your job. “

Recommendations are formal letters
usually written by your academic
advisor(s) or, if you are lucky, a respected
person in your field who is familiar with
you and your work.

They are used to support an application
for an academic or research position,
including continued study or post-doc

Who writes these letters is as important
as your own credentials and his or her
name behind yours is a real boost to
your potential.

You often are usually not given an
opportunity to review these letters,
nor should you ask to review them.
They are confidential and meant only
for those reviewing your application.”

“…References and recommendations
written for you to get into a study
program should not be re-used for a
job search.
Your writers addressed these letters
for one purpose. They may not address
what an employer needs to hear.”