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

June 2020
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Application Process. Letters of Reference
Filed under: Position Searching, Public Relations docs, Networking, Mature professionals, Post-docs, Technicians
Posted by: site admin @ 8:15 am

While we know and have talked about references and
letters of reference, a recent situation points out some
important things.

A member is applying for a position which calls for
three references.  This particular institution asks for
references as part of the application process
(along with graduate and undergraduate transcripts).

A note nearly a week later asked that the letters be
sent in.  So it is not enough to list people’s names,
but have letters sent in.  This can result in some
difficulties– reference not available, reference changed
email or address, reference too busy.

Four references were listed in the public relations
document.  One reference sent her letter in within a
week.  A second reference request email “bounced
back” no longer at that address.  A third reference
request email reply stated that the letter could not
be written until a month later.  A fourth email
that they might not be able to write one. 
if the applicant would write the letter,
she would
edit and send the letter in.

So, in the application process:
1.  consider having more than the minimum
number of references (five is not too many)

2.  prepare each person on your list with a
detailed letter indicating the position you are
applying for
why you think you can meet and
exceed the
requirements and information like
how long
you know the person, projects you
worked on,
and successful outcomes.

3.  maintain a current listing of emails and
addresses of references.

4.  stay on top of reference letter writing;  ask
references to let you know when they have sent
their letters in (oh, by the way, in your request
include the address to which you wish/need
the letter to!)

5.  develop a back-up plan if references are not
able to provide references in time.

6.  keep the references informed of application

Several comments follow relating
- reciprocal needs of people (especially mid-
career and mature chemists)

- what should be included in a reference letter

- just other things to consider.

3 Responses to “Application Process. Letters of Reference”

  1. site admin Says:

    Other things to consider:

    - Think about other business and positive
    outcomes that can transpire

    - Use this chance to help the reference
    in some fashion,

    - If there is a chance to meet personally
    or over lunch use it, it shows interest and
    willingness to invest time in them
  2. site admin Says:

    What should be included in a reference
    While there is no formal standard,
    that I am aware,
    it is good to list the
    kinds of things that would fit
    into a reference letter.

    They include:

    - how you match the needs and
    of the position, presuming
    they are known or
    published (good to tell
    where you heard about
    the position)

    - you can suggest information not
    found in
    the application but valuable
    for an employer;
    examples of creativity
    or flexibility

    - show how the applicant stands out
    from others
    applying for the position

    - point out a solid understanding of
    and experiential background,
    goals and
    directions; showing a deep
    knowledge of the

    - honors and awards of the person

    - key attributes might include (with
    initiative, dedication,
    integrity, reliability,
    commitment, creativity

    - demonstrated ability to work with

    - demonstrated ability to give 
    speak to different

    A typical letter might be composed of

    a. formal heading, addressed to a specific person

    b. introduce yourself as a recommender
    credentials and knowledge of the
    person how
    you know the person and for
    how long

    MOST IMPORTANT: Strongly recommend
    person for this position

    c. body: cover one exceptional quality
    in each
    paragraph, including specific
    body can be 2-3 paragraphs
    with short specific
    sentences in
    straightforward language.

    d. conclusion: this is a desirable
    don’t hesitate to contact the
    author for additional
    information, giving
    contact email and phone


  3. site admin Says:

    Reciprocal needs of references.

    As it happens, for many experienced
    professionals, they
    will have reciprocal
    needs, honestly met by someone you

    trust. Trust happens between people.

    Some people sense trust within a
    couple of minutes with
    another person.
    Others may take longer and be more


    In this case:
    One of the references was invited to
    take a leadership
    workshop and needed
    friends and colleagues to complete a
    questionnaire and indicate strengths
    and weaknesses.

    Now, how many people in the world
    would to
    provide weaknesses of? how
    many people would
    you ask ‘what are
    my weaknesses?’

    Not many to both questions.

    The applicant provided the form, told
    the reference
    that the form was sent
    and told the reference
    specifically what
    he said in the strengths and

    weaknesses. It is not a game.
    IT is for real and the aim is to be
    helpful. The
    reference replied that the
    weakness is exactly
    what I feel is
    my problem. 
    IT was “spot on”. It is a
    reciprocal relationship.

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