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Chronicle article on recommendation letters

Letters of Recommendation

Career Services has partnered with Interfolio, Inc., to help with maintenance and mailing of Credentials letters for Brandeis GSAS students and alumni. Interfolio is successfully used by over 200 colleges and universities, including many of our peer institutions. We believe that Interfolio will offer you the greatest convenience and accessibility for managing your credentials. For a small fee you can store your letters with Interfolio, and have them mailed out whenever you apply for graduate school admission, employment or funding.

Please visit Interfolio and follow their instructions for opening a new account and for additional information.

Security

Both Career Services and Interfolio are committed to the confidentiality of your credentials. You can read Interfolio’s Privacy Policies and Security information.

Features

  • Interfolio promises quick turn around on mailing requests – 24 hour processing with no added rush fee; Their customer service department will answer email and telephone questions and they also have a 24-hour online help center;
  • Multiple mailing options, including overnight and/or electronic delivery where available;
  • You may keep both confidential and non confidential letters in your file;
  • Letter writers may upload the documents they write electronically, or mail the letters on your behalf to Interfolio free of charge;
  • Letter writers have ongoing access to all documents they upload. They can easily make updates and check the status of the documents.

If you have additional questions about this new partnership, please email or call GSAS Career Services at (781) 736-3414.

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

Decide whom to ask.

It is important that the author of a recommendation:

  • know you,
  • think well of you, 
  • be able and willing to take the time to write a thoughtful evaluation.

If the person who recommends you is well-known in his or her field, this can be an advantage, but only if the above criteria apply. It's better to have a thoughtful recommendation from a teaching assistant than a few lines from a famous person who seems to barely remember who you are. Consider the purposes for which you'll want to use letters of recommendation and try to include recommendations from people who have worked with you in related activities. For example, for graduate study in the sciences, it would be helpful to have a recommendation from someone familiar with your ability to do research. For employment, include a recommendation from a former employer, internship sponsor, or work-study supervisor. For faculty positions, you may wish to include letters which address teaching and research; letters which address research are essential.

Be sure to get at least three recommendations on file.

Beyond three, consider whether or not each additional recommendation will measurably contribute to an employer's/graduate school's ability to evaluate your application. Generally, personal references from people who have not worked with you, such as old family friends, are not particularly helpful.

Make your request in plenty of time.

Faculty members, especially, receive many requests for letters of recommendation. Ask for a letter as much in advance as possible.
 
Be sure that anyone who recommends you is really willing to do so.

Always ask. Phrase your request in such a way that if someone does not feel comfortable writing for you, he or she can gracefully decline. Pressuring someone to write a letter for you is likely to result in a lukewarm or qualified recommendation which does you no good. A tactful approach might be, "I'd appreciate a recommendation from you if you feel you know me well enough to be able to recommend me."

Discuss your plans with whoever agrees to write for you.

Recommendations are most effective when they can describe you as well-suited to a particular goal. Even if you aren't entirely sure what you will do, let the author of a letter know the kinds of things for which you are most likely to use it. If you know someone very well and are considering a variety of goals, you may want to ask him or her to write two letters, one supporting each goal. If you do, remember that Interfolio distinguishes recommendations by the same author by the file, - have the author provide two file names which can't be easily confused.

If appropriate, remind the person who will recommend you of your background.

You may want to provide him or her with a resume and/or a copy of a paper you wrote. You may remind former employers of special contributions which you made on the job.

It's a courtesy to get back to those who recommended you to let them know what you'll be doing.

Tell them where you'll be working or studying and thank them for their help in getting you there. Writing recommendations is a time-consuming and often tedious task. The knowledge that it's helped is a reward for the effort.

Interfolio for Faculty and Other Letter Writers

Brandeis GSAS has partnered with Interfolio, the premier online credentials management service.  Interfolio gives students and alumni the ability to manage letters of recommendation and other credentials online. However, Interfolio does not just benefit students and alumni. It also helps ease the burden of those faculty entrusted with composing letters of recommendation.

Free Writers Account

Faculty and other letter writers may establish a free writer's account at Interfolio, which enables direct uploading of documents. It takes just a few minutes to create an account. Go here to get started.

Some of the benefits include:

Quickly and easily upload letters. Electronically uploading a file to the system is the fastest and safest way to submit a document to Interfolio on behalf of your students. It is immediately available for the student to use in the application process.

Retain access to uploaded documents. Your writer's account enables you to have access to all documents you have uploaded into our system. Original documents may be easily retrieved so that you can edit and update them.

Increased fraud protection. As a security precaution, Interfolio does not receive documents via email, nor do we allow unknown individuals to directly upload documents. By requiring you to set up a writer's account before sending us a document electronically, we can verify your identity, thereby reducing the fraudulent submission of letters of recommendation.

Convenience. Though the benefits of a writer's account are numerous, it is an optional service. With a writer's account, you can electronically upload documents to Interfolio's safe and secure system. If you choose not to create a writer's account, you can still mail letters to Interfolio.

Interfolio contact information:

(877) 773-6546 / e-mail