Interfolio’s Dossier began in 1999, and back then, our delivery structure of sending materials to an opportunity was pretty straightforward. We originally only processed deliveries via USPS, FedEx, fax, and a few by email. Our main clients were faculty members or those applying to faculty roles. We continue to serve scholars seeking tenure-track faculty positions, but our online products now serve people in a much wider range of situations, including medical school applicants, graduate students, social workers, surgeons, and even several football coaches.  

At the core, our mission has stayed the same: Putting our users first by providing them with consistent tools for their careers. To a significant degree, Dossier Deliver exists to deliver materials to jobs, grants, fellowships, medical school programs, grad school, etc. 

Here, we explore the various types of deliveries, including the intricacies of each type. 

Email Delivery 

What is it? Use this when you want Interfolio to send your materials directly to an email address. 

Sometimes, a search will want materials to be sent to a specific individual instead of a group email address. For example, “You can send your materials/application to me at”   

Other times, a search wants those materials to be sent to an HR or department address. For example, “Apply to this position by emailing your LORs & CV to” 

Either way, when creating your delivery through your Dossier account, you’ll need to provide us with the name of the recipient and the correct email address. 

Issues With Your Delivery? 

  • Was your delivery canceled? If so, reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to explain why that happened. 
  • If we are not able to verify the email address, you can forward us proof of a conversation with that individual that explains they are expecting materials from you. 
  • Or you can provide us with a URL that includes the email address where those materials need to be sent. You can do this during the delivery creation process. 
  • If you have received confirmation from us that your delivery was sent but your delivery recipient has not received the email, the first step is for the delivery recipient to check their spam folder. If it’s not there, reach out to us and let us know. We’ll be able to resend the delivery to help ensure it gets to the intended recipient without any problems. 

Tips & Tricks 

  • You can include as many documents as you want in an email delivery. So, if you’re looking to send many documents that are hundreds of pages long, we encourage using the email delivery option.  
  • You can “order” the materials in your email delivery, meaning you have the ability to arrange them in a sequence of your choosing. This allows them to be read in a certain order by the intended receiver. You can do this during the delivery creation process. 

Mail Delivery 

What is it? Use this when you want Interfolio to mail physical copies of your materials to a destination. Please note that different institutions have different requirements. 

Issues With Your Delivery? 

  • Was your delivery canceled? If so, reach out to us, and we’ll be happy to explain why that happened. 
  • If we were not able to verify the address, you can forward us proof of a conversation with that individual that explains they are expecting materials from you. 
  • Or you can provide us with a URL that includes the address where those materials need to be sent. 

Tips & Tricks 

  • There are a number of shipping methods to choose from. Included in your Dossier Deliver subscription is the “USPS First Class” option—there is no additional cost to you for this shipping option. All other options have an additional cost associated with them. This is a good reason to stay on top of deadlines so you can avoid rush delivery and the additional cost. 
  • If you want tracking for your mail delivery, sending FedEx is the only option. FedEx deliveries have an additional cost. 
  • You can “order” the materials in your mail delivery, meaning you have the ability to arrange them in a sequence of your choosing. This allows them to be read in a certain order by the intended receiver. You can do this during the delivery creation process. 
  • Please note that we are unable to deliver to P.O. Boxes. 

Confidential Letter Upload (CLU) 

What is it? The trickiest of the bunch! Use this when you want Interfolio to upload your confidential letters of recommendation into another online application system. This option is most commonly used by medical school applicants.  

This type of delivery takes one of two forms: either the external system provides you with a link to pass along to your letter writers or the external system asks you for your letter writers’ email addresses. 

When the external system provides you with a link to pass along to your letter writers:
In this situation, you simply follow the Confidential Letter Upload instructions when creating a new delivery in your account. You paste in the upload link and indicate which letter you’d like us to upload, and we go and upload it there. Simple!   

When the external system asks you for your letter writer’s email address:
In this situation, Interfolio can substitute for your letter writer. (Except sometimes, unfortunately, when we can’t. See below for exceptions.) 

Suppose you are applying to Demo University and have been asked to provide them with the email addresses of three letter writers. Normally, the school would reach out to your letter writers via those email addresses, asking them to upload a letter of recommendation. If you have letters stored in your Interfolio Dossier account, Interfolio can often stand in for your letter writer and upload letters on their behalf. 

In order for Interfolio to process these deliveries, we automatically generate a unique email address associated with each letter of recommendation you have in your Dossier account. When the external online application system asks for your letter writer’s email address, you can substitute the unique Interfolio email address associated with that writer’s letter. Once you submit that request, you’re all done—we’ll take care of the rest. 

Issues With Your Delivery? 

  • We may have to cancel a delivery due to required questions within the application that we do not know the answers to. Unfortunately, if we run into questions that must be answered on behalf of your letter writer to upload the letter, we cannot legally do this. Some possible personal questions that prevent us from processing the delivery include: 
    • Rank the applicant among other students in recent years 
    • How long have you known the applicant? 
    • How well do you know the applicant? 
  • We also cannot complete a delivery when a user is prompted to upload the letter of recommendation themselves. In these situations, users will provide us with their login information to upload the letter. We cannot accept that information from the user—it’s a liability for us to have that information. 
  • If confidential letter uploads are ever canceled, we suggest you reach out to the institution directly and explain why. They can often provide you with an email address to send materials directly, then they can upload the letters to your application. (See email delivery above!) 

Tips & Tricks 

  • Make sure you are submitting the document email address found in your Dossier account when the application asks for your letter writer’s email address and be sure to submit that request. Going through the CLU delivery process via the Delivery page on your account alone does not create the requests—you must make sure you are entering in that information and submitting it on the application website. 
  • Haven’t received confirmation that we’ve received the request? Give it a little time. We do receive requests instantly. Unfortunately, we have no control over when the application sends the request to the document email address you entered. If you think it’s been an appropriate amount of time since you submitted that request and you still haven’t received confirmation that we’re working on the delivery, reach out to us, and we’ll double-check to see if we’ve received the request or not. 
  • Need to submit your application before you’ve received the letter in your account? Contact us and we can give you the unique email address to enter your application. 
  • Our one to three-day turnaround time is once we receive the request, not once you submit the request on the application. Sometimes there is a delay from when you submit the application/request and when we receive it. 

Running up against a deadline? As always, we can expedite most delivery types for you. Just send an email to with your delivery number letting us know you need it expedited, and we will get to work on that ASAP.   

In 2023, we processed 218,719 Dossier Deliveries for our users. Trust Interfolio with yours.   

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here

If you’re in the process of applying to medical school, you might need help navigating medical school letters of recommendation. We’ve included some advice on how you can ask for and submit the ideal recommendation letter, all while using Interfolio’s Dossier as a valuable component of the application process.

Who to Ask for a Medical School Letter of Recommendation

First, you’ll need to figure out exactly who should write your letters. This choice is an extremely important part of the medical school application process; the right recommendation letter might keep your application competitive with applicants with similar credentials (high GPAs, MCAT scores, and a thorough resume of extracurricular and community-based activities). Think strategically about whom to ask for the most effective evaluation of your intellect, work ethic, and potential.

The best individuals to contact for letters of recommendation are professors who know you personally because you have taken a class (or multiple classes) with them. While a department head or academic advisor you’ve met with several times may be able to speak to your character, a professor who has worked directly with you in a classroom setting will be able to comment more thoroughly on your academic abilities.

Other than professors, there are many individuals you may want to get in touch with for a high-quality recommendation letter. Some top choices include mentors, community leaders, doctors you’ve shadowed, research professionals with whom you’ve collaborated, or other healthcare professionals who can comment on your skill with patients.

However, there are some letters that won’t be taken seriously by medical school admissions officers. Because it’s such a specific field that requires a high level of skill, letters from family members, friends, and other people who have never worked with you on an academic or professional level will not be given the same respect as letters from the types of individuals listed above.

Asking for a Recommendation Letter

You might know the proper protocol surrounding how to ask a trusted colleague, professor, or acquaintance for a recommendation. But if it’s been a while since you last requested a recommendation and you need a refresher, we’ve got the information you need. When you’re ready to send the request to your letter writer, these helpful steps will walk you through the process in Interfolio’s Dossier, which has been used by millions of scholars to pursue academic programs and positions.

Time Frame

First, the time frame for when you plan to ask for recommendation letters is crucial. You want to give your contacts enough time to create a well-crafted letter. We know it takes about 12 days from when a letter is requested to when it is uploaded into our system. Of course, this could vary based on the letter writer; some might have the time to submit it the day after you request it, while others need several weeks’ notice, especially if they are providing letters for more than just one student.

The absolute minimum amount of time we would suggest giving your med school recommenders is two weeks. With less notice, your contact may not have enough time to write a comprehensive letter that truly reflects your capabilities. Or, you may not be able to get a letter from this contact with such short notice if they have too many prior commitments. When you give too much notice, on the other hand, you run the risk of the contact forgetting to write the letter. If you decide to ask for a recommendation months in advance, you’ll want to follow up with your contact a few weeks ahead of the deadline to remind them of when it’s due.

How Many Letters You’ll Need

The exact number of letters required depends on the MD program you’re applying to. Typically, med schools require between two and five letters written on behalf of the applicant. However, they may welcome additional letters you want to include in your primary application. According to The Princeton Review, most med schools require three recommendations, while others accept six or seven. Be sure to note any specificity around who should author these letters and whether or not you may include additional letters. 

Components of the Medical School Letter of Recommendation

In your letter request, you should lay out exactly what medical school admissions committees are looking for in their applicants—this is especially helpful for recommenders who haven’t written a medical school letter of recommendation before. In addition, providing this information will make their argument on your behalf much stronger, thus improving the quality of your med school application.

What are some important points recommenders should touch upon in the letter? The Association of American Medical Colleges offers some guidelines for developing the perfect medical school letter of recommendation:

  • Explain the relationship between the recommender and the applicant, including how many years you’ve known the applicant.
  • When discussing their character, focus on how their behavior will contribute to their expected success in medicine.
  • Include any obstacles the applicant has overcome in relation to their professional development and education.
  • Describe how the applicant is competent in the following areas that are necessary for med school:
    • Critical thinking
    • Quantitative reasoning
    • Scientific inquiry
    • Written communication
    • Competencies in the sciences, such as life sciences and human behavior
    • Social skills
    • Teamwork
    • Oral communication
    • Ethical responsibility
    • Adaptability
    • Dependability

By providing the letter writer with a framework from which they can develop their recommendation, you’re ensuring they touch on the major points med school admissions officers want to see. It might even be a good idea to send them recommendation letter examples to help give them an idea of what makes a strong med school recommendation letter.

The Length of the Letter

Letter writers may not know exactly how much or how little they should write in their recommendation. Generally, these letters tend to be approximately two pages. While the letter should be no less than a page and no more than three pages, anywhere in this range is acceptable. It’s important that the letter writer prioritizes quality over quantity. If a one-page letter has all the content needed for an excellent recommendation letter, there’s no need to add to the word count.

How to Submit a Confidential Recommendation Letter

Oftentimes, those who write a letter on your behalf would prefer to have this information transmitted confidentially. If you need to submit a confidential letter and make sure it’s approved by AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service), you can submit your letter via the AMCAS Letter Writing Service or Interfolio’s Dossier.

If you choose to use Interfolio, you will receive the following benefits with your account subscription:

  • Quality checks of your letters of recommendation before delivery
  • Guaranteed letter content confidentiality for your letter writer and you
  • A customer service team ready to field all your questions

No matter what avenue you choose to deliver your letters, keep this advice in mind during each step of the recommendation process: Ask the right people, give them enough time, make sure they’ve provided the right content, and deliver the letters on time and in full.

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar, on managing requests for letters of recommendation.

Happy end of the semester! While this time should be relaxing, I certainly know from experience how busy this time can be—especially with letters of recommendation coming due for various fellowships, graduate school applications, and faculty/staff/administrator positions. I can certainly imagine that many of you Smart Scholar series readers are getting inundated with requests for letters of recommendation. So, I want to provide two tips that I use that may help lighten your recommendation load.

Start and stay organized

One of the challenges I have faced when handling requests for letters of recommendation is knowing how to start and stay organized. I created a table (see below) with some suggested pieces of information to keep track of as you are writing the recommendation letter. Due date can often be the first item to come to mind, but I believe it is equally important to have information about the actual position or award that you are writing for. This is helpful to ensure you are writing the letter for the right audience.

Develop a recommendation letter template 

As busy higher education professionals, we have many competing tasks. It’s important to have a recommendation letter template that you can start from in order to speed up the writing process. In particular, here are some prompts that I use to guide my letter writing: 

  • Paragraph 1: Provide salutation and connect the recommendee’s work with an aspect of the position/fellowship description.
  • Paragraph 2-4: Explain my relationship to the applicant and go into detail about the impact of the applicant’s work.
  • Paragraph 5: Explain that I am recommending this applicant without reservation, reiterate why the applicant is a fit for the position, and provide contact information.

Additionally, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I often ask anyone who needs a letter from me to create an initial draft that I can then build upon. I also ask them to provide me with any particular accomplishments or comments that should be a part of the letter. Again, having this information helps to speed up my ability to turn around a letter of recommendation.

Do you have other strategies for handling multiple requests for letters of recommendation? Please reach out to me on Twitter to continue the conversation!

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. Dr. Goings is also the founder of The Done Dissertation Coaching Program which provides individual and group dissertation coaching for doctoral students. For more information about Dr. Goings’ research please visit his website and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings) and for more information about The Done Dissertation Coaching Program visit

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of Interfolio.

It’s “busy season” for those on the academic job market—a stressful time that lives up to its name—so we have launched live chat within the Dossier application. 

We know that many of you only have a minute or two during your jam-packed Dossier user session to ask and get a question answered. You may not have the time to call in, or need a more immediate response than an email reply can offer. We heard this loud and clear! Providing support across multiple channels enables you to focus on the work you’re doing, and allows us to serve you more quickly. 

Here’s how to get in touch with us over live chat. 

  1. Once you’re logged into your account, look for the green “Chat with us” button in the bottom-right of your screen to start speaking with a live agent in real time.
  2. You’ll be prompted to provide your name, email address, and a description of your question or issue. To note: It’s helpful to make sure the email address you provide is the one associated with your Interfolio account. This helps us pull up your information quickly.
  3. Share with us as much detail and specifics as possible to help us expedite the conversation.

If you click the chat button and get a message that no one is available, know that we aren’t ignoring you! It means that all of our agents are currently speaking with other users and we should be available soon. You can refresh the page to see if an agent has come available at any time. If you can’t catch us on chat, you can always give us a call at 877-997-8807 to speak with someone on our team.

We’ve already had over 7,000 chats with our users and we look forward to supporting you over chat soon! And remember, Scholar Services is now available on phone and live chat from 9:00am – 6:00pm and email from 5:00am-10:00pm U.S. Eastern Time for Dossier users.  

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish, and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Last week we launched a new Dossier product feature in our ongoing quest to save our user’s time, and so that we maintain our exclusive offering as a full-service Dossier. We received feedback that the process of requesting a letter of recommendation through Interfolio could be confusing and unintuitive. In response we’ve enhanced the user experience working with our product design team.

Here are the changes we’ve made:

  • Instead of having a blank “Recommender” search field, you will now have two options: “Choose Existing Contact” or “Add New Contact.”

requesting letter of recommendation through Interfolio

  • In the default option shown, when you select “Choose Existing Contact,” a drop-down menu will display all of your existing contacts.
  • The “Add New Contact” option will allow you to add a new contact. 

We’ve made this change due to user feedback—it clarifies that a letter request has to go to a particular contact.Once you’ve selected the contact that you want to send the request to, you are ready to do so.

We encourage you to add more detail and personalization to the request, but the only requirement of sending a request for a letter of recommendation is providing the contact information of your recommender. Here is a link to a help article that fills in more of the details.

How do these changes impact me?

First and foremost, it saves you time. It is far more convenient to simply select saved information than to type it in from scratch for every request. In addition, it helps to avoid errors in email addresses and names. Requesting and sending letters of recommendation is a stressful but necessary part of applying to many scholarly positions and other opportunities. Let Interfolio help you manage this portion of your to-do list, confidently and confidentially.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish, and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

It’s “busy season” for those on the academic job market—a stressful time that lives up to its name. This blog post is a round-up of essential tips and practical posts to help you be successful using Dossier.

Interfolio’s Dossier is the solution for more than 500,000 individuals actively engaged in managing their career materials, whether on the academic job market, pursuing their PhD, or even taking an alternative academic professional path.

There are two Dossier options: you choose depending on where you are in your career. 

The free version of Dossier enables you to collect, curate, and organize collections of career materials, including requesting and indefinitely storing letters of recommendation. You can also search through thousands of Interfolio-hosted grants, fellowships, and jobs, and apply for free using the materials in your Dossier!

For an annual subscription fee of $48, you receive Dossier Deliver, which includes all of the free Dossier benefits plus the ability to share your materials and receive feedback on them with anyone, anywhere. You also receive 50 delivery credits, enabling you to send your career materials to apply to jobs, grants, fellowships, internships, and even graduate schools that are not hosted by Interfolio.

Both Dossier options are totally private to you and not visible to a current employer or institution, although you can transfer documents to a college or university’s Interfolio account if you wish.

As a Dossier user, your private account is a lifelong, digital repository for your career. 

Here, we’ve included our most-visited blog posts on Dossier, including frequently asked questions, best practices, and insider tips from our Scholar Services support team. 

What other topics would you like to hear about? Or do you have a question? Reach out to us! We’re people that thrive on serving our customers.

Support hours: 9am – 8pm EDT


Phone: (877) 997-8807

This blog post continues our series, Scholar at Large, written by an academic on how departments can prepare job-seekers for an inclusive humanities job market.

During my postdoc year, I ventured into the fog of mythology around the “alt-ac” world as I forged ahead on the traditional academic job market. As Interfolio’s “Scholar at Large,” I’ve written about how these pursuits are far more related than we realize. I’m happy to say that this process has helped me find a career opportunity that matches my values and will allow me to holistically grow my PhD skill sets and expertise. In August, I will be starting as an Assistant Professor of English at an equity-focused, public liberal arts college in southern Nevada serving primarily first generation and non-traditional students. 

I am positive that the career exploration processes I undertook helped me secure a tenure-track academic position that is an excellent fit for who I am as a humanities practitioner. Throughout my interview process, I found myself using the  knowledge and conversational approaches that I honed during my career explorations as I spoke with search committees, deans, and students. Most importantly, my understanding of how the work of the humanities takes many shapes will enable me to become a better professor for my students and for my colleagues. 

With that news, I end this iteration of the Scholar at Large series by highlighting four small shifts that humanities departments can make—based on things that they are already doing—to embrace the “alt” and prepare their job seekers for an inclusive job market that enriches the humanities as a whole. 

1. Bring the “alt ac” conversation out of the shadows.

My conversations with PhDs working outside of the academy consistently highlight how their career trajectories are hidden from those within the academy. This norm means that not only are PhD students losing out on a valuable network of diverse colleagues, but also that they aren’t as equipped to help their new departments promote the career opportunities that a humanities degree can yield.

What might bringing the conversation out of the shadows look like? 

  • Keep track of and celebrate all career outcomes of graduates. Make this information available on your department website. 
  • Bring all alumni (tenure-track or otherwise) back to campus for career discussions with current graduate students.
  • Connect graduate students with robust resources for careers both inside and outside of academia – and include those career possibilities in the same conversation. 
  • A more advanced step: begin to make changes to the graduate program itself. This could involve anything from how graduate course syllabi are designed to approving non-traditional dissertations. 
2. Affirm that job opportunities (academic or otherwise) are a single point along an extended career trajectory.

Help graduate students approach the job market with a sense of confidence and control by encouraging them to think strategically about what a position might offer them. A particular position might be a good fit for the job-seeker at this juncture; it is not a contract for what a job seeker may do for the rest of her life. What form might this support take? 

  • Teach graduate students to do informational interviews (this will help them with networking at academic conferences as well). 
  • Shift the language of your department’s “placement committee” to that of a “career planning committee.”
  • Develop workshops that will help students understand career resources. This could be as simple as including them in your Fall Orientation.
3) Emphasize skills in addition to content knowledge; that’s how transferability becomes clear.

Embrace the idea that the training you provide to graduate students already produces skills along with expertise that are applicable in a diverse array of humanities careers. Embracing this does not mean that professors need to teach graduate students differently, or that rigorous intellectual projects and academic research will be compromised. All it means is talking more openly and inclusively with graduate students about these issues and shifting the language we use to talk about putting our PhDs to work. And on that important point:

4) Discourage language or messaging that suggests that careers beyond the academy represent a “Plan B,” that students are “giving up” or “can’t cut it,” or that such job-seekers are not committed to the advancement of humanistic knowledge.

I cannot overemphasize how crucial this small shift in rhetoric is for job-seeking success, and more importantly, for the mental and emotional health of job-seekers. If you do nothing else, work toward developing an affirming, rather than damage control-oriented, departmental culture of career exploration.

Do you have experience with a job-seeking practice that worked well? Continue the conversation with me on Twitter and through the hashtags #withaphd and #PhDchat!


Author bio: Dr. Molly Appel is a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow at Penn State University. Her research explores how literature works a space of teaching and learning for human rights and social justice in the Americas. You can find her on Twitter @mollyappel.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar.

As a professor reaching the end of the spring semester, you probably have a lot on your plate. You might be grading finals and wrapping up all loose ends before summer approaches. Maybe your program is still in full swing, particularly if it operates in trimesters or quarters. No matter how this time of year affects your schedule, there’s one thing for certain: many of your students are applying for jobs, internships and graduate school. You may have been approached by a few students about writing their letters of recommendations to help them secure their first jobs. Perhaps some of your colleagues have even reached out to you, asking for a recommendation to help them secure a teaching fellowship or academic grant.

Although you’re likely writing many letters, you should try your hardest to make the piece stand out to improve your student or colleague’s chances of reaching their goal. Follow these letter of recommendation tips to create the most compelling argument possible.

1. Know when to say no

When a student or colleague asks you to write a recommendation on their behalf, it’s important that you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I know this colleague or student well enough to write a convincing letter?
  • Do I have the time to write the letter?
  • Am I the best fit as a letter writer for this candidate?

If you’ve said no to any of these questions, it may be best to decline the request to write a letter of recommendation. Even though saying no feels like you’re letting your student or colleague down, you’re really helping them in the long run. A hiring manager or scholarship committee can see right through a letter from a recommender who does not have a close relationship with the applicant. Likewise, you’re less likely to produce a convincing letter if you have to rush through it. This is unfortunate for the candidate because there may have been a better letter writer who could speak with more conviction about their qualifications for the award, job or university admittance.

When you politely decline, explain your reasoning to the student or colleague. They may feel the stress of having to find a new contact to write a letter on their behalf, but they will likely understand where you’re coming from and may even thank you in the end.

2. Create a timeline

The application process can be stressful and intense for individuals who are looking to advance their careers or education. For that reason, they may not have stayed on top of their own scheduling goals, causing them to leave a great deal of their work to the last minute. You may have a colleague or student reach out to you about writing a letter of recommendation with an unrealistic window of time to complete it. In order to set yourself (and the applicant) up for success, we suggest sharing the following timeline with anyone looking for a reference letter:

  • I will need two to three weeks to write the letter.
  • After writing the letter, I will need one or two weeks to edit the letter.
  • After editing the letter, I will need one week to either submit the letter electronically or mail the letter to the appropriate person.

Having a transparent, realistic timeline will give you more than enough time to complete the task, while providing yourself some wiggle room in case you get caught up with other tasks. More importantly, it helps the applicant know how much time they will need to give you before the application deadline. It’s important to be straightforward and honest in this type of situation so that everyone is clear about how long it will take for you to write the letter of recommendation.

3. Decide what to put in the letter

In order to write an effective reference letter, you’ll need to determine exactly what information should go into it. Here are some important components to include when you are writing a recommendation letter:

  • A compelling opening
  • Your relationship to the candidate
  • Personal qualities about the candidate
  • Candidate’s problem-solving skills
  • Candidate’s understanding of a related subject area
  • Information about their communication and interpersonal skills
  • A closing that ties together all the reasons you believe the candidate is qualified

Don’t forget to include some basic information about yourself as well for credibility. Here are additional pieces you’ll want to add about yourself:

  • Full name
  • Job title
  • Years in the profession
  • Contact information, such as your phone number and email address

4. Ask for a draft template

Whether or not you’ve written letters of recommendation related directly to your students’ or colleagues’ academic and career pursuits before, you may want to work from a sample letter. Request that the applicant send along a draft template related to the program or job title they are applying for. Not only can this help you in the letter writing process, it can ensure that you write the best piece possible on their behalf. With a draft to guide you through the letter writing process, you’ll know the proper angle to take that speaks to the requirements and expectations of the school, job position or award the applicant is seeking. In addition, it can cut down on the amount of time it takes you to write the letter, as you’ll have a good jumping-off point to work from.

5. Request specific information

Even though you’ll be the major player responsible for drafting and sending the letter of recommendation, it’s crucial that the person requesting the letter meets you (at least) halfway, providing you with adequate information about the role itself. Your letter focus should be about the candidate, naturally, but you’ll need some details about their goals and aspirations, as well as how they connect with the desired role.

Ask that your student or colleague send along their resume, cover letter or personal statement, academic transcript and information about the graduate school, award or job itself. Request a copy of the program or job description; that way, you can see exactly what the organization or admissions officers are looking for from ideal applicants. This can help you craft the right narrative, highlighting the candidate’s strengths that relate directly to the expectations of the role or program.

6. Make it personal

A reference that only touches on technical characteristics of the applicant – such as academic performance and work experience – doesn’t create a compelling argument for the candidate. Since a majority of this information likely appears on the candidate’s resume, you’re likely regurgitating what is already clear. What their resume, cover letter, statement of purpose and other documents do not reveal, however, is what it’s like to work with them. As a recommender, you can reveal information that a graduate school or potential employer wouldn’t know about the applicant from reading their cover letter and resume alone. Feel free to divulge observations of their work ethic, character strengths and other personal qualities that make them a compelling candidate. Something that many recommenders shy away from is revealing speed bumps the applicant faced. However, a graduate school or employer may be interested in seeing how the candidate dealt with failure or difficulty and what they did to work through their struggles.

7. Follow through with your role as a mentor

Since your student or colleague has requested that you write a letter of recommendation on their behalf, it’s evident that they look up to you as a leader and role model. This should be an honor, as their respect for you has compelled them to ask you for assistance on a crucial aspect of the application process. After you’ve completed your letter, don’t hesitate to ask the student or colleague if they need any assistance or guidance throughout the other elements of the application process. Perhaps they need to interview for a role or program and would like some help preparing for this meeting. If they get into the program or are offered the role, don’t let this be the last time they hear from you. Offer yourself as an ongoing mentor, providing them with an advisor, confidante and networking contact that they can utilize throughout the duration of their career.

There are plenty of resources you can turn to when looking for teaching inspiration. Most of these sources will advise you to make and maintain efficient working relationships with students and colleagues. Positive results that can benefit from relationship building include improved workplace and classroom culture, ongoing networking opportunities and increased respect and authority within your field.

8. Submit the letter the right way

Once you’ve created an effective letter of recommendation, you can take a deep breath. You’ve finished the toughest part of the process. Now you’ll need to think about how you’ll submit your reference. Maybe you think it’s the best idea to send the letter directly to your student or colleague; that way, they can do what they like with it. They may also prefer you to send it directly to the graduate school or organization and notify them when you’ve turned it in.

Perhaps you’d rather send the reference letter to the graduate institution or organization confidentially, without the applicant having immediate access to it. You might prefer the sense of freedom this style of submission gives you, as it takes away the pressure of a student or colleague nitpicking your word choice. You can submit a letter confidentially in any of the following ways:

  • Mail it directly to schools or organizations
  • Utilize Interfolio’s Dossier Delivery system

If you’ve never utilized Interfolio’s technologies before when writing and asking for recommendation letters, you might consider implementing this platform into your process. When you choose to work with Interfolio, you can experience the following benefits:

  • A place to store past letters to candidates
  • Guaranteed letter confidentiality, if you’d prefer the privacy
  • A customer service team that’s ready to act on your requests
  • A quality control check that makes sure the letters you’re turning in have all the required components, such as an official letterhead, signature and relevant contact information

Whether you choose to submit your letter of recommendation through “snail mail” or Interfolio’s seamless technology, follow these letter of recommendation tips to help your student or colleague stand out among the other candidates. The right content, details and mixture of personal details and academic or professional skills can create a compelling argument that sets your contact up for success when applying for graduate school or career opportunities.

What other strategies do you have when writing a letter of recommendation? Please feel free to share with me on Twitter (@ramongoings).

In addition to an online platform for universities to manage faculty reviews, Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. As a writing coach and editor, Dr. Goings enjoys supporting the scholarly development of doctoral students and professors in higher education. For more information about Dr. Goings, please visit his website and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings).

This post continues our series, The Smart Scholar, on preparing for the academic job market.

The months of May and June are an exciting time for colleges and universities as students are preparing for graduation and our higher education colleagues make announcements of their new positions. Bearing in mind the summer shuffle of individuals in higher education and slew of new graduates, it is important to be prepared for the academic job market—especially because it is extremely competitive.

However, where do you begin? In this post I provide three suggestions on best preparing yourself to enter the academic market.

Update your job materials

While the summer time is typically slow for open positions in higher education, it is the perfect time to update your materials such as:

For instance, have you had any experiences over the past year that would position you as a vital candidate in your field? If so, update your materials so that when search committees come across your documents, they have the opportunity to see these new experiences. Also, if you have had some gaps in your higher education employment, I would suggest you update your cover letter to explain why this was the case. This is helpful for search committees who may first see your resume and have questions about your gaps. I always believe setting the narrative for yourself as the candidate is better than leaving it up to the discretion of the individuals reading your materials.

Subscribing to the job forums in your field

Part of the work of entering the job market is keeping abreast of the job opportunities. As a result, it is helpful to subscribe to the various job forums in your field so that you know when positions of interest are open. As I described in a previous post, you should continue to keep a spreadsheet of the various jobs you are applying for and their due dates (more on due dates below). This will ensure you get letters of recommendation and other materials completed prior to the job posting deadline.

Read postings carefully for job material deadlines

While this may seem common sense, it is critical that you read job descriptions and specifically take note of the deadlines. For instance, does the posting state a “priority deadline” and also that the job will remain open until filled? My advice here would be to make sure your materials are submitted by the priority deadline as that may be when the search committee will actually begin to review materials. If for some reason you miss the priority deadline, reach out to the chair of the search committee who can provide insight into the status of the search and if submitting your materials would be a viable option at that point in the process.

What advice do you all have on preparing for the academic job market? Please share them with me on Twitter (@ramongoings).

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.

Author Bio: Dr. Ramon B. Goings is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Loyola University Maryland. His research examines gifted/high-achieving Black male academic success PreK-PhD, diversifying the teacher and school leader workforce, and the student experience and contributions of historically Black colleges and universities to the higher education landscape. As a writing coach and editor, Dr. Goings enjoys supporting the scholarly development of doctoral students and professors in higher education. For more information about Dr. Goings, please visit his website and follow him on Twitter (@ramongoings).

This post continues our series by a onetime academic job seeker, now academic-at-large, on where to look for a summer job.

Summers in grad school can be an awkward time for the large percentage of grad students whose funding doesn’t stretch to cover twelve months of rent. And by “awkward,” we mean “extremely stressful and upsetting.” This problem is seldom discussed outside of grad student circles, and so the summer income gap can come as a shock, particularly after your first year. You may have academic obligations that don’t pay—conference attendance, research, and later on in your career, job market prep—but that doesn’t mean you don’t need groceries. So here are some ideas for steps you can take now to make sure you have income in August.

Look inside your school first.

It’s May, and deadlines for opportunities within your department (summer research assistantships; summer teaching) may already have passed. If they haven’t, great! Look there first. But you may need to think outside the departmental box. Try querying libraries, writing centers, or centers for teaching and learning. Visit the office of career services, or their website, to see if they maintain a list of summer jobs inside the university for students. You’ll have an advantage applying to these jobs, as a student; this is an easy way to begin.

Ask friendly professors.

Faculty may know of summer gigs that don’t show up on official lists. A colleague of theirs may have recently landed a grant and may be suddenly in need of research support, for example. It’s worth sending a few polite emails to any faculty members you know well to see if they’ve heard anything through the grapevine.

Try other universities and community colleges in the area.

These institutions may have summer classes that need teaching—especially if they don’t have grad programs in your areas of study. An email to the appropriate department coordinators could turn up an open spot.

Look for teaching jobs outside of your university.

Tutoring, summer programs for high-school students, even academic camps for younger kids: all of these may pay you a good wage, while offering a way for you to embellish your CV in the future. This side benefit may be especially helpful if you are in a research-heavy department that doesn’t offer many opportunities to teach during the year, and if you want to apply to teaching-focused jobs when you graduate. Summer experiences—even if they’re with ten-year-olds—can help you see whether you truly do feel comfortable and happy in a teaching role, and can offer good fodder for a reflective teaching-philosophy statement.

Try temping, freelancing, or the gig economy.

Yes, driving for Lyft, taking on dog walking or babysitting, or doing some freelance graphic design work can be inherently unstable and exploitative, and it’s hard to know how much income to expect from these pursuits. That’s why we’re putting this idea last! But temping, freelancing, and gigging have some advantages for a graduate student during the summer, because you have more control over the amount of work you do, and where and when you do it. This flexibility may come in handy if you get to late July, realize you really need to work on that dissertation chapter, and have enough money in the bank to do it.

What other recommendations do you have for finding a summer job? Tweet us and use the hashtag #Interfolio to share your ideas.

Interfolio’s Dossier enables scholars to collect, curate, polish and send out their materials at all stages throughout their academic professional path. Learn more about Dossier here.