References and Letters of Recommendation Making Requests of Faculty


References and Letters of Recommendation

Making Requests of Faculty

Faculty are here to support your efforts to pursue your career goals. We are able and willing to serve as references and write letters of recommendation for you provided you make requests in a respectful and timely manner. Please follow the guidelines found in this document when requesting letters of recommendation for jobs, internships, graduate schools, summer study, and/or other opportunities that require references.

Before making a request, consider your choice of references carefully. First, consider the type of position or program for which you are applying. For instance, if you are a double-major applying for a job as a computer programmer, is your theatre or dance professor the best person to ask for a reference? Additionally, just because you have taken a class or worked with a faculty member does not mean that individual will be able to provide a positive reference for you. Take a moment and ask yourself what mutual experience you have with the faculty member. Did you do well in her/his class? Are you a dependable employee or crew/cast member? Does the faculty member actually know you? If there is any doubt in your mind, the best thing to do is to ask the faculty member prior to making the request: “Do you believe you would be able to write a positive letter for me?” It would be professionally unethical for the individual to say “yes” and then write a scathingly negative letter for you. If we are not able, for whatever reason, to write you a positive letter or serve as a positive reference, then we will politely suggest that you ask someone else instead.

Requests for Letters of Recommendation:

In order to assist faculty in the writing of an effective letter you should provide the following information:


Complete title of the job or graduate program and a brief description of probable responsibilities and/or a description of the program of study.

(Publicity Intern -- “I'll be assisting the PR Director,” or, “I'll be working on PR with a team of interns,” or “I'll be responsible for all PR,” or “I'll probably be making copies, filing, and picking up dry cleaning.” MA in Arts Administration – “I’ll be taking a lot of business classes and interning in their theatre,” or “I’ll be focusing on performing arts administration with an emphasis on artistic leadership.”


Name of company/institution and web address.

If the company is large, be sure to indicate for which division or program you would be working.


A copy of your current resume. You may also be asked to provide an unofficial copy of your current transcript.

The combination of these two items helps us to see “the big picture” of you so we can write a more effective letter without accidentally leaving something out.


Name and title of person to whom we should address the letter or who may be contacting us to check your references. Look carefully in your materials for this information; if there is no specific person, we will address the letter “To Whom It May Concern,” but the letter will be more effective if it is addressed to a specific person. Additionally, we may KNOW THE

PERSON, which is obviously to your advantage.


Deadline for the application and your requested date for completion of the letter.



Method that the letter should be delivered (by you in one package or separately by from us or electronically via e-mail or a website) and relevant address (e-mail, web, or US mail), stamped/addressed envelopes if necessary, etc.


Qualities or accomplishments that you might suggest be highlighted as part of your recommendation . In other words, explain what makes you a good fit for the position or graduate program.


Ask your recommender for additional requirements she/he may have for writing the letter.

Other factors to keep in mind . . .


Writing a good letter of recommendation takes time. Try to make the request 3 or 4 weeks

(or more) ahead of the due date when the situation allows. Sometimes job opportunities come up on short notice; that is understood. It will benefit you to give your recommender as much time as possible to write your letter.


Be sure to follow up with the faculty member to be sure she/he has all the information she/he needs to write a good letter.


If the due date is only a day or two away, and you have not heard that the letter is done, please e-mail and/or call to remind us. Like other important things, mentioning it in the hall or in class is not a good way to be sure it gets remembered.


Regardless of whether we give the letter to you or whether we send it in directly, we deliver hard copies of letters in sealed envelopes, often with our signature across the seal of the envelope, or we e-mail letters directly to the appropriate recipient without copying you on the e-mail. This is done to assure the people to whom you are applying that this letter was written confidentially without you having the ability to read it. This gives the impression that the recommender was able to be more honest and forthright about you since we wrote the letter thinking you would never see it. As a result, the letter has more gravitas, and its contents will be taken more seriously than if we delivered an open letter to you.

Requests to Serve as a Reference:

Some applications only require that you provide a list of references and their contact information as part of your application. Companies and organizations then write, call, or e-mail us to request our input about you; usually they then request this information in an informal, conversational way, but sometimes they then ask us to provide a letter. As such, in order to prepare us to serve as a good reference, follow items 1-4 of the guidelines above in order to prepare faculty to serve as an effective reference. Additionally, please do the following:


On your application or resume where you list your references, include the faculty member’s name, official title, school address, office phone number, and, if required, e-mail address . If you do not know an official title, you should ask us. NEVER provide our personal addresses or home/cell phones.


Give us an idea of when we might expect to be contacted by the organization or company.

If we will be out of town or not available for a period of time, you will want to be aware of this and, in some cases, notify the people who will be trying to contact us.


Make sure you never list us as a reference unless and until you have asked us first and provided the requisite information. We will be ineffective in advocating for you unless we are prepared to receive the call/e-mail.