Kyle's References FAQ

Answering "Will you be a reference for me?" since 2013

I get a lot of requests for references and recommendation letters at the end of the fall and during the spring semesters. I created this page to help answer the questions students have about recommendations. It seemed prudent for me to organize some common thoughts so that I could put my expectations all in one place and provide as many excellent references as possible.

Recommendation Letters | List as Reference | LinkedIn Skills

Recommendation Letters

This involves me writing a nicely-formatted letter, then printing it out on our department letterhead. Then I either mail it or (more likely) scan and upload it somewhere. You'll usually need one of these if you're applying for a scholarship (here's a list of some Plymouth State scholarships), Research Experience for Undergraduates (REUs), grad school, summer internships, and even some jobs.

"Will you write a recommendation letter for me?"

The answer to this question is almost always "Yes". I really enjoy providing a reference for excellent students. If you're not certain whether you deserve such a thing, here are some reasons you might be excellent:

"How much advance notice should I give you?"

A month is great. Two weeks usually works. One week is tough. I want to write the letter(s) so ask me anyways, just in case I can squeeze it in. If I don't have enough time and I have to turn you down, then I'm really sorry. If I've already written you a letter, then it's easy for me to write another one.

"How should I ask you?"

If I sent you to this site, then you probably already did. That's fine. If you haven't already sent me an email, please do. It's also a really good idea to make sure I put your name up on my markerboard. It's very easy for me to forget about these.

"What should I do after you agree to write it?"

I want to make your letter look nice, professional, and specific to what you're applying to. After going through this a bunch of times, I think the best idea is to create a Google Doc, with a bulleted list of all the things you want to apply to. For each of those things, include (in their own indented bullets):

Then, just keep me up-to-date in emails as you add/change things.

Also, remind me about all the great things I should mention. In the document (and, preferrably, above the list of things you're applying to) add a list with all of these things:

The more of these I've been a part of, the better. But, I can talk to some extent about things I didn't have direction interaction with too.

"What should I do after I remind you of all of that?"

Make sure I don't forget! Pester me. Come by my office. Reply to your email to check in on me. Usually places will send me an email where I can upload the letter, so you can ask me whether that email came through. All okay. The sooner I get it uploaded, the better.

List as a Reference

This usually involves me talking to someone on the phone about you.

"I listed you as a reference for a job, is that okay?"

Oh my gosh, no. You should always ask first. It's very awkward when someone calls me and I'm confused about what's going on.

"Can I use you as a reference?"

The answer is almost always "Yes" unless you bombed one of my courses. Come by and ask me (or send me an email).

"How much advance warning should I give you?"

None is really necessary. So long as I'm expecting them to call, we're all good.

"How should I arrange it?"

The best situation is when you give them my email address so they can get in touch to schedule a time. Most employers, however, just want my phone number. I'll give you my cell number to pass on to them (unless they email me directly). Please don't give them my office phone. I don't check my messages on that, so it could be a dead end.

"What else should I do?"

Remind me about awesome things you did! A short list is fine. Senior projects, how you did in 4140 or other relevant courses. Which courses did you take with me? Talk about how you worked in groups with people. If you've graduated, what have you been doing since. Tell me about the job so I can talk about related things you did. All these are good things.

LinkedIn Skill Endorsements

"Would you mind endorsing me for the skills I listed on LinkedIn?"

I don't mind at all! Send me an connection request (if we're not yet connected) and I'll go through your skills and endorse anything I should. (You have to pick the skills ahead of time.) If I miss something you think we covered in a course, let me know! If you think I should endorse you for any other reason, tell me.

Common endorsements: (none of these are hard requirements)

If you find more of these I should add, please let me know!

If later on you pass another course and want an endorsement relevant to that, just ask.