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Letters of Reference

I get a lot of requests from students about writing a letter of reference for them or serving as a job reference. The number of such requests has increased, so I thought I'd explain some points here.

I certainly wish you well, but two considerations come into play. One, there is the effort involved in putting together letters or even talking to people, especially the recruiter types who would make you fill a long form over the phone. Two, in most settings, for a letter to be useful, it should be a strong letter. For example, if I say someone was in the top 40% of the class, that would be interpreted as negative. People want to hear at least top 10%; some prefer top 5%.

The time and effort spent in preparing such letters is an important factor, because even an hour is a lot. Remember you are not the only one, and this time cuts into my vanishingly small discretionary time.