Recommendation Letters

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  • Overview
    • To help Mark write as good a letter as possible, he would appreciate if you could draft a "generic" initial skeleton of the letter -- the base letter.
  • Preparing a DRAFT of the base letter
    • First write a draft in consultation with Mark
    • Draft of letter should be written in a "generic" way so that specifics (i.e. for what the letter is intended) is at the top of the letter (if at all) and is easily modified. (See below.) You might flag modifiable bits in yellow.
    • The specifics of your accomplishments are important. "He's a great guy" usually doesn't make much an impact. Make sure to specifically refer (by name or citation) to work you've done -- e.g. papers, computer projects, and talks. Draft should (obviously) be written from Mark's perspective.
    • Mark will edit the draft (often considerably) and send it in confidence to his assistant. (Do not send drafts ahead of time to assistant as this confuses things.)
  • Making letter requests through INTERFOLIO
    • Interfolio is a service that allows one to request and store letters of recommendation from an advisor. The service can mail hard copies of digitally submitted letters to other institutions.
  • Sending addresses to ASSISTANT
    • The assistant will then handle all the aspects of sending of the letter, including all the web submit forms
      • When sending reference details with your application use piaa ([at]) as Mark's contact details. Do not enter Mark.Gerstein ([at]) in any web form. See for more information on the former address. It is unlikely that your recommendation will be filled on time if you do not use the piaa address.
      • Also send all correspondence to piaa ([at])
    • Mark does not check off boxes on recommendations as a matter of policy
    • You should make sure you provide exact mailing addresses and letter due dates to both Mark and his assistant.
      • Mark is happy to pay for all reasonable postage.
  • MODIFICATIONS to the base letter
    • Modifications to the confidential version can be done through email or phone between you and the assistant, where one can indicate changes to the top paragraph without compromising the confidentiality of the letter. If you've flagged specific things in the generic draft (above) in yellow, it should be easy to indicate what to change.
    • If you feel it's necessary to do substantial re-edits, you should go back to the draft sent to Mark (see above) or ask Mark to send you a draft he feels comfortable sending. You should not request the currently used draft on file from Mark's assistant. You should then send this modified draft back directly to Mark -- again, not to his assistant -- as the new base letter.
  • Queries from the recipient of the reference letter
    • If the recipient if a reference letter has additional simple queries (e.g. duration of employment, exact type of position), these may be able to be answered through Mark's assistant. The assistant will need to get Mark's permission before answering.
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