Recommendation Letters

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  1. Ask Mark if he is willing to write a letter on your behalf. If so, use as Mark’s contact on all web forms (NOT Mark’s personal email addresses)
  2. You (perhaps in consultation with a lab member you worked closely with) send a draft of a generic base letter to Mark at his personal email address ONLY. Mark may respond with suggestions (and/or have a meeting) and require several rounds of edits.
  3. Mark will alter your draft letter to reflect his views and then Mark will send his final, confidential version to his assistant.
  4. You contact his administrative assistant to ensure Mark's confidential letter is sent to the appropriate locations.
  5. If you have only been *weakly* associated with Mark (usually via collaboration or mentorship with someone else in the lab), you should work with a lab member and the lab assistant on getting the letter filed. This would apply, for instance, for an undergraduate supervised by someone else in the lab (eg an ARS). Your mentor would then work with Mark on getting the appropriate signatures on your letter. In general, if you don't know about these procedures, you probably haven't been closely associated enough with Mark for him to write a proper letter.

(Note the last two points are only relevant for *confidential* letters of recommendation.)

  • Key DON’Ts
  1. Don’t send letter drafts to admin (or cc on emails)
  2. Don’t put Mark’s personal email address into web forms
  3. Don't contact Mark directly for a letter if you haven't really worked with him (work through a lab contact you know well)

  1. If many letters are being sent, it may be best to use the Interfolio service to help coordinate submission (described below).
  2. MORE DETAIL ON STEP 1: Preparing a DRAFT of the base letter
    • First write a draft in consultation with Mark.
    • Send this draft to mark ([at]) ONLY.
    • Mark will edit the draft (often considerably, sometimes dramatically!) and send it in confidence to his administrative assistant. (Do NOT send drafts ahead of time to piaa/assistant as this confuses things; note that piaa goes to assistant as well, so do NOT send to piaa.)
    • 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 (e.g. date, addressee) 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.
    • After confirming that Mark is willing to write a letter on your behalf, send the upload link or email address for the desired letter to piaa ([at]) ONLY. It is unlikely that your recommendation will be filled on time if you do not use the piaa address.
    • Mark will send his confidential letter to his administrative assistant and the assistant will upload Mark's letter to maintain confidentiality.
    • Work with the assistant to ensure everything goes smoothly
      • 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 upload links and letter due dates to both Mark and his administrative assistant.
      • Special coordination is required for submission of hard copy letters, or use Interfolio (see below).
  4. Making letter requests through INTERFOLIO: Recommended for multiple letters
    • Interfolio is a service that allows one to request and store letters of recommendation from an advisor.
      • The service takes one generic letter and automatically addresses it to the appropriate institution.
      • Interfolio can send hard copies of digitally submitted letters.
    • Make an account on Interfolio at
  5. MODIFICATIONS to the base letter/confidential version (after STEP 3)
    • Modifications to the confidential version can be done through email or phone between you and Mark’s administrative 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 in yellow it should be easy to indicate what to change.
    • If you feel substantial personalization is necessary, 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 confidential letter on file from Lori. You should then send this modified draft back directly to Mark’s personal email address as the new base letter.
  6. Queries from the recipient of the reference letter
    • If the recipient of 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. Mark’s administrative assistant will need to get Mark's permission before answering.
  7. Helping a mentee with their recommendation letter: The same steps as above should be followed, with the understanding that the mentee should not contact the administrative assistant directly about the letter after the draft of the letter has passed through Mark's approval.
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