Using Recommendation Files
A recommendation file (sometimes called a credential or placement file) is a file containing letters of recommendation and other materials that will be sent to school systems at your request in support of your application for employment. A recommendation file makes it much more convenient and less time consuming for you to get your letters to the employers. It is also a courtesy to your recommenders, who need only write one letter for your file instead of a letter for every school system to which you apply. A recommendation file also insures that the employer receives your information in an organized and timely manner, when you request it.
Types of Files
A confidential file does not allow you, the 'owner' of the file, access to the contents of the letters of recommendation. Your recommenders send their letters directly to the service that UCS has partnered with called Interfolio. You do not have the option of reading the letters. A non-confidential file allows you access to all contents of the file. Many recommenders prefer to write a confidential letter and educational employers strongly prefer to receive confidential recommendations--they feel they are receiving the most candid evaluation of you. However, confidential files are not required. If not opening a confidential file, you may want to just manage the letters yourself and save some money. However, the file does provide a level of security and 'permanence' (the file is active for the period of time for which you register but can then be reactivated for a fee after that point in time) that some people find helpful in their job search.
Opening Your File
You can open a recommendation file by logging onto Interfolio's Web site. Once you have registered with them, then you may have your recommenders send in their letters to them (they have directions on how to do this available on their Web site). You must be sure to open a file before having letters sent or your letters may be lost!! It is suggested that recommenders use letterhead stationery when writing your recommendation for the most 'official' looking recommendation.. Be sure to tell them that the letters should be typed, easy to read and the print should be dark and as clear as possible. If your recommender is new to writing recommendations, we have a great tip sheet which you can hand them at the time you ask them for this favor (see section below on 'Asking for Letters').
Contents of Your File
Your file should contain three to five letters of recommendation. School systems generally request three recommendations, although a few request as many as five. It is generally not to your advantage to have any more than five letters unless looking for a K-12 administration position where eight would be the maximum. Your file can also include other documents which certify your qualifications of your performance including Praxis scores, transcript, student evaluations, etc. Official transcripts may be requested from the Registrar's office to have included in your file.
Take great care in choosing your recommenders. You should choose individuals who know you well and have worked with you closely; individuals who can tell an employer what your strengths and qualifications are. Try to choose a variety of recommenders in terms of their professional positions and their relationships with you. A faculty member who can attest to your academic abilities and grasp of educational theory and a teacher or principal who has observed/supervised you in the classroom are excellent possibilities. It is advisable to include no more than one purely personal reference. Employers want references that will help them judge your professional abilities.
Asking for Letters
When asking a recommender to write a reference for you, always give the person the option of saying yes or no. Never leave a note saying, 'please write me a letter of recommendation' or use a similar approach that does not allow the person to decline. If the person accepts, spend some time talking about what type of position you are seeking and what school systems you are considering. It is also an excellent idea to give the person a copy of your resume. If you take care in choosing the right people and are courteous in the way you ask them, you can be more sure of getting good letters of recommendation. One suggestion is to ask the person if he/she knows you well enough to write a positive recommendation. A professional courtesy to your recommenders, particularly public school personnel, would be to provide a stamped-addressed envelope to Interfolio or to the individual school districts of interest in not using Interfolio.
When to Open a File
You should open your recommendation file and consider whom you will ask to recommend you during the Fall semester. Ask your recommenders as early as possible. Most faculty members and many of the others you may ask for recommendation letters are inundated with requests during the Spring semester. It may be helpful to give your recommenders a deadline. Give them a sufficient amount of time to finish your letters. Do not wait until a week before you need to send your file out!
Cost of a File
There is a charge to open a recommendation file with Interfolio (see their Web site www.Interfolio.com for the most up-to-date information and note that all application materials, including transcripts can be included in your file for no additional charges).
Sending Your File
Again, see Interfolio's Web site www.Interfolio.com for the most up-to-date information on their fees; but do know that if your file can be sent electronically, there is a cheaper price than if it needs to be sent via the U.S. Postal Service. It might be worthwhile to contact the Human Resources offices of those schools to whom you're applying to see if they can accept an electronic version of your letters.
Many public school applications will include a recommendation form for your recommenders to fill out. Most schools will accept your file in lieu of their form but be sure to look at the wording on the application's directions closely or ask the Human Resources office if unclear. Some schools will want their form filled out even if you have a recommendation file (Albemarle & Chesepeake Counties). It is still recommended to send your file since the comments section on that form is usually very small and your letters would say much more about you. If the form is needed, be sure to give your recommenders a stamped-addressed envelope to that district as a professional courtesy.
It is your responsibility that all your letters are in your file before your request is sent out. Be sure to check Interfolio's Web site to find out who has submitted on your behalf before you ask for it to be sent out.