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RECOMMENDATIONS FILE

Career Services offers a recommendations file service to assist you in your search for employment and/or admissions to graduate or professional school. A file may be started at any point during your academic career or after graduation. Once a recommendation file is established, you have the security of knowing that copies are easily accessible for employer or professional/graduate school use. The file eliminates the necessity, in future years, of locating people from whom you would like a recommendation.

Setting up a File

Complete the Registration Agreement and return it to Career Services; this agreement MUST be on file in order to release your recommendations. Your signed agreement indicates authorization to release your recommendations upon your written request and acknowledges your awareness of the policies and procedures regarding the file.

What belongs in a Recommendations File?

Your recommendation file is used to store letters of recommendation only. Transcripts, certificates, your résumé and other documents cannot be put in your file.

It is your responsibility to solicit and have sent to Career Services any letters of recommendation for your file. A minimum of three is suggested. Keep in mind that most graduate/professional schools require letters of recommendation, which are written by deans, faculty members or others who know your academic work. It is wise to solicit recommendation letters several months in advance of application to graduate/professional school or anticipated employment. In some cases, a recommender prefers to write separate letters of recommendation to each employer or graduate/professional school. You may wish to request that, in addition, the writer place a general letter of recommendation in your file in case you need to use it later.

All original letters become the property of Hobart and William Smith Colleges and are stored in Career Services. Upon your written request, copies are released.

Obtaining Letters: Confidential vs. Non-Confidential

Three Recommendation Forms are included when students pick up a recommendation file packet. After completing the candidate's section, students distribute the forms to employers, professors and others who will write recommendations. You may sign the waiver of your right to access each recommendation before it is distributed to a letter writer. THIS IS NOT REQUIRED. Waiver of your right of access indicates to the writer and recipient of the recommendation that you have not seen it and will not see it, therefore it is confidential. Many professional/graduate school officials and some employers believe that writers are more honest if they know their statements will be kept confidential. However, if you feel the security of knowing the content of your recommendations is important, you should not waive your right to view them. If you solicit confidential letters, be careful about selecting who will write them. Try to select people who know you well and will write positive evaluations.

Be courteous in requesting a letter of recommendation. Never just drop off a recommendation form with a note unless you have previously spoken with a potential recommender and have been requested to do so. It is your responsibility to discuss with the writer the purpose and content of the recommendation. Remember to ask if a recommender feels knowledgeable enough to write a good recommendation. If the answer is negative, ask someone else. Share information, which will help the writer with the letter (for example, your résumé or transcript). Give a stamped envelope (addressed to Career Services) to those recommendation writers who do not work at the Colleges.

It is your responsibility to make certain that completed recommendation forms are sent directly to Career Services by the recommender, whether or not they are confidential. Give the writer ample time to complete your recommendation before checking to see if Career Services has received it.

In the event that a recommender wishes to make changes in or update a letter of recommendation previously placed in your file, he/she will be required to submit an entirely new letter. If the letter writer wishes to substitute a new letter for one previously written, he/she may do so. The original letter will be maintained as an inactive part of you file, it will not be destroyed and it will not be available for disclosure. Since you have the option to waive your right to access to each letter of recommendation, you will need to sign the waiver for the new letter prior to its being written if you wish to have it be a confidential letter. In keeping with the stated policy, the new letter will only be disclosed upon your written request.

Request to Release Recommendations File

Letters of recommendations should be sent when an employer or school expresses an interest in receiving them. Recommendations should not automatically be sent when you first apply for a position or are making an initial inquiry. Before requesting release of your letters, check to be certain your file is complete and recommendations have been received.

Letters of recommendations are released only upon your written request and receipt of the necessary fees. Career Services staff cannot honor telephone or fax requests for security reasons. You may send written requests to Career Services or stop by and complete a Request to Release Recommendation form.

When requesting the release of your letters of recommendation, be certain to:

  • provide your complete name, address, phone number and class year
  • specify which letters from your file are to be sent
  • indicate the complete name(s) and mailing address(es) of where letters should be sent
  • include a fee of $3 per address
  • have a signed Registration Agreement on file

Submit your written request to release recommendations well in advance of any deadlines set by prospective employers or professional/graduate schools. Please allow five business days after receipt to process your request. Letters of recommendation are mailed first class. Records are kept of when and where your letters are sent, as well as notification of receipt by the employer or graduate/professional school official. You can facilitate the process by making certain you have a signed Registration Agreement in your file, as no recommendations can be sent without this. Request are handled on a first come, first served basis. Recommendations will not be faxed to employers or graduate/professional schools under any circumstances due to confidentiality issues.

Your recommendations file may be transferred to another college or university if you go on for graduate work. As your professional/graduate school will be more likely to receive notification of job openings in your graduate field of study, you will probably want to utilize its career office. Upon receipt of your written request and the $3 fee, copies of your file will be sent to the graduate/professional school. The original letters will remain in the Career Services according to the stated policy (see section titled "Maintenance of Recommendations File" below).

Candidates may obtain an unofficial student copy of their own non-confidential recommendations for their own use. It is necessary to complete a Request to Release Recommendation form and submit the $3 fee. These will be clearly marked as “unofficial student copy.”

Note: Transcripts are not maintained by or sent out from Career Services. They should be requested directly from the Registrar's Office.

Maintenance of Recommendations File

You may continue to utilize the recommendations file service following graduation. You are encouraged to update the contents of your file by soliciting new recommendations prior to application to professional/graduate school or change in employment status.

Recommendations files are stored in and maintained by Career Services for 10 years following the registrant's date of graduation and/or if there has been any "activity" in the file within the previous year.

Activity is defined as:

a) the addition of any letter(s) of recommendation to the file, OR
b) recommendations have been released from the file

In order to have your file maintained for longer than indicated by the above-stated guidelines, you must submit written notification to Career Services prior to the end of the academic year. Files will be maintained for five additional years from the notification date. This written notification should include your complete name, address, phone number and class year.

Under no circumstances will selected items in your recommendations file be destroyed; following the end of the above stated maintenance period, your recommendations file will be destroyed in its entirety.