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References to apply postdoc positions

User: harrys45 - 20 May 2012 14:40

Hi all, References are one of the important outcome for someone proceeding to apply for the postdoc research positions. I am almost there but I have no hopes of obtaining references from my PhD advisors. I also feel like being a useless man to go and ask for references from PhD advisors. Can I hope to get any postdoc position without attaching any references on my application ? I guess everyone knows that references are widely used means to judge a candidate and still they form a major source of corruption in recruitment process.

User: sneaks - 20 May 2012 14:45

I'm not sure I really understand your point about corruption. When I got my lectureship, I didn't even provide references until they offered it (as didn't want to tell people in my dept I was looking elsewhere!) - they asked for them after they offered it just to check I'm not a complete crazy person. You should be able to just put the names of your potential references down and they then provide them if the recruiting organisation/uni requests them, you shouldn't have to go and ask for letters or anything.

User: bewildered - 20 May 2012 17:02

Harry where are you applying for postdocs? If it's in Britain then it would be normal to have your supervisors as references and while it's always poliite to ask for their permission, it is a part of their job so I doubt they would refuse (even if they are not prepared to write a good reference for some reason then they will at least confirm your PhD is near completion and the topic). As sneaks says in the British system references are unlikely to be a particularly important part of the decision. But not giving any names to be approached for references is a very bad idea as it basically says that you think that no-one in the academic community is prepared to support your application. If though you're in N America, I understand that reference letters are sent with the application and are viewed as very important. You have to have them and they need to be good. In that case, I think you need to think through all the possibilities carefully and approach those most likely to be supportive and reliable.

User: Dalmation - 20 May 2012 21:49

One approach you could try is providing the advisors with a template, or draft, of the letter attached to an email. (Personally, I would ask in person, or by phone, and then send a follow-up email.) The letter could describe your project, followed by neutral language such as, "I recommend Harry without reservation." You can leave it up to them to embellish with a few more sentences if they wish to do so. If they don't, that's fine. This way, you can get your letter/s without asking too much of their time. Unless the prospective employer requests that the letter is addressed directly to him or her, I would just ask your advisors to print it on letterhead addressed to Sir/Madam, or Whom It May Concern. That way, you can use it for other applications, without ever having to ask them again. Good luck! I hope you'll post again to let us know how it works out.

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