The Letters Can WaitHistorians in the News
tags: AHA, History Profession, letters of recommendation, history jobs
The American Historical Association’s governing council recently approved changing the organization’s Guidelines for the Hiring Process to encourage hiring institutions to request reference letters only from candidates who have passed the initial screening, upon requesting additional materials or before video or conference interviews.
"Given the current academic job market, having applicants provide letters of recommendation only after the initial screening stage can reduce stress and unnecessary paperwork for candidates, letter-writers and hiring committees," the updated policy reads.
James Grossman, executive director of the AHA, said that students often have to pay their dossier system to have letters sent out, meaning they’re “shelling out money when the odds of being hired are long.” Graduate advisers and other references also write “a lot of letters for candidates who are eliminated quickly from a search,” and so are “better off spending more time on letters at a later stage, when the odds are higher,” he added.
Suzanne Marchand, Boyd Professor of History at Louisiana State University and a councilor for the AHA’s Professional Division, wrote about the problem in a column called “Letters of Rec: An Ancient Genre in Need of a Modern Update” for the association’s Perspectives on History in September. “Letters have grown so bathetic that in the last job searches I chaired, I confess, I hardly looked at the letters for the general pool of candidates (over 150 in each search, many of them, apparently, ‘our best student ever’),” she said.
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