401.220 - Instructions for Soliciting Letters


The following procedures should be followed when soliciting external (or internal) letters.

  1. The candidate supplies names (internal and external) of those who might reasonably be asked to evaluate his/her work. The candidate should also provide brief comments on the academic standing of each proposed reviewer and relationship, if any, to the candidate. A candidate may choose not to supply such names. If the candidate decides not to suggest names, please indicate this in the review file.

  2. The candidate supplies names of persons (external and internal) who, for reasons set forth in writing by the candidate, might not objectively evaluate the candidate's qualifications and performance because of personal or professional reasons. Any names and the reasons shall be included in the review file. The reasons given need not be detailed--examples are "My work has just proved that John Smith's work of the last 40 years is completely wrong" or "My work is of the Green School, while hers is of the Smith School." Naming someone as possibly not being objective does not mean that the person will be excluded from participating in the review, but will allow reviewers to place comments in the file in the proper context.

  3. The department's solicitation letter must be neutral in presentation so as not to lead the reviewer's response. Sample letters are provided. It is not necessary to use these exact letters; however, it is a requirement that the paragraphs concerning confidentiality be included either in, or appended to, the letter. A sample copy of the solicitation letter must be included in the review file.

  4. The chairperson shall solicit letters of evaluation of the candidate from qualified persons, normally including a reasonable number of persons nominated by the candidate. All such letters shall be included in the review file and are confidential documents. The candidate shall have access to them by receipt of redacted copies. Refer to CAPM 200.160 for description of redaction.

  5. There should be a reasonable balance between letters from the candidate's list and others who may not be so closely acquainted with the candidate. Letters should have been written within the last two years. Normally those who have written a letter evaluating the candidate will not be asked to serve on any ad hoc committee appointed to review the candidate's file.

  6. There is no set number of letters required, usually five are adequate. The most effective letters are analytical and from leading experts in the discipline. The letters should give evidence to support assertions. There is no advantage to only soliciting UC faculty. The department should strive to have competent reviewers from leading programs who are most qualified to comment on the candidate's qualifications.

  7. Include the candidate's list of suggested names in the file. A comprehensive list of all persons from whom letters were sought must be included; identify those suggested by the candidate on the comprehensive list.

  8. Annotate on the list of letter writers the names of all persons who were asked to write letters, including those who declined. Attach the declining letters or email messages, to the list of letter writers in the review file. If some declined through a telephone conversation, please note the reasons stated on the list of letter writers. The intention is to document all efforts at obtaining reviews of the candidate's work.

  9. The list of all persons from whom letters were sought should also include brief comments on academic standing of each letter writer and relationship, if any, to candidate: Identify each letter writer with an alpha code (reviewer A, B, C, etc.). These comments are provided to give reviewers unfamiliar with the candidate's area of expertise an idea of the standing and qualifications of the reviewers. A short paragraph is normally sufficient. It should include such information as title, institution, major works or specialty.

    • Examples:
      Associate Professor John Doe of Harvard University is the author of the definitive work on glueballs, Glueballs in the Sky. He directed the candidate's dissertation while at Princeton University.
    • Professor Jane Jones of Stanford University is a leading biochemist working on _______. Author of numerous papers published in __________. She does not know the candidate.
  10. Letters from students are not required. If submitted, the following must be included: sample copy of solicitation letter to students (the letter should be unbiased in presentation); list of names suggested by the department. The list of names should be representative of course lists. One method to generate the names is to pick every fourth name from course lists. Student letters will be given little, if any, weight if the names are not representative of course lists.

  11. The department may receive unsolicited letters from faculty, students or other interested parties. All unsolicited material, unless received by the University with the understanding that the identity of the author will be held in confidence to the extent permissible by law, is nonconfidential and the candidate has direct access to it. Department chairs may check with the letter writer to ascertain whether the letter was intended to be confidential or not. Determining intended confidentiality is especially important if the unsolicited letter is from a student. The chairperson should clearly mark an unsolicited letter as "unsolicited-confidential" or "unsolicited-non-confidential," as appropriate before adding it to the review file.

  12. All letters received must be included with the review file.