Soliciting External Letters

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Pre-solicitation

Some departments engage in a pre-solicitation process which usually involves contacting potential reviewers to determine their availability. These activities will continue to take place outside online review.

Official Solicitation

Entering names

Once you know who will be formally contacted and provided with access to the candidate’s file, and the candidate has submitted his or her materials, you should enter those individuals in the online review system and use the system to solicit their letters of evaluation. Letter solicitation is only possible while the file is in the state "Dept/Unit Add Materials (DP-40)." As soon as you move the file forward, you will no longer be able to solicit letters, so make sure you complete this process before releasing the file to the candidate.

  1. Login to the online review system and navigate to your Docket screen.
  2. Select the review for which you need to enter letter writers
  3. Navigate to the Letter Solicitation tab. NOTE: this tab will only appear if you have set the “Letter Solicitation” flag when initiating the review. If you don’t see the tab, go to the Config tab to set that flag now. (choose Config, Edit Settings, switch the "external review" setting to "Yes", and save)

  4. Click the Add button to add the name of a letter writer.
  5. Enter their:
    a. First Name
    b. Last Name
    c. Title/honorific
    d. Institution
    e. Email
    Their Status will default to Active. You may change this if you will not also be setting up their access and emailing them at this time.

  6. Click the Create button to save the record.

Preparing the candidate’s file for external review

  1. Once the candidate has submitted their file to the department, you can make the file available to solicited reviewers.
  2. Navigate to your Docket screen.
  3. Select the review file with which you want to work .
  4. Review file for correctness, and make changes as necessary.
  5. Navigate to the Letter Solicitation tab for that file.
  6. Add or edit any reviewer contact information, as needed.
  7. Click the Set Confidential Letter Writer Access button to select the documents you want to make visible to letter writers. The system assumes you want to make all documents with types Biobibliography/CV, Personal Statement, Unsolicited Materials and Scholarly/Creative Work available to letter writers. You can click to deselect any items that should not be visible to this group. Any items that remain checked will be visible to ALL reviewers. Access to materials cannot be customized for individual reviewers.


  8. Click the SAVE button to save your settings.

Emailing the reviewers

  1. Select the review file with which you want to work.
  2. Navigate to the Letter Solicitation tab.
  3. Make sure the reviewers are set to Active as appropriate.
  4. If you want to check the file view that your Letter Writers will have, click the Proxy link. Check to see that these reviewers will have all (and only) the materials you expect them to have.

  5. Click the Email link to send a solicitation email to each reviewer. The system will prepare an email template which you can modify as needed. NOTE: The email template provides a link for the reviewer at the bottom; when writing your letter you will want to direct the reviewer's attention to this link. The link includes a security token that will allow reviewers to view the candidate’s materials within the online review system.
    The system will automatically send a copy of the email to the Department Review Manager so you’ll have a record of what you did. Do not add additional cc recipients to this email because the security token is intended only for the reviewer.

  6. Click the SEND button to send the completed email to the reviewer.
  7. You will be returned to the Letter Solicitation tab, where you can see that the email has been sent and the date recorded in the system.

Receiving and redacting letters

As reviewers submit their letters to the online system, the department review manager, chair/unit head, and lead reviewer(s) for the file are notified by email when a letter is received.

The uploaded documents are saved with the Dossier materials for the review. The system saves each letter with a name that includes the writer’s name and institution as you entered them on the Letter Solicitation tab. Letters will be saved with a Document Type of Solicited Letters (Confidential). Documents with this type are never visible to candidates.

The Department Review Manager will need to prepare redacted versions of confidential letters for the candidate.

  1. Select the review file you want to work with.
  2. Navigate to the Dossier tab.
  3. Download the confidential letter.
  4. Redact the letter per policy.
  5. Save the redacted letter with a filename that replaces their name and institution with an assigned code, e.g. if Nancy Degnan is assigned as Reviewer C, save the redacted version of “Degnan,Nancy-Harvard-MyLetter.pdf” to be “ReviewerC.pdf”
    IMPORTANT: The reviewer's name, institution or any other revealing information must not be part of the file name, as it may be visible to the candidate. If you are digitally redacting the file (using a program), be sure any identifying metadata is also removed.
  6. Upload the redacted letter in the Department Documents section using the Redacted Confidential Letters document type. Documents of this type WILL be visible to the candidate. NOTE: The candidate will not be able to see the redacted letters until you have completed your collection of the letters and released the file to the candidate for the next Checklist to Assure Fairness.

Revoking access

External reviewers can use their token to access the candidate’s materials as long as their Status is set to Active. Once a reviewer has uploaded their letter, they continue to have access to the materials -- and to replace their letter with a corrected or revised version – until the department forwards the file to the candidate for the next Checklist to Assure Fairness.

You may want to revoke their access at an earlier point in time; for example, to prevent changes to letters during the final stages of this process, when a chair may be reviewing received letters. You can also revoke access for a reviewer who has failed to respond by the department’s deadline.

To revoke a solicited external reviewer’s access, inactivate their account:

  1. Navigate to the Letter Solicitation tab.
  2. Click the Edit link for the reviewer.
  3. Select “Inactive” from the drop-down menu in the Status field.
  4. Click SAVE to update the record.
  5. You will be returned to the Letter Solicitation tab, where you can see that the person’s status has been updated.

Documentation of the Solicitation Process

Upload the required documentation of the solicitation process (information on letter-writers, sample solicitation, etc.) into the "Department Documents" section of the Dossier tab, selecting the appropriate document type for each. The information on letter writers remains confidential from the candidate. The sample solicitation letter will become available to the candidate for review, however, so be sure it does not contain identifying information.

NEXT STEPS:

When all solicited letters have been received and redacted and any other departmental documents have been added, the file is ready to move to the next stage. The Department Review Manager will submit the file for the candidate’s review and the completion of the next section of the Checklist to Assure Fairness. See Prepare for Department Review for these steps.

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See Also