Getting a recommendation

I get this question a lot, in fact near the end of the spring semester they come in droves. I would like to answer your questions about the process. The overall theme here will be that my recommendation will be only as good as the information you supply to me.

Realize that in order to write you a credible recommendation or give you a reference, I need to know you to some extent. That means obviously that you’ve taken a class, or done a project, or TA’d for me at some point. If I don’t feel like I know you well enough I will decline. In any event if you are comfortable with this please include a picture to remind me what you look like, I tend to have a very visual memory!

Academic and Job recommendations are quite different. Here are my suggestions for the two scenarios.

Academic Recommendation

If you are applying to grad school or transferring or something like that then a written recommendation is typical.

Here’s how the process works and what I ask of you:

First, check with me if I am willing to write a recommendation for you. I will let you know that I agree if I feel that I know you well enough to write one. If I have only known you as a student in one course, it’s likely that we don’t know each other well enough so please bear that in mind when approaching me for a recommendation.

If I agree to writing you a recommendation, then please send me the following:

  • Your current resume (pdf not .doc or anything else)
  • A list of all the computer science courses you took, the professor, and the grade.
  • An email with reminders of what courses you took with me, and when that was. Include interesting or memorable things that happened or interactions that we had.
  • If you’re willing, include a photo so I can make sure I remember you better
  • A list of deadlines emailed to me so that I aways know when the next one is going to be needed.

Realize that the better a job you do giving me context the better a recommendation I will write. With that information I will let you know that I will be able to write the recommendation.

When you submit the applications to the institution, they will ask for the names and emails of your recommenders. You may list me there, and include my email: and my phone number. They will then send me an email with a link for me to submit the recommendation.

Please keep track of who you asked for recommendations, and when all the deadlines are. A friendly reminder to me that a deadline is coming up is appreciated

Recommendation for a job or internship

For job recommendations things work totally differently. The practice in the “real world” is to give references, almost only by phone. So the procedure is different:

Check with me if I am willing to give you a reference and send me your current resume. You can also include any other reminders, stories or context that you want me to be aware of.

Usually during a second or third interview you will be asked for references. If you have my agreement you can give them my name and cell phone number.

After giving that information out, I ask that you call or email me to alert me that I might be getting a call and what the company or organization is.

I hope this info is clear and useful for you. Feel free to ask me for more details or clarifications. And good luck!