I am applying for academic jobs in mathematics. Most of the jobs I am applying for ask for three or four letters of recommendation.

At the beginning of my application process, I spoke with an academic who has served on multiple search committees, but who is not a mathematician, who told me that it is ok to send more letters of recommendation than asked for. As a consequence, I obtained five letters of recommendation, and used all five for almost all the jobs to which I have thus far applied.

Recently, I read some things on this site (here and here) that made me wonder if this decision was an error.

In addition, I reflected more on my choices of recommender, which had really been made with the first job application in mind, and wondered if some of the letters really didn't make sense for some of the applications. (I am applying to a variety of positions.)

The question is what to do now. Almost all the applications are through the website mathjobs.org, which allows me to change them at any time. But in many cases the departments are supposedly already processing applications. I wouldn't want to just make a change to an application that is already being reviewed, without comment. The options I have thought of:

1) Don't worry about it. Leave everything as is. Let the departments contact me if something needs to be changed.

2) Contact the search committees and ask them if I should withdraw a letter or two.

What is your advice for me? Are there other options I should consider? What is your recommended option?

I am particularly interested in hearing from people who have served on search committees, or who have gone through the search process and received feedback from departments about issues related to the above. So if you fit either of these descriptions, please say so.

  • 1
    2) Contact the search committees and ask them if I should withdraw a letter or two. I doubt you would get a response to such an inquiry, as the search committee is too busy.
    – Thomas
    Dec 20, 2017 at 23:31

1 Answer 1


What's done is done. Five is no big faux pas, just more than needed. I would move on and, perhaps in the future, trim the number you submit.

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