In a related question, Who should write a recommendation letter?, I came to the conclusion that letters of recommendation should be written by academics in the same field who knows the applicant's work, though, they may not know the applicant in person.

I wonder who should be named as references when applying for a senior administrative job such as dean, vice president, provost, president? In this case, the search committee should be interested in the applicant's skills for administrative tasks, rather than achievements in his or her academic discipline.

For example, a dean is applying for a provost position. Shouldn't the references be persons who have been directly involved in the applicant's role as dean in his current position?

  • 3
    For such high-level positions, just get references from the most powerful people you can get on board. That's a political process, so play it as such.
    – F'x
    Sep 27, 2013 at 13:34
  • @F'x you mean somehow letter of support? e.g., recommendation by other university presidents or senior administrators? In other words, if senior administrator from other universities recommends an applicant, then he is a suitable candidate?
    – Googlebot
    Sep 27, 2013 at 14:17
  • @F'x I am not sure that "name dropping" is really the way to go (although I really have no idea). Wouldn't you still want people who can comment on how good you can administrate.
    – StrongBad
    Sep 27, 2013 at 15:24
  • 2
    Speculating, I'd guess your bosses from earlier administrative positions. Your chair when you were vice-chair, your dean or provost when you were chair, the chair of the important university-wide committee you sat on, the president of the professional organization that you were vice-president of, etc. Sep 27, 2013 at 16:55
  • @NoahSnyder when 3 - 5 references are needed, only one can be the immediate past boss (where holding the senior position). What should be the list of references?
    – Googlebot
    Sep 27, 2013 at 16:58

1 Answer 1


The key when soliciting recommendation letters is to find persons who can provide insights into your credentials applicable for the job you are looking for. From this perspective the view you shared that letters "should be written by academics in the same field who knows the applicant's works" is only a special case.

When applying for a high level administrative job you need to find people at as high a level as possible. These should know your background, experience etc. but also be aware of the demands of the job for which you apply (this can be seen either in general or specific terms). There is thus no limit to whom you ask for letters but they will definitely not be as limited as for a regular academic position. Clearly anyone who has seen your capability to lead and administrate, for example, large projects, a department or research group will be appropriate. I can also add that you will most likely mostly look for letters from people in positions at similar or higher level than you (within academia, not necessarily so if you ask for letters from other professionals). But, the key is still to solicit support for the key aspects of the job to which you apply.

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