I applied to a job at university A. It happens that a life-long friend (and, much later, professional colleague) is on the hiring committee for that job. Yay for that job. It's for my secondary field though, so while I can see myself getting an interview, I don't realistically see myself getting the position unless everyone else screws up horribly along the interview process which is of course possible as I've seen it happen.

There is also a job at university B that I'm going to apply to. My friend/colleague at A is one of the people whose letters would be optimal given college type, subfields, etc. Except that I also applied to the job at A, and it now feels awkward to ask them for a letter for B.

Were the job market not as awful as it is in COVID times, I would just go with "get a letter from someone else", but the market crunch means I also need to be able to put my best dossier together. So, would it be unreasonable/overly awkward/etc to ask them for a letter, or is this a normal(ish) enough situation to not be concerned about its potential impact on getting a job at A?

1 Answer 1


In many, and I hope most, places your friend will need to recuse from the decision to hire you even if they don't write a letter. Given that, assuming it is true, getting a letter from them isn't an issue.

But you can ask, first, for their advice on whether a letter from them would be helpful or not. It is even possible, I suppose, that rules would make such a letter off limits for consideration, though I think that would be rare.

It might be that an informal verbal recommendation from them to the hiring committee would carry weight (if not seen as improper), in which case a letter from someone else would be valuable.

But either avoid the issue completely by asking someone else for a letter or explore it with your friend first.

  • FWIW, I've no doubt they will inform the search chair of our history and follow the chair's advice, but given the specifics of the search (which aren't applicable to most fields), I don't imagine they will be asked to recuse themself. Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 23:24

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