In another question, it has been justified that reviewers summarize a manuscript to help busy editors who cannot read all manuscript. I do not agree with this even for manuscripts, as the Abstract should do this.

However, I have seen a similar behavior for reviewing job/promotion applications. For example, the report started with this paragraph "the applicant has graduated from ..., worked at X from 2010 to 2013, has published x papers ...". The judging committee already know these facts, these are in the application.

A job/promotion application is different from a research article. These are facts, which can be read in a brief CV (the committee can ask for 2-page CV). IMHO, the report should be straightforward, and clearly telling why the person is or is not recommended for the position. Summarizing the application is waste of time, like summarizing the CV in his cover letter.

I think it is vital responsibility of the promotion/search committee to carefully read the application.

Is it really necessary?

  • It seems to me that the answers to the linked question also apply to reviews for promotion application. Could you edit your question to indicate why you think they don't? – Stephan Kolassa Oct 14 '15 at 13:17
  • @StephanKolassa I added more explanations why a job application does not need to be summarized by reviewers, IMHO. – Jia Oct 14 '15 at 13:24

In a typical letter, the overlap with the CV is just a small portion of the letter, so I don't see why it's a problem. (If it accounts for most of the letter, then something is wrong.) You're right that it's not logically necessary in a world of people with perfect memory, but it helps remind people of the basic facts and puts the subjective comments in context. Only a terrible letter would announce "Smith has published seven papers" and then never say anything more about the papers. It's much more reasonable to lay out the facts and then go on to offer more detailed and evaluative commentary.

There are also issues that are specific to letters of recommendation. For example, letters of recommendation are often updated over time. Perhaps the first letter I write for a graduate student is part of a fellowship application. When she graduates and applies for postdocs, I substantially edit the letter but don't necessarily rewrite it from scratch, and the same document may even last until her tenure case (of course it evolves dramatically over time - by the end four or five substantial changes have been made, and almost none of the original letter remains). Now one purpose of reciting basic facts is to make it perfectly clear that my judgment really is based on her current accomplishments, and not just thoughtlessly recycled from a previous letter based on older information. Of course this is far from the only way to show that, but it can't hurt and might sometimes help.


As with manuscripts, the author/applicant may inadvertently misrepresent themself, or badly represent themself, or be verbose, etc.

Also, addressing the comparison in the pre-amble, editors do not read manuscripts.

Also, as in the link provided by @StephenKolassa, "summaries are good", and "redundancy is good".

Also, I disagree with the notion that the essential points in a job or promotion application are (objective) "facts". Some are, yes, many aren't. And, further, the conclusion is rarely yes-or-no. Yes, the committee will carefully read the files that reach the short list, but there is no guarantee (in a job application process) that they'll read 300-500 files ultra-carefully. Rather, they'll be filtered on reasonable grounds, possibly by subcommittees or individual committee members, who make relatively brief annotations.

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