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I had an interview at a university for a tenure track position. They decided not to give me an offer, but I met a professor there (for the first time) that supported me as a candidate. This professor saw my application, went to my talk, and was not on the search committee, but participated in my campus visit.

I corresponded with this person through e-mail, and the phone, about my career (not just about the position).

Since I didn't get an offer for a job I wanted this year, can I ask this person if they would write me a reference letter for my job search next year?

  • I believe that would be an odd request. – Scott Seidman Apr 27 '16 at 21:25
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You can ask the person and there would be no conflict of interest in doing so. While this person might have a good understanding of you research, teaching, and background from the previous job process, they generally will not know you well enough to write a strong letter of recommendation. The best letter writers are people who have known you for years and have worked with you on a daily basis.

  • Thanks for your input. I have references that I've known for years that I can get strong letters from. In the job search, depending on where I am applying, I pick letters that I think are more relevant to the job, so I like to have a variety of references to choose from. But you make a good point about this. – Felix Y. Apr 27 '16 at 19:55
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    It would be pretty odd to place someone known this casually in the position of having to accept or decline your invitation to support an application. – Scott Seidman Apr 27 '16 at 21:24
  • @ScottSeidman yes, it is a little odd, but there is nothing wrong with it if you lack better options. – StrongBad Apr 27 '16 at 21:37
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    I don't know. Making yourself look odd in your community has career drawbacks -- as does not getting a job. There is a balance. I think the low likelihood of the resulting letter actually helping to support an application package would push me toward a recommendation to skip on the request, but others may certainly see it differently. – Scott Seidman Apr 27 '16 at 21:51
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No. A reference should always be from someone who has known you in person for some time. It should be someone who has taught you or worked with you or employed you.

The purpose of a referee is to provide independent verification of your qualities that make you suitable for the position. Having exchanged electronic communication with you previously does not make them suitable. The only source of information they have for you is from you, which is not good.

Getting support from someone unsuitable, however notable they might be, cannot enhance your applications.

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