Write your own reference, but let me “improve” it

Posted: October 6, 2011 by Jender in Uncategorized

About a year ago, I was one the job market. As is customary in such cases, I asked my department chair, who was my direct boss, whether he would be willing to write a letter of recommendation. He said, I’ll be happy to send one, but only if you write it for me. I don’t have time for such things, and you know yourself better anyway.
Now, I am a shy person not prone to self-promotion, and I find it already hard to write a simple cover letter to illustrate my qualities, but it’s even worse to write one’s own letter of recommendation. I also hated the dishonesty of the whole thing – it really defeats the purpose of providing the potential employer with contextual information. Nevertheless, after nights of struggling I had what I believed was a good letter of recommendation. I sent it to him, and he sent it on to the SC. He also sent me an e-mail with small changes he made to the letter – improvements, he called them. To my horror, his so-called improvements made me look a lot worse. One of the most damaging additions was that the department was financially struggling, and so they had to let some people go. As I was on a temp, non-renewable position, this was an outright lie, since the termination of my contract had nothing to do with the financial problems of the department, but everything with the type of contract I was on. But it made it look like I wasn’t as good a philosopher as the other members of the department. He had sent out this letter to all the jobs I applied for, and I didn’t get a single interview that season. Unsurprisingly, I finally started getting invitations for interviews once I decided to no longer ask him as a reference.

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