Let's say that you're thinking of applying for TT jobs in the U.S., though it's not absolutely essential for you to do so this year (but there are some opportunities you don't want to pass up). Due to some peculiar circumstances, there's no one who can really write a letter commenting on your teaching abilities based on observation in the last 5 years. I mean, yes, you did teach a few classes in that time, but you didn't have the presence of mind to ask someone to come observe them. Let's say, to make things really interesting, that you're not teaching right now, so you can't have one of your colleagues just come observe one of your classes (and maybe you don't feel like announcing too prominently to them that you're considering other jobs). There is, of course, the letter you got as a graduate student written by a professor you taught section for a long time ago.

What's the preferable course of action?

  1. only apply if you can somehow arrange things to get a new letter.
  2. don't worry about it and use the old letter.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You write about it not being essential to apply for jobs this year, so it sounds like you don't currently have a T.T. job. Are you really sure the dept. would react badly to you applying for a T.T. job? For instance, if someone is in a 3-year postdoc it is perfectly natural for the person to do a limited T.T. search in the 2nd year if the application would be strong enough by then. Any regular faculty in the dept. would understand someone in a temporary position undertaking a job search for long term positions before the final year there. What kind of position are you in now, roughly? $\endgroup$ – KConrad Oct 15 '10 at 8:48

How much of an issue it is obviously depends on how much teaching the new job expects.

You certainly don't want to just stick with the old letter. Sending evaluations can help (don't look like you weeded out too many, so if you didn't teach much lately, be upfront about it in your letter). You could also send in selected student emails.

I don't see what would be the point of not applying, if you're seriously interested. Even if you don't get the job, letting them know that you're interested is always a plus in case you have another opportunity later. It's unlikely they would dismiss you as uninteresting forever simply because you had an old letter.


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