interfolio bleg

So, Interfolio: does it work?  Specifically, I mean the part of the service where job candidates sign up for the service, faculty members (or those in their employ) upload the letters, and then the service handles delivering letters of recommendation to the jobs for which the candidates are applying, regardless of whether the job wants the letters on paper or electronically.  Is this true?  Does it work as advertised?  Is it really as cheap as it looks on the website?

I have to admit, I haven’t followed this corner of academic technology/outsourcing for awhile, and so while I’ve had sporadic dealings with Interfolio in one way or another, I didn’t fully apprehend that this was their business model.  (I knew that departments could run their searches through Interfolio, but not the part where applicants could pay them to handle letters for them, or if I was aware of this I didn’t know that it was supposed to be something that could be used for non-electronic applications and that the ostensible price was so low.  Seems too good to be true, but then again, so did GMail and Dropbox once upon a time.)

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

8 thoughts on “interfolio bleg”

  1. So I’m not an applicant, but I have used interfolio as a recommender, and it seems to work ok. You can upload multiple variants of a letter and the applicant can select from among them (e.g. the “teaching” letter or the “research” letter). As some of your FB comments indicated, Wisconsin pays for the service for our grads on the market, which has had the positive effect of cutting down administrative overhead of producing paper letters and getting them signed and mailed.

    The wrinkle in the model is the growing number of grad programs and potential employers that have their OWN electronic submission systems they want you to use in response to an email, forcing the individual faculty recommender to do each recommendation individually.


    1. Yeah, well, it’s not clear from their website exactly how the pricing works. There is a $20/year plan that you can pay for. If there’s a per letter surcharge on top of that, I’m having trouble finding out what that price is.


  2. I have used it as both an applicant and a letter writer. It’s fantastic for applicants. It saves them from having to constantly bug their committee members for letters. The less responsible writers can just upload their one letter and be done, and the more responsible writers can upload multiple or tailored versions of their letters. As a letter writer, it is somewhat less helpful because of the reason olderwoman mentions — that a growing number of schools have electronic submission systems. However, there is actually a (somewhat complicated) way to use Interfolio for most of these systems.


  3. I used as an applicant, and probably paid them $100-150 for the previous job season. That’s not too good to be true. One or two faculty members refused to upload their letters to them for reasons that they wouldn’t specify, which signaled to me not to ask them for letters at all.


    1. Your assumption that their refusal was a bad sign could be right, but I can think of at least two benign reasons why you could be wrong. One is just simple technophobia or lack of trust of the site and how it works. Another could actually be a positive reason, in that a personalized letter for each job is probably at least marginally better than a standardized “to whom it may concern” letter. When I’m advising someone who is applying only for a small number of jobs, I offer to do this.

      There are also some faculty who will write a strong letter for a student for all but the “top” jobs and want to be able to match the strength of their endorsement to the job. This is a delicate situation if the student’s ego is fragile, but if you are willing to ask your advisors frank questions about what kind of jobs they think you are likely to be qualified for, you ought to be able to diagnose and deal with this kind of problem.


  4. You can do customized letters in Interfolio, right? But, is the idea that, even though the applicant cannot see the actual letter, they can still see whether a different letter was sent to a different place (like, that the recommender used a different letter for top schools than other schools)?

    (Yeah, $100-$150 per applicant is more in line with what I would have imagined. I think I misread how it worked on the website at first. Still, that’s a quite reasonable rate for the purposes for which I’m asking the question.)


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