I am an undergraduate computer science student entering my 3rd year of college. I plan on using letters of recommendation to get an internship in the tech industry for next summer. It is likely that I will get one letter of recommendation (from my manager from this summer's tech internship at a large company) that will be non-confidential. This question is about a second letter of recommendation from a professor with whom I did undergraduate research.

Is it highly recommended that this second letter be confidential?

If I keep it confidential, I will have to ask recruiters at career fairs for their email address (if we use a dossier service like Interfolio). This would help open up a line of communication but I'm not sure if it's likely that recruiters would give me their email address. Even if they did, it would take some time to send this letter of recommendation via email through a service like Interfolio. And once they get the letter of recommendation, my application would be scattered with my resume as a hard copy and this letter on email.

Or is it fine if I keep it non confidential which would enable me to freely share the letter by uploading it on online applications or handing it to recruiters at career fairs along with my resume? Would removing confidentiality drastically reduce the credibility of the letter? Also, would you even suggest doing the latter: handing the letter along with my resume?

Thanks in advance!

  • 3
    Errr. Are we back in 1950? No one uses letters of recommendation any more except for Academia. Tech certainly doesn't. And definitely not for the purpose you're suggesting. Aside from that I have no idea what it would even mean for a LoR to be "confidential". VTC Unclear.
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 4, 2016 at 11:10
  • 1
    That sounds like another academia thing. Like I said, LoRs are simply not used in the professional world. If you're talking about internships that closely tied to a college program then that's a different matter but even there I'd imagine you wouldn't have a LoR drafted until you've actually passed an initial resume filter with the company. A reference can be very useful but you're likely to come across as naive or quaint if you hand over a LoR along with your resume or, worse, require a manager's email so your professor can send one.
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 4, 2016 at 11:38
  • 1
    It's what the equally outdated "references available on request" refers to. References in a job searching context are people who can vouch for your work (ethic). Only references from former managers are typically accepted or useful with so-called personal references carrying virtually no weight.
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 4, 2016 at 12:18
  • 1
    Assuming you have a professor who you are actually close to and who you have actually worked for and who is actually impressed with your work then you can use him as a reference and that can really make a difference with the other candidates. But that's a lot of work and it's not intended to get you past the first hurdle which is resume filtering and usually a phone screen or initial interview.
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 4, 2016 at 12:19
  • 1
    Did the professor ask that the reference be kept confidential?
    – JasonJ
    Aug 4, 2016 at 12:39

4 Answers 4


I don't know of any employers who ask for actual letters of reference. What employers do ask for is references they can contact to discuss what it's like to work with you. These people should generally include managers and supervisors, but can also include more senior team members or others that are familiar with your work. You should:

  1. Ask the people you want to use as references if you can use them as a reference.
  2. Ask them how they would like to be contacted by your potential employers. (Some people do not want to be contacted about these matter during work hours, some don't want to be contacted on their work number...etc.)
  3. Make sure you have the correct address, employer, position and contact information for them.
  4. Give them a heads up if a potential employer asks for references. Getting a call for a reference should not be a surprise to your reference.
  5. Only give out contact info for your references when requested by a potential employer. (See #4)

The only time a letter of recommendation is legit is when the two individuals know each other or the person writing the letter is of a very high position. Unless your potential employer knows your professor or is under contract with the school to intern, then I doubt it would have any value.

As far as keeping it confidential, I'm assuming you mean you only want to supply it on request once you are considered for the position. In such a case it wouldn't hurt but I'd concentrate on doing a good job over trying to show off your academic skills. In the "real world" your academic grades or good relationship with a professor carries very little value over what you can actually produce. It is far better to have a professor be used as a reference if he can vouch for your skills and can offer a good recommendation.

  • By confidential, I meant that I wouldn't get to see the contents of the letter. Apologises for the confusion
    – DVB
    Aug 4, 2016 at 13:28

If you are using letters of recommendation to get internships in tech, it most probably doesn't matter whether those letters are confidential - if a prospective employer is interested in hiring you, they'll most likely to contact your reference to get the real deal from them.

I am not even sure in this day and age how much letters of recommendation are worth - I mean, the usual procedure is that you provide the references and your prospective employer checks up on their own what the story is. You should consult the Career Services Office of your school before you ask any question here, on this forum - if you have questions about the basics of a job search, these should be the first people you should consult.

If you were looking for an academic position, those letters of recommendation would matter but you are not looking for an academic position.


Letters of Recommendation are very specific to certain sectors and work (e.g. graduate school, military intelligence, ...). Most references are personal not letters.

I advise asking existing professors / employers if they would provide a reference for a job, not a letter of reference. That means the employer may call them and ask them about you. You need to have made a specific impression upon the person providing the reference.

I have written Letters of Reference for graduate programs for colleagues. They have all been confidential. The schools always require that they are.

I have been a reference for many people as well. Typically I only get called when it is with respect to either a Security Clearance or a large employer (e.g. 50,000 employees or larger).

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