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The announcement for a position I am applying to says "two recommendation letters must be sent directly from reviewers".

While I have reviewers that could send good recommendations for me, I find to be impolite for me to ask them to prepare documents, send somewhere, and this is for just one more application that is even before the stage of passing preliminary selection.

Writing a decent letter of recommendation would probably require no less than 20 - 30 minutes for them, even if they have done it once five years ago (I have old signed copies I could provide instead). These my former supervisors are of obviously busy people. There is probably limited number of times before my former supervisors could do this for me before going out of temper. I could contact them and ask to send letters after I know I am considered for the position seriously enough.

What is the right phrasing to explain this? Would it be understood?

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    Can you ask your reviewers to give you the references ahead of time, addressed to whom it may concern? That way you can reuse them without trouble. – rath Feb 13 '17 at 14:21
  • Is this position CEO? Reference letters in an application? Is this really a thing? – JHZ Feb 13 '17 at 15:55
  • @JHZ It's actually the norm in academia, and I've had to provide reference letters with an application for both summer internships and grad school itself, and academic jobs often require letters as part of the application package. But I've never encountered it outside of that context. I could imagine this if the people running the search were used to academic culture and weren't aware (or didn't care) how unusual this is outside that specific context. – BrianH Feb 13 '17 at 18:17
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Remember that the application/interview process is just as much you looking at them as it is them looking at you.

I would include a note that says something like "references available on request" or "references will be provided when appropriate". Your reasons for not asking your references to write a custom letter to accompany every application you send out are sound, reasonable, and respectful.

If the company refuses to consider your application without references, then consider yourself lucky - you've just avoided being hired by a very inconsiderate company that would likely treat you poorly.

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