Self-Managing an Open Credentials File

Letters of Recommendation and References

A Guide for Self-Managing Your Credentials

We encourage you to consider the following guidelines for self-managing your letters of recommendation. It will be to your advantage to have your credentials complete before starting the application process. Allow plenty of time (4-6 weeks, or longer) to be able to gather all the information needed for a credentials file. You want to be prepared for any position opening that you may want to apply for!

 Self-Managed Credentials

 A self-managed credentials file consists of signed letters of recommendation written by references which are administered, collected, maintained and sent by you directly to prospective employers.  Some individuals may wish to include other documents, such as, a transcript and a teaching license. Do not “over-do” it on materials.

 A credential is a letter of recommendation that attests to your professional training and experience.  Credentials are typically expected as part of the employment process for those seeking employment in an educational setting..  Candidates applying for positions in schools, colleges and universities will want to consider having a credential file.  Students applying to graduate schools may also use a credential file.

 Always ask your intended references if they are willing to write an “open” letter of recommendation.  Be sure to spend some time talking with them about your career goals, your education, and your work experience.  Additionally, it would be beneficial for you to provide your recommenders with a copy of your resume.  This will give your recommenders additional information needed to write an effective recommendation.

 Letters of Recommendation

Carefully select the people you will use as references. The most valuable recommendations come from those who can comment about your teaching skills, teaching ethic, accomplishments, leadership, communication, and teamwork abilities.

 You should consider obtaining letters from any of the following:

  • Cooperating Teacher (highly recommended for new teachers)
  • Site Supervisor (highly recommended for new teachers)
  • Field experience teacher
  • Principals/Superintendents
  • Teachers or administrator that have observed you teaching
  • Department heads
  • Mentor teachers
  • University faculty for you concentration area
  • Current or former employers from a “related” experience to teaching
  • Director or supervisor from a volunteer experience

Do not wait until graduation to obtain appropriate letters of reference.  It is advisable to request faculty recommendations immediately upon completion of a course or a research project.  At a later time, the faculty member may not be available or may not recall the quality or extent of your contribution to the class.

What will a letter of reference look like?

  • It should be typed or computer generated, not hand written
  • It should be on the writers letterhead, or printed on the generic form, provided by ESU Career Services
  • It should be no longer than 1 page
  • It should include the date, the writers signature and printed name, and the writers contact information
  • The writer will be someone that can attest to your ability to teach in the class room, or your experiences of working with children.

Process for Obtaining Your Letters of Recommendation

  • References may provide letters of recommendation to the candidate on their organization’s letterhead.
  • For the writer’s convenience, enclose a self-addressed, stamped return envelope.
  • After you have received the letter of recommendation, be sure to send a thank-you note to the writer.
  • You should have a minimum of three (3) references, and it is suggested that you limit the number of recommendations to five (5), which is adequate for the majority of employers. So, 3 is great, but no more than 5 letters.
  • Candidates should retain the “original”, signed letter of recommendation for their files.
  • Copies of the letters of recommendation are sent directly to prospective employers who have requested your credentials.


The transcript is your permanent university student record.  You can request a copy of your transcript from the Office of the Registrar website to keep as your personal copy.  You may read about and request transcripts online at:

 You can include copies of your transcript with your credentials materials, but this is considered an “unofficial” copy.  Once you accept a position, an employer requests an “official” transcript, you must arrange to have the Registrar’s Office send a copy directly to the employer.

 Treat Your References Well

Keep your references informed of your job search and notify them when you have obtained employment.  Be sure to thank them for their support!

 Applying for Teaching Positions:

Your credentials are just one component for the application process. A complete application may include:

  • Cover Letter
  • Resume
  • Application
  • Credentials (in this order!!)
    • Cover Sheet
    • Letters of Reference
    • Reference Sheet (if contact information is not on each of the letters)
    • Teaching License
    • Transcript

 How Materials should be sent: Many districts will ask you to upload these documents during an online application process. Be sure to have these documents saved electronically for this type of application process. If the employer accepts hard copies, follow the next couple steps:

  • Make copies of all your documents to be sent.
    • All application materials should be sent together in a 9 x 12-inch envelope.
    • Address labels should be typed in the recommended United States Postal Service format using all capital letters and removing all punctuation.
    • When mailing your credentials, you may wish to request a “return receipt” that will verify that your credentials reached the desired destination.

 Future Management of your Credentials:

Letters in your credentials file should not be used for applying if they are more than 3-5 years old. Once you have a couple years of teaching behind you, it is suggested that you replace your student teaching letters with more current, professional letters. Begin collecting letters prior to any job search and obtain a new transcript if you have taken classes since your graduation. ALWAYS keep the originals copies or your documents and send only “quality” copies with applications. Get in the practice or updating your resume each year and build your professional references, as you will have new experiences and challenges each school year.