In “Preparing NOW for Next Year’s Job Market”, Brian Croxall discussed the benefits and provided some examples of preparing your materials for next year’s job market. In this post, I will discuss the enormously helpful and most highly recommended dossier and credential management service, Interfolio.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am an Interfolio user as are several other ProfHacker authors. None of us have received a thing for writing this particular post in the Chronicle space. In fact, I reckon that all of us combined have paid Interfolio several hundreds of dollars, despite having other document management services available to us from our respective institutions.
My reason for writing this post is two-fold: first, to introduce Interfolio to potential job-seekers otherwise unaware of its presence, and second, to give a little free publicity to a group that really gets it when it comes to the academic job market and its intricacies (and idiosyncrasies). Also, they have top-notch customer service; there are real people behind those e-mail addresses, the Facebook page, and the Twitter account. In fact, I signed up for Interfolio approximately one second after I saw a fellow grad student cry out in frustration on Twitter and have an Interfolio representative come to their rescue, after business hours (and I think on a Saturday, too), to make sure that their document made it to its destination on time.
- Request, receive, and manage confidential letters of recommendation
- Store professional documents
- Create custom packages of documents in response to those 5, 10, or 100 job ads all requiring different material
- Deliver your documents electronically or in print
- Track the progress of document preparation and delivery
For document management and delivery, you must purchase a basic Interfolio account: currently, one year of service is $19, three years is $39.90, and five years is $57.00. When I went on the market in Fall of 2009, I signed up for a three year account—I was being realistic about the job market, after all (plus, it was a 30% savings!). All accounts include the standard Interfolio treatment: customizable deliveries, phone and e-mail support, and the ability to store up to 250MB of files. Also, Interfolio will scan any paper document for you and add it to your account, at no additional charge. Don’t have access to a scanner, and don’t have access to an original document, yet you need that document to appear in electronic form? Send it to Interfolio to scan.
Once you have your documents uploaded to Interfolio—and that includes specific cover letters for individual jobs, writing samples tailored to particular jobs, and so on—you can create a delivery package. Let’s say I wanted to apply for a job at ProfHacker University and the search committee chair wanted to see my CV, three letters of recommendation, a writing sample, and a teaching statement. Suppose I plan to use a generic CV, writing sample, and teaching statement, and those were already uploaded to my Interfolio account. I would then need to write a custom cover letter for ProfHacker University and upload that to my Interfolio account. To create a delivery, I would check a few boxes to add these documents to the package, then select my delivery method, fill out the recipient information, and pay the additional cost. All deliveries cost something in addition to your standard annual fee; all manner of electronic deliveries are $4 no matter the size, and paper deliveries range from $6 (standard US domestic delivery) to $45 (International 2-day delivery) for envelopes containing up to 20 pages ($1 per 20 pages over the first 20, so an envelope with 38 pages in it would cost $7 for standard US domestic delivery, $13 for US Priority delivery, and so on).
Oh wait—letters of recommendation! Interfolio manages confidential letters by allowing you to send a request to a letter writer. That letter writer would then login to the Interfolio system and upload their letter. As the requestor, you would see that the letter has been submitted and is available for you to send in your package, but you will not be able to see it (it is confidential, after all). Interfolio provides extensive help for letter writers; letter writers can create accounts for free (if all they are doing is submitting letters).
Interfolio has been in business since 1999, and has partnered with numerous institutions to handle their dossier service for alumni. For example, Brown University recently switched to Interfolio after previously managing this service in-house. I am sure Brown is but one of many institutions who have done the same.
Since all of my praise for Interfolio comes from the perspective of a recent graduate, I asked my dissertation committee chair and general all-around academic advisor to offer her thoughts on Interfolio as a letter writer and recipient of materials for job searches. Here’s what Augusta Rohrbach (Department of English, Washington State University) has to say about Interfolio:
I love Interfolio! Back in the day, when I was a graduate student at Columbia, the worst part of the job market was making sure letters were submitted and dossiers went out. Despite the best efforts of many very fine people, something always went wrong. Unfortunately, there are even worse aspects of the job market now…um, like, even fewer jobs!
But at least you won’t be disqualified from a job search because your dossier never arrived (yes, that happened to me). With Interfolio, I have yet to hear from any of my students, friends, or colleagues of mishaps, failures to deliver dossiers, or misfiled letters. I also like the transparency of Interfolio—the system lets the user know that a letter has been uploaded, saving everyone the trouble of wondering, emailing (again), and just generally feeling like a pest. I believe, together with the job wikis people are using to gauge search timelines while departments go mum, Interfolio has reduced unnecessary snafus and the stress that increases exponentially as a result.
I’m happy to give Interfolio my money because they’ve proven time and again that they deliver on their promises. If something goes wrong, they will do everything in their power to fix it. So, if you’re taking Brian’s advice preparing now for next year’s job market, why not give Interfolio a whirl?
Have you used Interfolio or are curious about their services? Do you have questions about using a document management service in general? Ask in the comments—if we don’t know the answer we’ll find someone who does!