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I think all you can do is try to get outside letters and lots of teaching experience. If you are in that position research jobs are probably completely out of your reach - I mean, maybe if you publish 5 papers in phil review. You will be hurt for teaching schools as well, but I think it can be over come with lots of teaching experience, outside letters, and letters talking about your teaching. I would NOT mention the absence of the letter in your cover letter or anywhere else. I just don't think there is anyway for that to come off well. (The only exception would be if you don't have a letter because your supervisor is dead, or left the profession...)


What would happen if the person in question had two PhD supervisors and can count with the letter of one of them? The ex-PhD student may have good reasons for not being in contact anymore with the other supervisor. Should (s)he included in the letter of presentation these reasons?


I don't think Amanda is right here. I know people who have overcome this very thing. I would suggest talking to other letter writers/people you trust about what they think the right strategy in your particular situation is. (For example: some philosophers are notoriously unkind to their students, and if you are in this situation, it might be that you should just submit outside letters and not address the issue. But for some people it might make sense to have another letter writer who knows the candidate well and understands the situation insert a brief and tactful explanation. Exactly what strategy to choose probably depends on the situation.)

Also, as someone who has been on a few hiring committees: I don't think I would normally notice this until a late-ish round (e.g. when we were trying to reduce say 30 people to 15 to skype interview them, or at the skype to flyout stage), and honestly at that stage this is not the sort of thing that would cause me to eliminate someone from consideration. Even if you're looking carefully at letters, CVs, writing samples, etc., you are looking at TONS of candidates and you aren't necessarily matching up/cross referencing the supervisor listed on the CV with the letters.

Finally, for what it's worth, I just don't think I would even take this into consideration as a reason to eliminate a candidate. What matters when it comes to letters is how strong the letters they actually have are, and that the people writing them know and understand their work.


My question then is: how to get strong outside letters? Someone suggested me to send my -still- unpublished papers to people working in the same field as me, first, to get feedback, and second, to make a contact to eventually ask the person to write a letter. But how strong can it be a letter written by someone who just read one or two papers of your papers? I think I would not even dare to ask for a letter of recommendation.
I have also the impression that senior academics are super busy, and it is hard to receive an answer from them after having sent to them just a mail, and even more, to make a real connection that justify to ask for a letter of recommendation in the future.


As far as getting outside letters, I have a number of them, but they were all received after having extensive in-person contact. Some of these outside biggish name letter writers then wrote to their big name friends, saying I was a great student, and asking to read my work when I sent it. None of those big names responded to my emails. So while again, it completely depends on who the person is, it seems that in general just writing some philosopher you don't know and asking them to read your work/write a letter is not going to work. (of course, it doesn't hurt to try!) My best recommendation would be to get involved in some sort of research group that includes big names in your field. This, of course, is not always easy.

I would be curious to hear from someone who has a research job and whose supervisor didn't write for them. I do believe this is *possible*, as almost everything has exceptions, it just seems unlikely. And I tend to think letters aren't even looked at closely until the final 30 candidates are chosen, so yeah, it wouldn't hurt you at the beginning. But I guess I would be surprised if you have a famous supervisor, and someone doesn't notice their letter is missing. At my PhD institution, we have a number of "controversial" faculty who have refused to write their students letters. This might be a coincidence, but none of these students have anything more than adjunct positions.

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