The Importance of Endorsement Letters
The endorsement letters are critically important in the evaluation process. The following from the APA Manual for Nominating Fellows applies equally to SIOP:
“The (APA) Committee then, and today, found meaningful evaluations by sponsors or endorsers to be the most helpful type of evidence in the evaluation of Nominees. The adequacy of the endorsement has been of critical value in evaluating those who are advancing psychology as a profession. What was true in the 1950s is equally true at present.”
Many, perhaps most, decisions are substantially influenced by the supporting letters. The Fellowship Committee considers carefully not only the text of a supporting letter, but also the stature of the Endorser and the Endorser’s status relative to the Nominee.
Endorsements are always important, but they may be especially important when practice, teaching, service or administration is the primary area of the contribution and research publications are not ordinarily the primary evidence of contribution. Where publications and other sources of information are limited, there should be a larger, more diverse set of endorsements that document the outstanding contribution and performance of the candidate.
Detailed evidence from Endorsers as to the exact nature of the candidate’s contributions is critical. It is not enough to know that the candidate was instrumental in establishing the “X” Center for Excellence in “Y” city. Instead, Endorsers should describe how the Nominee’s role resulted in achieving the contribution and its significance to I-O psychology.
General Guidelines for Strong Letters of Endorsement
The entire Fellow nomination process is designed to indicate to the Fellowship Committee how the Nominee has contributed to I-O psychology and has contributed to the Mission and reflects the Values of SIOP. Strong endorsement letters convincingly demonstrate the impact that the Nominee has had and provide the evidence that the contributions have indeed occurred.
A set of Endorsers who are all from the Nominee’s immediate organization, department or agency, or who are colleagues with whom the Nominee has worked closely, is NOT convincing and suggests limited impact. Indeed, a majority of letters from persons who work closely with the Nominee should be discouraged. A more diverse set of sponsors is likely to be more impressive; letters may be written by other psychologists, executives, or individuals in the SIOP constituency most familiar with the contributions or performance that has had such impact. Family members and relatives of the Nominee (e.g., parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses) do not ordinarily serve as Endorsers or Nominators and such endorsements are not seen as objective.
An example of an endorsement that requires additional elaboration is “Dr. X is obviously qualified; he should have been a Fellow years ago,” or “I was surprised that Dr. Y was not already a Fellow.” Although eminent Fellows sometimes provide such endorsements, they do not help the Nominee or the Committee. Some Endorsers state that the Nominee has had impact without presenting meaningful evidence for the statement. Such an assertion is ineffective without evidence. At least one letter should be from an individual with whom the Nominee has never had a continuing personal association.
For an endorsement to be convincing, it must specify how the contribution has impacted I-O psychology and what the Nominee’s role has been. That “Book X appears in every business library” may be notable, but the endorsement should specify what impact that has had on I-O psychology and its mission. That “Article Y has been cited 200 times” is not in itself convincing; has the article simply been cited, or has its content impacted I-O psychology. That “The Nominee had a major role in Project M” is not in itself convincing; what was the Nominee’s role and how has that impacted SIOP’s mission and values.
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