Use This Free Automated Recommendation Service, Created by Philosophers


MARGY (Managing Academic Recommendations Gratis Yay) is a free automated academic letter of recommendation service. It had its initial trial run at the start of the year (following earlier beta testing) and is up and running for the Fall 2017 academic job market.

The service, whose name is a tribute to a much-appreciated secretary in the Philosophy Department at Bowling Green State University, was created by philosophers David Faraci (Georgetown) and Graham Leach-Krouse (Kansas State). Here’s what they have to say about it:

Applicants on the academic job market spend thousands of dollars a year to have professional dossier services handle their confidential letters of recommendation. Some of this requires staff involvement: filling out forms, uploading to proprietary sites, etc. But a good deal of it is just sending emails. The only reason a middleperson is necessary is because the emails need to include a confidential attachment.

MARGY replaces that middleperson with a free automated system. Letter-writers upload letters to MARGY’s secure server; applicants tell the system where to email those letters. Confidentiality is maintained via a whitelist; the system will only send letters to email addresses that have been confirmed as being maintained by a relevant hiring entity.

Using it is simple. Your letter-writer uploads their letter to the site. You’re then prompted by a message from the site to email to it the addresses you want the letter sent. The letters are automatically encrypted as they’re uploaded to the site, so not even the people working at MARGY can read them.

You can check out MARGY here. The more people who use the service, the better, so please consider sharing this post.

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Grad Student4
Grad Student4
3 years ago

Why is this advertisement a post on here?Report

Saba Bazargan-Forward
Saba Bazargan-Forward
3 years ago

This is great. Interfolio can get quite expensive; so this service is quite welcomed. I think it will be a huge help to grads on the market. Much thanks to Margy’s developers!

I do have a worry, though, which I hope others can allay. As I understand it, Margy sends letters of recommendation via email to the institutions where the grads are applying. But since this service is relatively new and unknown, I worry that emails from “…@margymail.com” might be filtered as spam or otherwise passed over by those institutions. Since there’s so much riding for applicants, even a relatively small probability that something like this might happen at any given institution might still be prohibitively high. Do others think that this worry is reasonable?

(Of course, if everyone uses Margy and it thereby becomes well-known, the problem
— if it is a problem — solves itself. But there seems to be a coordination problem here).

Just wondering what others think about this issue before I recommend Margy to my marketeers. Report

David Faraci
Reply to  Saba Bazargan-Forward
3 years ago

Good question. This is something Graham and I have spent a lot of time worrying about (indeed, it’s the main reason the system wasn’t released until now). Of course, we are just two guys doing this, not a large company with IT specialists, so we can’t 100% guarantee that nothing will ever get sent to spam. But we are confident that this will be rare, if it happens at all. Here’s where we are now…

There are a number of resources one can use to test emails to see whether they are being spammed, and we have done everything we can to pass those tests. As of a couple of weeks ago, our emails were getting through to inboxes of every major email service, with the exception of some Microsoft services. As of today, testing seems to suggest that those Microsoft services are on board, too (emails to both Office365 and Hotmail addresses went straight to inbox).

We are also asking schools to add [email protected] to their address books, which on most systems will keep stuff from going to spam.

(One unfortunately ironic note: We sent emails to schools letting them know they’d been placed on the whitelist, but those were routed through my Gmail, and that seems to have gotten a couple caught in Microsoft “clutter” folders. Since the actual system doesn’t route through my Gmail that way, this isn’t any indication of a problem for applicants. I mention it just in case anyone on a committee is reading this and thinks “hey, we got spam from you!” That’s why.)Report

Saba Bazargan-Forward
Saba Bazargan-Forward
Reply to  David Faraci
3 years ago

This is reassuring. Thanks!Report

Trevor Hedberg
3 years ago

I’m curious what the difference is between this service and the delivery service offered by Chronicle Vitae. Vitae is also free and can forward your letters (as well as any applications materials you’ve uploaded to its system) to any email address. Does MARGY allow you to send letters to HR systems as well? Interfolio can do that, but Vitae cannot.Report

David Faraci
Reply to  Trevor Hedberg
3 years ago

My understanding is that schools have to pay to post a job on Vitae, and only then can candidates use their free service to send stuff to that school. MARGY has no such limitation. Report

Trevor Hedberg
Reply to  David Faraci
3 years ago

Based on my job market experience last year, their service does not have any such limitation either. I used it to apply for 33 jobs, many of which were not advertised on Vitae.

Their application page brings up a template, and you put in the position, name of the institution, and relevant email address. Then you tell it what application materials to include, type up an optional email message, and send off your application. The purpose of that template information is just to fill out its automated message to the recipient. For example, “Trevor Hedberg just applied to [position] at the [University]. Download his application materials by clicking here.” So far as I can tell, the only critical piece of information you need to send an application with Vitae is the recipient’s email address.Report

Trevor Hedberg
Reply to  Trevor Hedberg
3 years ago

However, I don’t think Vitae has your white-list system to ensure emails only go to hiring entities, so that looks like one difference.Report

David Faraci
Reply to  Trevor Hedberg
3 years ago

I just tested the Vitae system. It looks like you’re right that theirs can, like MARGY, send letters to email addresses. There are two reasons to prefer MARGY, so far as I can see.

First, Vitae is making no attempt to uphold confidentiality. I just sent a request to one of my email addresses for a confidential letter, uploaded it, then had the system email it to me elsewhere. This means that if you care about confidentiality, asking your letter-writers to upload to Vitae isn’t really any better than asking them to send you their letters directly and promising not to read them. (Of course, schools might like the nod to confidentiality of getting an email from a dossier service, but this is merely a matter of appearances.)

Second, a propos of my exchange with Saba above, the Vitae request for a letter of recommendation went to my spam folder.Report

Jacqueline Taylor
Jacqueline Taylor
3 years ago

Why MARGY, a woman’s name, similar to Siri or Alexis? Why should the middleperson/helpmeet/bot be a woman? Report

Nick
Nick
Reply to  Jacqueline Taylor
3 years ago

It’s Alexa, not Alexis. And I’m pretty sure someone could come up with half a dozen counterexample to your claim. If it were a male’s name you would complain precisely for the reason it’s a male’s name.Report

Dale Dorsey
Dale Dorsey
Reply to  Jacqueline Taylor
3 years ago

My suspicion is that it is in tribute to Margy Deluca, the administrative wizard in the Department of Philosophy at BGSU (and who, I also suspect, sent out more than her fair share of confidential letters).Report

Dale Dorsey
Dale Dorsey
Reply to  Dale Dorsey
3 years ago

But you should correct me if I’m wrong, David.Report

David Faraci
Reply to  Dale Dorsey
3 years ago

That’s correct. We explain on the MARGY landing page:

“Why the tortured acronym? The name is a tribute to Margy [hard ‘g’] DeLuca, the graduate secretary for the philosophy department at Bowling Green State University, who goes far above and beyond, personally handling alumni’s letters every year. Everyone should be so lucky as to have a Margy in their corner.”Report