From Quora: My answer to "Why are letters of recommendation a thing when you can just provide the phone number of someone who is willing to be a reference? Wouldn't just calling the reference save a lot of time?"
There are a few reasons, most of which have already been addressed in other answers. As people have stated, it’s much easier to have a letter in a file than to play phone tag with a teacher/supervisor/professor/coworker who may be extremely busy and hard to reach by phone. That can waste a LOT of time, and won’t win you any points with the person checking, or the person providing, your reference. Also, as stated in other answers, it’s easier for a reference to compose a thoughtful, articulate written letter over some time than it is for the same person to come up with an equally good oral reference extemporaneously on the phone.
Finally, there’s a legal issue. As far as I can see, no one’s addressed this yet. Written communications are undeniable. What I mean by “undeniable” is that neither the person writing the recommendation nor the person reading it can really deny what was written or who wrote it, if there’s a signed reference letter on file. People can get upset over not being selected for jobs, colleges, etc., and lawsuits are not uncommon. From an employer or school’s point of view, the most “lawsuit proof” way to handle allegations of false or unfair recommendations causing an applicant to lose a job wrongfully is simply to require written recommendations. It’s probably a good idea for those parties simply to have NO oral communications with references - to make everything in writing (letters, email, faxes, etc.) [No, I’m not your attorney and this is not legal advice - it’s for discussion only. Hire an attorney if you need one.].
Hope this helps!
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Author: John Linneball Who did you think? ;-)
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