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Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Managed Files

What is a self-managed credential file?

A self-managed credential file contains reference letters that you have requested from employers and principals, as well as student teaching evaluations. You may also want to include an unofficial transcript. Supportive documents include a cover page and candidate data page.

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A job posting asks for credentials. What do I do?

To send electronic copies of the document:
Scan your documents (reference letters, unofficial transcripts) into a file, download your student teaching evaluations from your Victor eRecruiting documents file, and complete and download the cover page and candidate data page. Attach all documents to the electronic job application, or e-mail them according to the application instructions.

To send paper copies of the documents:
With a cover page on top, send photocopies of the reference letters you have gathered, student teaching evaluations, completed candidate data page, and photocopy of your unofficial transcripts. Put your self-managed credentials in a 9X12 envelope with the rest of your application materials. We recommend you send the documents “return receipt requested” to ensure delivery.

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How do credentials differ from a résumé?

A résumé is a concise summary of your qualifications and experience designed to introduce you and to apply for a specific job. You send a cover letter and résumé to initiate formal contact with an employer. Credentials are supportive documentation -- primarily letters of reference.

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What about references letters?

Ask for letters to be written on the reference writer's letterhead stationery. All reference letters must be SIGNED.

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What is the difference between a letter of reference and student teaching evaluation?

Both documents serve as an assessment of your teaching abilities.

A letter of reference is written by someone who has observed you teach and interact with children. The letter of reference provides the employer with a sense of your capabilities, experience, and potential.

The student teaching evaluation serves as an assessment from professionals in the field who have directly observed your teaching. Employers will want to see student teaching evaluations for new graduates.

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Who should write references? How many should I have?

Principals, clinical experience supervisors, coaches, and past employers in education-related fields are all good choices. Cooperating teachers and university supervisors will provide a student teaching evaluation based upon your student teaching experience. Most employers will expect to see your student teaching evaluations if you are a recent graduate.

Three to five references are sufficient. Remember, you are sending this file to very busy employers who will have a limited amount of time to review credentials. Keep your reference letters updated. As you continue in your profession and change work assignments or jobs, letters more than two or three years old need to be discarded and replaced with new ones from professionals who are familiar with your current level of skill.

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How do I obtain reference letters?

Request them directly from the writer. We also suggest the following:

  • Ask the writer to put the letter on official letterhead stationery and to sign it.
  • For the writer's convenience, give him/her a self-addressed stamped envelope.
  • After you have received the letter, send the writer a thank you letter.
  • Always retain the original reference letter and send only photocopies to employers. Letters may be scanned and uploaded into your documents folder in your Huskies Get Hired! account.

Do not use letters that are more than two to three years old. Employers will not accept them as credible evidence of your current teaching skills.

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How do I get copies of my student teaching evaluations?

Your teaching program director will forward the original student teaching evaluations to Career Services shortly after the completion of the experience. Upon request, Career Services will scan your evaluations and electronically file them in your Huskies Get Hired! documents file. You can then access your student teaching evaluations by logging into the Huskies Get Hired! system and downloading them. For immediate assistance or questions contact us credentials at niu dot edu.

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Are credentials and transcripts the same thing?

No. A transcript is your academic record only and originates with Registration and Records.

An official transcript is a record of your NIU coursework and grades, generated by the Registration and Records Office on security paper that contains an official seal of the university. It is sent directly from NIU to an employer. Please note: if you have taken coursework at another institution, your employer may require official transcripts from each college or university.

An unofficial transcript is one that has been photocopied from the official original.

An employer usually will accept an unofficial transcript when included in your credential file. If you are offered employment, you may be asked to furnish an official transcript, and that must be requested from the Registration and Records Office directly.Request an official copy of your transcript from Registration and Records. If you are unsure whether an unofficial transcript will be accepted with your application material, read the application instructions carefully and contact the school for clarification.

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Where do I get a transcript?

Registration and Records Web site or phone 815-753-0681.

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Will this self-managed system have an adverse effect on my chances for a teaching position? I thought schools expected these files to come from college Career Services offices.

Administrators' response to self-managed credential files has been positive. We do not anticipate anyone being denied a job opportunity as a result of this new policy.

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What will I do if a school district requests that a credential file be sent by NIU?

Explain to the school official that NIU no longer maintains credential files, and that you have all the necessary materials in your possession. If this is not a sufficient explanation, refer the employer to NIU Career Services at or 815-753-1641. You may also refer the employer to our Web site: Information for Employers where the process will be fully explained.

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Where can I scan my documents?

Find a list of labs that offer scanning for students on campus.

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How and when do employers receive my self-managed credential file?

You, as the applicant, are responsible for supplying your credential file when requested by the employer. Typically this occurs during the application process. It is important to follow the process the employer indicates in the job posting. When in doubt as to what information the employer would like, contact him/her.

All application materials must be submitted in the format requested by the employer.

If the employer requests that all materials be submitted electronically, do not send paper copies. The employer may discard your information.

If the employer requests that application material be submitted via U.S. mail, copy or download materials and place all materials in a 9x12 mailing envelope. Type the address label. We recommend you send materials with “return receipt requested.“ Keep a record of where, when, and to whom you have sent your application materials.

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What should be contained in a packet of application materials?

A typical education position will require the following:

  • A cover letter or letter of application
  • A résumé
  • A school district application form
  • A copy of your transcript (unofficial or official – application will specify)
  • A set of credentials or reference letters / student teaching evaluations (in which the transcript could be placed)

Additional materials that may be requested include:

  • A teaching philosophy statement
  • A copy of your teaching license or certifications
  • A contact list of references

Print a checklist for completing an application packet (pdf).

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*This information is adapted from materials produced by, and available in, Buena Vista University's Office of Career Services and is used here by permission.