Faculty Recruiting System: Reference Letter Uploads by Referees: Requirements

The following corresponds to: ST#80445

Summary

Currently, all reference letters are emailed to Chair Admin, Suzana Pinto, who manually uploads them to the website. This is inconvenient for a number of reasons. Namely, the number of applicants is typically very large. Hence, Suzana spends a significant amount of time uploading letters. Another persistent problem is that references are sending letters for people who have not yet applied. As a result, Suzana is left with reference letters waiting to be paired up with applicants.It seems that the following process is more convenient:

  1. The applicant enters the email address of their reference(s)
  2. An email, containing a unique URL, is automatically sent to the reference(s)
  3. Reference follows URL, answers a security question, and uploads a letter
  4. Email is sent to applicant and Suzana notifying that the letter was uploaded. Simultaneously, the list displaying references who have uploaded letters is updated (more on this below).

With this design, it is possible for the reference to resubmit or delete a letter.

Requirements and Overall Design

Security

Implementing security was a bit of an issue. If a unique URL is sent to each reference, should it expire after it's accessed? But this seemed inconvenient: what if the reference wants to re-upload? We decided that having the reference create a user-name/password was also inconvenient, especially for references who only access the URL once. So, implementing a security question seemed like a better option. The first time the reference accesses the URL, he will be required to pick a security question (or enter his own), and provide an answer. If the reference needs to access the URL again, perhaps to re-upload, he will be required to correctly answer the chosen security question. If he answers incorrectly, access is denied. Also, security questions will be unique to each reference-applicant pair. That is, if a reference provides letters for "n" applicants, he will be required to choose and answer "n" security questions.

SQL Tables

  • New table "reference_info" table to be created. Columns:
    • unique URL (primary key)
    • associated applicant's full name
    • reference's email address
    • security question
    • answer to security question
    • uploaded (0 = false, 1 = true)
    • associated applicant's username
    • declined (0 = false, 1 = true)
  • Since the URL is the primary key, it is possible for the same reference to occupy multiple rows (one row for each different applicant)

Uploading Letters

  • Done by referee
  • To access: answer security question correctly, access denied otherwise.
  • To upload: only accept PDF files, allow users to either UPLOAD or REPLACE.
  • Referees will be required to submit their full names (to DB).
  • Automatic time stamp on uploaded letter (to DB).
  • Display ERROR message when a field (name or UPLOAD) is left empty, when file submitted is not in pdf format, if name contains malicious characters, if PDF is over the maximum size
  • If no errors, display message alerting that file was successfully uploaded/replaced

Notifying of Upload

  • Primarily, Suzana and applicant will receive pre-formatted email notifying of the upload. Emails contain:
    • basic information on uploader (name, email, time of upload)
    • link to the uploaded PDF file
  • Website Update: Chair View
    • From the Applicant Summary page, a list distinguishing between the applicant's references who have uploaded letters and those who have not, will appear beneath the "Reference Letters" heading. When a reference uploads a letter, his email address will be moved from "Not Uploaded" to "Uploaded". Likewise, if a reference declines to upload (see below), his status will be changed to "Declined"
  • Website Update: Applicant View
    • Same format as above, but in a different location (new tab in navigation menu entitled "View References")

Giving References the Option to Decline

For overzealous applicants who list references without permission, an option to decline the invitation to upload will be presented to references.
  • Link to decline upload will appear in the same email (sent automatically when applicant lists reference)
  • Reference will be required to follow the link and select button like "Yes, I want to be disabled"
  • Maybe give references the option to comment on why they are declining.
    • CON: Reason entered might be rude and discouraging to the applicant.
    • PRO: If reason is something like "I don't know this person", it might indicate to the applicant that he mistakenly entered the wrong email address.
  • Email sent to applicant notifying of decline. If applicable, the reason for declining will also appear in the email.
  • References status in reference table (visible to applicant and Chairs) will be changed to "Declined".

-- DanielAllen - 17 Jul 2012

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Topic revision: r7 - 2012-08-31 - NinaVidovic
 
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