I hate asking for letters of recommendation, if I was only asking for 5 or so a year it wouldn't be so bad, but I think I've applied for about 25 jobs (tenure track and fellowships) during this year's job hunt, and there are still a handful left. Every time I write my professors and ask for more letters I feel like I'm burdening them more. A certain number of letters is reasonable to ask for (part of their job, right?) but so many... I start to feel really guilty about it.
Most jobs require 3 letters of recommendation, although once in a while it's only 2. Occasionally they ask for the contact information for your recommendation writers and they contact them -if- your application proceeds to the second round.
Why not every time? Don't they understand that letter writers are people -just like them- but working at another school? I frequently apply to positions that get 700 or more applicants, which means 2,100 letters per job. What a waste of the time and effort of my recommendation writers. Their letters are being lost in a sea of paper.
1. Even a few years ago the odds (the numbers of applicants per position) were better and convention has not caught up to these new desperate times.
2. Many of my applications are sent to schools that do not have vibrant graduate programs-- in other words, these professors are not as fully swamped by letter writing as the professors at more elite institutions (like UCLA).
I promise you, when I get my permanent position and have to serve on search committees I will reserve letters of recommendation for second round candidates only.