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Many people forget how important the letter of recommendation is. You should often start 4-8 weeks in advance to ask recommenders and often times you’ve been working on buidling your reputation with them for years!. The best recommenders are going to be those that will first and foremost give you a glowing recommendation. So if you are having a difficult time deciding, just make sure that you chose someone that will at least take the time necessary to toot-your-horn a bit. You want them to tell the Adcoms that you are the best they've ever seen, that the school would be silly to turn you down.
Assuming that you have many options, all of which will give you that raving review, how do you decide? Here is how to rank recommenders from Best to Worst.
BEST: 1. Current Supervisor or Boss It's always going to be the best choice to choose a person that knows your work product inside and out. So if you can swing it with your supervisor, then this is the best route to go. Just make sure that asking your boss won't jeopardize your job. 2. Your Bosses Boss If you can't get your direct supervisor or think your Bosses Boss will be better, there is no reason not to give them a shot. They will obviously be familiar with your work product! 3. Previous Boss As you can see, having a supervisor vouche for you is really great in the recommendation process. If you are worried about asking your current bosses, then it might be time to reach out to an old boss for that letter. This is why it is so important to keep strong relationships even after leaving your previous job. 4. President or Supervisor over you in an Extracurricular (EC) role Extracurriculars can pay off by not only getting you that great experience, leadership, or bonus points on your application, but they can also pay big dividends on the recommendations. If you have strong EC work, then that recommendation becomes that much stronger. Make sure that the person you ask is more of a superior than a pier.
MEDIOCRE: 1. Previous Teacher If you are a younger applicant without much work experience (less than 2-3 years) then a you may not have strong enough connections or appropriate persons to ask. It might benefit you to think back to that teacher that really had an impact on you in college. If you were able to build a strong enough relationship, they might be willing to give you that raving review. They will not be as good as a current employer b/c they will not be familiar with your work product as much as a supervisor 2. Pier Often times people look to their piers for recommendations. This would include anyone that is close to your same level at your current or previous job and has never been your direct supervisor. The recommendation do not hold as much weight as a supervisor b/c often times an Adcom would just assume that you chose a friend. So this would not be the ideal candidate for a recommendation, but they would still be able to give a strong opinion about your work experience
WORST: 1. Mom, Dad, or any family member There is absolutely no time, reason, or way that you should chose your mom or dad for a recommendation. Even in cases where your mom or dad is your boss, or you work with the family business, there is NO time when mom or dad should be writing you a rec. letter. Their opinion of you will hold no weight in the Adcoms eyes b/c you mom or dad can not be unbiased in your opinion. 2. Someone you don’t know that well So you know someone that will give you a rec. letter if you ask. They are that long time family friend, or someone you knew as a child, or someone that would definitely say yes when you asked. He/she is in a great position, so it seems like the perfect fit. NOOO, this isn’t a perfect fit. Often times there are recommenders that won’t say no, but when it comes right down to it, their opinion will not hold weight b/c you have never worked with them. Don’t get sucked into the “easy” recommendation. It might be easy to ask them, but it won’t necessarily pay off those huge dividends. 3. Someone that you don’t trust, is too busy, or never on-time Some people are just flat out too busy to write rec. letters. Don’t let someone that is in a rush hurt your chances at Bschool. If you don’t trust their ability to manage their time, get you a rec. letter by the deadline, or you just know it will be the last thing on their plate, don’t ask them. It just isn’t worth it. I’ve seen so many individuals hurt by their recommenders, and sweating if they will turn it in on time. The heartache is not worth it!
Conslusion: The recommender is a key part of your application. Don’t look past it, and make sure to START EARLY to get the best people on your side. Become familiar with how your school will ask the recommenders the right questions, and make sure to coach them so that they will paint you as the perfect candidate. Best of luck in your applications, and keep up all the hard work! It will all pay off
I would note that recommenders' list also depends on school's requirements. For example, Stanford GSB specifically asks for a peer recommendation.
Totally agree on years of building reputation. Getting the right people to recommend you is a work of previous 3-5 years or even lifetime! Recommendations are similar to GMAT/TOEFL tests in some sense - one just can't "prepare" to be a star 700+ taker in 1-2 months without superb prior experience, habit of discipline and right attitude!
Looking back at the past, I realise that probably the most important thing I did in my professional life, which will support my admission process, is to treat most people I worked with (not just bosses!) very well - understand their needs, stick to promises, support them when they need, and yet no butt-kissing, which never pays.
My pick of recommenders (still to be approached):
1. My current boss - managed me for a few months by now but has known me for 3+ years and got me the current job
2. My former boss - managed me for 2.5 years
3. A former colleague from a different department who I have worked with for the last 5 years on multitude of cross-functional projects in different countries.
4. A colleague who is senior to me but who I do not directly report to - we have worked together for half a year by now
Would it be wise to ask a client, who is really impressed with your skills and really happy about your contributions to his organization, for a recommendation ?
How would you rate this : Best/Mediocre/Worst ?
Most schools ask for 2 professional letters of recommendation. A client is a great choice, especially if you are an entrepreneur or work for a family business where a relative is your direct supervisor.
I have a question concerning recommendations. I spent past 4.5yrs working at same company (industrial R&D). Early this year, I started my own investment partnership with several members poached from our R&D team.
My boss is supportive of me continuing to get a MBA and I can count on a good recommendation from him. But for the 2nd letter, which one do you guys think is better? - From a project manager whom I worked with for 2 years, where I was the lead engineer for a 100mil+ expansion project or - From my business partner, who knows me since I started working and saw me turn a hobby into a "club" into a full fledged company?
EDIT: By the way, I'm still employed full time, and working on my own llc currently.
This advice is gold. Something that is helping me pick and choose my recommenders.
I have a specific question though. A former senior colleague of mine is now a Marketing Director at another organization, and I worked closely with her on numerous important deals (marketing communication support).
Would she be a good choice? Will appreciate any feedback.
Does anyone know if the title of the recommendor really matter or not First.. my title : Analyst I have three choices : A senior Consultant : Will write me a stellar reco (we are kind of buddies) A Manager: Upto the mark reco i guess i would have wanted some more examples(He mailed me what he wrote once he wrote it !!!) A seniore manager : Dont know at all what s**t he writes !! Used him in Ross application , didnt get an invite. I blame him
Any suggestions ? I am shortlisting my R2 recommendors !
Thanks to another GMAT Club member, I have just discovered this valuable topic, yet it had no discussion for over a year. I am now bumping it up - doing my job. I think you may find it valuable (esp those replies with Kudos).
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Kindly help me shortlist whom should I nominate for recommendation -
Background - I have done Engineering in 2010. Worked for a consulting firm for 9 months. Bootstrapped and started my own venture (No Co-Founder) in June 2011 in Talent Management (HR)
One of my ex-clients (Has worked till March 2015) has agreed for same. (1st box ticked )
Kindly suggest whom should I nominate as my second recommender -
1. Among the co-founders of a unlaunched, shelved, yet to fly startup (This was in parallel my own venture & is different but has been shelved by the whole team) 2. Ex Boss - My Boss from my consulting experience back in 2010-2011. 3. Business team head of one of my client - Someone Not directly involved in day to day interaction and execution 4. Current Client - Least preferable option. Ideally want to avoid it, as it would immediately effect the business with the respective client. (Last resort if none of the others holds equally good value)