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Just wondering if I could get some guidance on picking two recommenders. I'm looking at applying at 6 schools for 2013 (3 in R1, 3 in R2). Hoping to get some advise with regards to the following:
- Would 2 recommenders be best? Or should I go for 3 and cycle? - Are recommenders from work the ideal candidates? Or is it good to show 'diversity' in picking a recommender? - If picking recommenders from outside of work, what are good alternatives? Someone who has taught me? A co-founder of a project that I'm working on? - For those of you who have gone through applications, on a per school basis what would the time commitment be from a recommender's perspective?
The best recommenders are going to be those that will first and foremost give you a glowing recommendation. Assuming that all your options will, it would be best to chose someone that is quite familiar with your work product, and has been your direct supervisor at one point or another (or now) or your direct supervisors supervisor. If you are young and lack much experience, then it is possible to chose an achademic (aka teacher) recommendation, as long as they are also familiar with your work product. Outside of that, think about people that are older than you, have attained strong career growth and achievement, will always be around and care about how you progress in your career, and get them on your team. Make sure to coach them up a bit, and remind them of certain aspects you'd like to touch on (maturity, leadership, communication, dependability, etc..) and remind them not to make it too informal or formal but to instead toot your horn a bit. You want them to make it seem like you are the best candidate out there and that this school should choose you over everyone else!
I wouldn't recommend switching it up too much if you don't have to. I would pick the absolute best you have, and use them for all (so you know all applications are equal). Often times schools have forms to have them fill out to help them with their recommendation so it is easier then one may initially think it will be.
I think the recommender question gets tricky. In terms of number, that really depends on your connection with your specific recommender. If you are really close, they will not mind writing six recs. If you are not super close having 3 recommenders and doing a cycle might be the best option. The main thing to remember though, is do not add additional recommenders to meet some artificial max number of recommendations that a single person can write. The key is making sure you choose the best person for each school to ensure the best recommendations possible.
In terms of who to select I think that depends on your experiences. You will need one to be from work. The other one is a bit more of a wild card. If you are heavily involved in activities outside of work and can get a strong recommendation for the leader of this organization or group I would say that might be useful. Like GMATLA said, I would not use a academic recommendation as that is not what admissions is looking for. If you are struggling to find 2 leads to write your recommendation, think about rational in terms of who knows you best in a professional manner. Getting a little creative by choosing a peer or even someone you lead might work (but you need to make sure the schools are ok with this before going this route).
Picking a recommender is difficult, I think the overall key is give them a lot of time to get this done. Get them a package of what you want them to focus on and follow-up with them regularly to ensure they are on track. Whether it is 1 or 6 recommendations, you want to ensure you provide them as much support as possible to maximize the quality of the recommendation.