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Recommendations Dilemma Question

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Recommendations Dilemma Question [#permalink] New post 13 Apr 2014, 18:22
Hi all,

Just wondering how much it would hurt a candidate if both recommendations came from people outside of work. I know that, preferably, one recommendation should be from a direct supervisor or someone from your job who works with you on a daily basis. If, however, an applicant preferred not sharing his or her plans on leaving with an employer or did not think the supervisor would write a good review, would it hurt the applicant to get two recommendations elsewhere.

Note: these other recommendations wouldn't be parents or peers, still professional connections (ex: a professor, an older friend/mentor who has previously attended a top business school or has had a successful career elsewhere, a supervisor at a frequented volunteer/extracurricular activity, etc.)
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Re: Recommendations Dilemma Question [#permalink] New post 13 Apr 2014, 19:09
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If both recommendations are from outside of work, it will certainly be looked at negatively. It's okay to use a former manager, or a coworker (preferably a senior co-worker), but to make them completely non-work related would be a huge mistake.
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Re: Recommendations Dilemma Question [#permalink] New post 14 Apr 2014, 05:27
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Hey there,

@mgh234 is exactly right - to not have a work related rec is going to really put you at a disadvantage. A lot of people are in the position you're in - which is to say they don't want to tell their current supervisor. If you just recently took that job (last 1 - 1.5 years), then a previous manager might be a good option. If not, you really need to map out the expected risk. There's significant downside to avoiding a work recommendation altogether.

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Re: Recommendations Dilemma Question [#permalink] New post 15 Apr 2014, 17:07
Thanks for the responses. Any other suggestions on alternatives if this is a first employer after college graduation? If applicant is 2-3 years out from college, would a professor still be appropriate since it wasn't that long ago?

I understand that, all else equal, recommendations from work appear necessary... but what if the applicant has reason to believe that 2 outside recommendations would be much stronger and appealing to the admissions counselor than the recommendation the direct supervisor would write (for example, if the supervisor wouldn't want the employee to leave so wouldn't put much effort into it or simply that the supervisor hasn't had "stand out" moments with the applicant like other professional relationships have had, among many other possibilities)

Any other opinions? Would love all the feedback I can get.
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Re: Recommendations Dilemma Question [#permalink] New post 15 Apr 2014, 21:57
omgmat wrote:
Thanks for the responses. Any other suggestions on alternatives if this is a first employer after college graduation? If applicant is 2-3 years out from college, would a professor still be appropriate since it wasn't that long ago?

I understand that, all else equal, recommendations from work appear necessary... but what if the applicant has reason to believe that 2 outside recommendations would be much stronger and appealing to the admissions counselor than the recommendation the direct supervisor would write (for example, if the supervisor wouldn't want the employee to leave so wouldn't put much effort into it or simply that the supervisor hasn't had "stand out" moments with the applicant like other professional relationships have had, among many other possibilities)

Any other opinions? Would love all the feedback I can get.


IMHO, the reason recommendations from professors are not looked upon favorably is because they do not (usually) have interaction with you in a professional setting and hence cannot evaluate you (this is what MBA schools look for in recommendations -my understanding). Similar reason why a recommendation from a "friend" might not work.

All schools do understand if the candidate cannot get a recommendation from current supervisor for the reasons that you have stated. Do read through any MBA schools website. This is dealt with in the FAQs. Check out any of them (try this one http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/pro ... qs.aspx#23 ).

My recommendation on picking a recommender in case you are not able ask your current supervisor - a mentor/senior in your office - ask someone you feel comfortable talking to. People are usually friendly and will prove helpful - they all know that a person who is 2 years out of college is not looking to spend their entire lifetime at the company.

Recommendations from a supervisor at a volunteer activity might work - you level of involvement and length of time spent there will be important factors here.

In any case, it is not unethical to discuss your achievements or areas of contribution with recommenders. Just don't write the recommendation yourself!
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Re: Recommendations Dilemma Question [#permalink] New post 16 Apr 2014, 00:13
I might sound repetitive as a lot of the comments above have already captured most of the important points.

However, if you are unable to get a professional recommendation, I will encourage you to relegate your MBA decision by another year. Inability to seek a professional recommendation will be held against you. Schools know that it is not easy for you to disclose your MBA decisions to people at workplace. However, consider this a barrier to entry and you got to climb it.

You will get an A++ in communication if you are able to convey this to your supervisors and still be popular at work place. Build trust in some people around the office and start delivering more than expected, and still have an authentic conversation that you are considering alternative opportunities for education. Give them assurance that you are dependable, and then be dependable.
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Re: Recommendations Dilemma Question [#permalink] New post 16 Apr 2014, 07:26
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omgmat wrote:
Thanks for the responses. Any other suggestions on alternatives if this is a first employer after college graduation? If applicant is 2-3 years out from college, would a professor still be appropriate since it wasn't that long ago?

I understand that, all else equal, recommendations from work appear necessary... but what if the applicant has reason to believe that 2 outside recommendations would be much stronger and appealing to the admissions counselor than the recommendation the direct supervisor would write (for example, if the supervisor wouldn't want the employee to leave so wouldn't put much effort into it or simply that the supervisor hasn't had "stand out" moments with the applicant like other professional relationships have had, among many other possibilities)

Any other opinions? Would love all the feedback I can get.


Ultimately, the point of recommendations, are to show them that you excel in a professional environment and that you have the ability to build relationships and communicate in a corporate environment and all that... Being unable to find 2 work-related recommendations to speak to it is exactly the type of red flag they are trying to find. If you can't find two people in your company to fill out a recommendation for you, that's going to be an ENORMOUS red flag, I suggest not applying until you have two people who can vouch for you at a current or past post-college job. To be blunt, most people have a dozen different work-related senior people they can ask for recommendations by the time they apply to business school, can you really not find 2 non-analysts that like you and your work?
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Re: Recommendations Dilemma Question [#permalink] New post 16 Apr 2014, 17:48
Thanks for the feedback everyone.

This is not my personal problem, but I understand that some applicants feel uncomfortable letting their supervisors know they are applying to MBA programs (especially when they still have close to a year left to work for them until matriculation/longer if they don't get into their desired schools).

From all of your responses, I think it's safe to say there's a general consensus that it's a bad idea and, if you really want to get into a top program, best to risk it and go for a recommendation from your job.
Re: Recommendations Dilemma Question   [#permalink] 16 Apr 2014, 17:48
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