What To Do If You Can’t Get a Recommendation from Your Boss
Business school applications require you to submit at least one letter of recommendation, and usually more than one. These letters corroborate your admissions story, providing additional evidence of the leadership skills, analytical abilities, teamwork skills, and maturity that you have highlighted in the rest of your application. The best person to do this is normally your direct supervisor, but what if you can’t (or don’t want to) tell your boss yet that you are applying to business school?
Don’t despair. MBA admissions officers know that many applicants face this situation, and they won’t penalize you for it. Especially in a rough economy, when job security seems to matter even more than usual, they know that you may take a serious risk by telling your boss that you're applying to business school. So, they’re willing to accept recommendations from other sources, as long as they give admissions officers what they need.
What most MBA programs want, more than anything, is to hear an assessment of your abilities by someone who knows you well and has been in a position to evaluate you. This is why your direct supervisor is usually the ideal choice — he or she should spend a lot of time thinking about your performance, making it easy to provide an assessment of you as a young professional. Assuming that person is out of the picture, then you need to find someone else who meets these criteria:
Has your recommender worked with you recently?
Does he or she have experience evaluating others in a professional setting?
Does your recommender know you well, in a non-social capacity?
Does the person in question have enough time to do the job?
Keep in mind that what really matters is what your recommender writes about you, more than what job title he holds. MBA admissions officers keep an open mind about these things, but it’s critical that your letters of recommendation provide all the clues that schools look for. Not only should your recommendations emphasize the four dimensions mentioned at the start of this post, but they should also clearly demonstrate the enthusiasm that your recommenders have about you and your business school candidacy. Find someone who can do that, and you will be fine.