Is too good of a recommendation, bad? : The B-School Application
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# Is too good of a recommendation, bad?

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01 Sep 2008, 07:38
I just sent out all my recommendation stuff, and my manager ( a former b school professor) called me up to say he was going to complete them all today. Then he called me and said for the first school he was doing it asked him to rate me on a bunch of items, for which he said he was gonna give me top 2 percent. He said if they see that, they might just throw that out, so he asked if he still wanted me to do it. He said he does think me top 2 percent, well i said then that it would later ask him for specific example for my top 2 percent categories, and he said 'thats ok i can provide'

my question is, should i be concerned with getting top 2 percent on every single category by my manager, even if he has examples?
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01 Sep 2008, 07:55
I would say top 2% across the board would look a little over inflated. Personally going through those checklists I think if you are top 2% in everything compared to your co-workers it wont make you look amazing but it will make your office to be a weak place to be.

I know I was top 2% in some areas, from what I remember mine were in the communication type areas that engineers are often considered weak in. While something like quant areas there are definitely people I worked with who were much stronger in that since they were super nerdy but lacked the interpersonal skills. I think that type of thought helps more since it shows that you are stronger in areas where people of your background are typically considered weak. While being top 20% in an area where people of your background are often viewed as very strong is not going to hurt you.
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01 Sep 2008, 18:00
riverripper wrote:
I would say top 2% across the board would look a little over inflated. Personally going through those checklists I think if you are top 2% in everything compared to your co-workers it wont make you look amazing but it will make your office to be a weak place to be.

I know I was top 2% in some areas, from what I remember mine were in the communication type areas that engineers are often considered weak in. While something like quant areas there are definitely people I worked with who were much stronger in that since they were super nerdy but lacked the interpersonal skills. I think that type of thought helps more since it shows that you are stronger in areas where people of your background are typically considered weak. While being top 20% in an area where people of your background are often viewed as very strong is not going to hurt you.

That's an interesting perspective and a good point.

I figured that most reccomenders will pick top 2% for maybe your top 3 traits and give examples and then mark the next box - top 5% or 10% - for the rest of them where no examples are required. Not sure if that makes the rest of the company look weak or if that's a pretty standard way to fill out the boxes, since recommendations are generally very positive anyway.

Does anybody else know what their recommenders are doing?
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01 Sep 2008, 18:05
IF everything was rated top2% that means you have no flaw. Your recommendation is biased and not taken seriously.
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03 Sep 2008, 18:09
Are these percentile rankings typical of recommendation forms for most schools? This is a little disconcerting, for the same reason as the original post in this thread.
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03 Sep 2008, 21:08
rca215 wrote:
Are these percentile rankings typical of recommendation forms for most schools?

Not all schools use them, but they are still pretty typical.
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04 Sep 2008, 11:52
Reco's are overrated. Besides, if your recommender can buttress his "top 2%" claims in the body of the recommendation, then everything should be square.
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04 Sep 2008, 22:07
kidderek wrote:
Reco's are overrated. Besides, if your recommender can buttress his "top 2%" claims in the body of the recommendation, then everything should be square.

Plus if someone is top 2% in everything, why would he/she need to go to b-school?
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07 Sep 2008, 06:09
kidderek wrote:
Reco's are overrated. Besides, if your recommender can buttress his "top 2%" claims in the body of the recommendation, then everything should be square.

That nails it right there.

The adcoms aren't going to look at a top 2% ranking and say "Oh, good he's in the top 2%!". It's just like your essays, you need to back up your claims with examples.

RF
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08 Sep 2008, 11:45
riverripper wrote:
I would say top 2% across the board would look a little over inflated. Personally going through those checklists I think if you are top 2% in everything compared to your co-workers it wont make you look amazing but it will make your office to be a weak place to be.

I know I was top 2% in some areas, from what I remember mine were in the communication type areas that engineers are often considered weak in. While something like quant areas there are definitely people I worked with who were much stronger in that since they were super nerdy but lacked the interpersonal skills. I think that type of thought helps more since it shows that you are stronger in areas where people of your background are typically considered weak. While being top 20% in an area where people of your background are often viewed as very strong is not going to hurt you.

I second that. One of my ex-bosses is a former HEC Paris MBA grad, and he was doing interviewing for the school. He told me specifically that when he saw that a recommender put top 2% in each category, it was a waste of opportunity to enhance the person's real strengths. He considered - rightly so - that that kind of assessment was rubbish. This doesn't mean that he stopped reading the recommendation completely or that he considered it to be completely useless; but it's definitively a wasted opportunity.

(hope this is clear)
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09 Sep 2008, 15:45
I think it depends upon your employer and peer group. At my current job with a lest prestigous CPG company, I strongly believe I am in the top 2% of my peers in all categories. This doesn't mean I don't have any flaws, it is just a comparison versus my peer group. Also, out of my peer group, I will be the only one to pursue an MBA and move on to bigger and better things.

At my previous job with a top company, I still believe I am in the top 2% of my peer group. There were 8 of us in the same "class" and I strongly feel that I outperformed everyone.
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10 Sep 2008, 06:22
cpgmba wrote:
At my previous job with a top company, I still believe I am in the top 2% of my peer group. There were 8 of us in the same "class" and I strongly feel that I outperformed everyone.

I would call that "top 12.5%"
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05 Jan 2009, 04:07
Hi All..

How will the adcom take it if there is a recommender who gives an equal mix of 5% 2% and 1% .. and nothing below that?

regds
S
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05 Jan 2009, 10:08
sudhir18n wrote:
Hi All..

How will the adcom take it if there is a recommender who gives an equal mix of 5% 2% and 1% .. and nothing below that?

regds
S

He'll stop reading there and ding you.

Seriously, I think nobody can answer that question. But it's IMO better than giving only top marks.
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05 Jan 2009, 11:06
Audio wrote:
riverripper wrote:
I would say top 2% across the board would look a little over inflated. Personally going through those checklists I think if you are top 2% in everything compared to your co-workers it wont make you look amazing but it will make your office to be a weak place to be.

I know I was top 2% in some areas, from what I remember mine were in the communication type areas that engineers are often considered weak in. While something like quant areas there are definitely people I worked with who were much stronger in that since they were super nerdy but lacked the interpersonal skills. I think that type of thought helps more since it shows that you are stronger in areas where people of your background are typically considered weak. While being top 20% in an area where people of your background are often viewed as very strong is not going to hurt you.

I second that. One of my ex-bosses is a former HEC Paris MBA grad, and he was doing interviewing for the school. He told me specifically that when he saw that a recommender put top 2% in each category, it was a waste of opportunity to enhance the person's real strengths. He considered - rightly so - that that kind of assessment was rubbish. This doesn't mean that he stopped reading the recommendation completely or that he considered it to be completely useless; but it's definitively a wasted opportunity.

(hope this is clear)

I agree with this one. Rating everything as excellent will not highlight your particular strength.
Somebody MAY be top 2 % in everything... but I'm guessing (I don't know the truth, because I'm not an adcom) that perfect rating across the board affects how the recs are being looked at.
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05 Jan 2009, 14:50
I agree that being ranked in the top 2% in nearly every category could be counter-productive. They may read it and think that the recommendation can't be taken seriously.

I actually had this happen for one of my recommendations: our company president (small company) did this for my rec, and showed me it after he had submitted. I thought that he had ranked me too high (I'm not top 2% in all but 2 areas, and top 5% in those two areas. I don't think anyone is). Then, on top of that, his written answers were glowing, but were pretty generic and lacked the examples and backup I was hoping for. Regardless, I got into 2 top-5 programs with those recommendations. So, while I agree that it's not ideal to be ranked so high that it may not be taken seriously, the bottom line is that it probably won't hurt your chances of getting in.
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05 Jan 2009, 16:01
It seems like majority thinks that getting top/near-top ranks across the board is counter-productive.

I think that overall recommendations are inflated to begin with. Applicants are going to ask those people who they have some sort of relationships with to write their recs. You are going to choose the supervisor who you think is a good writer and believes that you are a solid performer. I think only in rare circumstances (having only one supervisor throughout all of your WE) will you potentially be stuck with a recommender who will not write you a glowing recommendation.

A recommendation isn't an objective essay, it is a written approval of your merits - the person writing it is supposed to be your cheerleader for getting into business school.

Combine the cheerleading nature of a recommendation and recommender choices that are biased toward favoring the applicant and you have a pool of inflated and biased opinions of applicants' performances. I don't think the inflation only occurs in the writing section of a recommendation. I bet it manifests itself all over the rankings as well. I think many recommendations have mostly top marks across the board.

With that said, if given a choice between getting top 2% with one or two slightly lower ranks and getting top 2% in a few categories and top 5-15% in most other categories, I would choose the former. When majority of the recs are inflated, I think being another one of the applicants with consistently high marks is better than being one of several applicants who don't have high marks in nearly every category.
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06 Jan 2009, 11:09
Recommendations are kind of dumb anyway. I do agree that a good mix of top 2% and top 3-5% are probably best. But think of it this way...let's say that you're apply to Harvard and everyone there in a certain year is getting top 2% on everything while you're getting some that are slightly lower, etc. Either your recs would look more truthful (good thing) or you would look like you're a weaker candidate than everyone else (bad thing).

In any case, just mix it up with some at the top eschelon and some slightly below and that should be fine. I don't think the adcom really even looks at the recs anyway. If you think about it, what information is it really going to provide? They'll be some examples of leadership, examples where you worked hard, etc...but when you read thousands of applications, they'll all pretty much sound the same.

If you have a negative rec, I'm sure that can kill you so make sure that doesn't happen.

RVD.
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06 Jan 2009, 12:00
If your recommender ranks you with an even mix of exceptional, outstanding, and good they can't (theoretically) give you an overall ranking of exceptional. I understand that quantitatively this could work out but it would look odd.
Re: Is too good of a recommendation, bad?   [#permalink] 06 Jan 2009, 12:00
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