A blogger known as KT discussed his strategy for choosing people to write his letters of recommendation for his MBA candidacy. “Selecting recommenders is a tough job,” KT wrote. “This task not only reflects your judgment ability (as to who can write favorably for you) but also decides the fate of your application.”
I agree with the first part of this statement, but not the second. MBA applicants obviously have to choose carefully among potential candidates to write LORs. The main goal is to choose those who can affirm what you have written about yourself in your essays, while adding additional depth and dimension to you as a candidate. However, it overstates the case to say that it will “decide the fate of your application,” unless the adcom is forced to choose between two otherwise equally compelling candidates. In those cases, it is likely that the candidate with the strongest LORs will get the nod.
In this blog, KT showed a clear understanding of the importance of choosing people who could not only talk about his professional abilities, but who would also “be happy to write favorably” for him. Writing a thoughtful LOR takes time, which is at a premium for almost everyone. KT knew that he needed to get people who cared enough about his career aspirations and would therefore take the time to write thoughtfully – and to get it done on time.
KT had reported to the same supervisor for three years, making him the obvious choice as one of the recommenders. Still, KT feared that revealing his MBA plans might jeopardize his short-term prospects for work-related travel and career progress. Despite his apprehension, KT definitely made the right move by asking his current supervisor to write the LOR.
“To my surprise he encouraged me to go for an MBA and was happy to write recos for me,” he noted. “This person has seen me progress professionally as well as has delegated a variety of responsibilities my way, so I could not afford to lose his insights on my application.” These insights also included knowledge of his weaknesses, but KT was confident that his supervisor would write about any shortcomings in a way that would only make him look human, not weak or undesirable as an MBA candidate.
“So my task is cut out,” KT concluded. “Simply share anecdotes from the past three years to support his claims.” The blogger was on the money here also. He understood that anecdotes detailed in LORs must complement and further support what he wrote in his essays. I’m willing to bet that KT suggested a list of possible achievements to his recommender that he didn’t have room to discuss in his essays. What if KT had a smaller inventory of professional achievements to write about, and his recommenders ended up writing about some of the same highlights? A good recommender will still offer an objective, yet supportive, viewpoint that will add depth and a new perspective to the candidate’s abilities, skills and personal qualities.
KT had a tougher time choosing his second recommender. He was tempted to ask one of his clients, who has “an impressive title” and was “very excited” about his plans. Although she could offer a first-hand view about his client management and project management, he worried that her perspective about him would be too limited.
I agree with his choice instead of a former manager who now audits his team’s work. This person also supervised him in his earliest days when he was “raw” and has watched him become a more seasoned professional over a period of four years. While someone from different area of KT’s professional life would have been nice, I agree that given this long-term relationship, this second recommender would have more of substance to say in vouching for KT’s candidacy.
I wish KT the best of luck – if his thinking and strategy on planning his essays is as clear as it was in choosing his recommenders, he ought to have a great shot at getting into his program of choice.
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