Importance of Recommendation Writers – Can a Colleague Suffice?

Posted By SWatts on Oct 12, 2011 | 0 comments

In the MBA admissions process, a candidate’s choices about who will write their recommendations are very important. I often get emails from MBA candidates inquiring about whether they can use a college professor or college colleague as a recommendation writer. I often advise against this, because that choice can be interpreted as meaning that a candidate lacks the needed professional references from the workplace, which can make the admissions committees believe that the candidate has not performed well enough to have strong support from their professional superiors and colleagues.

When a candidate needs two recommendation letters for an MBA application, a good choice is usually to have two recommendations from professionals who are superior to you in the workplace. If necessary, for the second letter, a letter from a work colleague can be used successfully, rather than a letter from a superior, assuming that the letter is written in the right language and emphasizes the topics that business schools most care about.

For business schools that require three recommendations, ideally the third recommendation will add a new dimension about the candidate. For example, a client, a business partner or a colleague from a prior business experience can help to add a different perspective on a candidate. Alternatively, if a candidate has an outstanding extracurricular activity, they can potentially use a third recommendation from someone who has worked with them on a very meaningful business-relevant extracurricular activity (i.e., activity such as work on the board of a nonprofit, or as an officer of a professional networking group).

Just remember, recommendations play a very large role in enhancing a candidate’s odds of admission, so take care to secure outstanding recommendations from a great combination of writers.

Good luck in the admissions process!

Best wishes,

Shelly Watts

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