On Choosing MBA Recommenders
Just a reminder. Choose recommenders based on the closeness of your relationship and their ability to answer the questions being asked. (Start with the MBA Program Overview for a growing list of LOR questions.) Prioritizing title over relationship will backfire badly, as it casts doubt on your decision-making framework and ability to follow clear guidance, exemplified below. (Links go directly to sources)
I've seen too many heartbreaking examples of people who made the wrong choice. Just don't do it!
"The title or position of the recommender is not as important as his/her ability to comment knowledgeably and specifically about you. Submit recommendations from people who can speak directly about your aptitudes and capabilities."
"Look at the questions we are asking recommenders to complete. Find people who know you well enough to answer them. This can be a former supervisor, a colleague, someone you collaborate on an activity outside of work. How well a person knows you should take priority over level of seniority or HBS alumni status."
We are impressed by what a reference letter says, not by the title or background of the individual who wrote it or the writing skills of the recommender. You should choose individuals who:
- Know you well through significant, direct involvement with you within the last three years.
- Will provide detailed anecdotes and examples to support their assertions.
- Are truly enthused to write a recommendation for you and will spend sufficient time writing a thoughtful letter.