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By Paul S. Bodine, Paul Bodine Admissions Consulting

Paul Bodine, Paul Bodine Admissions Consulting

Paul Bodine, Paul Bodine Admissions Consulting

Never forget that admissions committees love recommendation letters from supervisors. These professionals have the seniority and leadership experience to judge employees, and evaluating people is frequently a key part of their managerial role. Their opinion comes with baked-in credibility. Even assuming that your immediate supervisor wrote your first letter, don’t be bashful about having your second letter come from your immediate supervisor in your last job or perhaps another manager at your current job who knows you well. If you’re self-employed or work for a family-owned business (letters from dad are out), clients, suppliers, or your accountant, lawyer, or venture capitalist can also make good business-related recommenders–especially if they are senior to you in experience or function as a mentor.

Though professional-related letters are usually preferred, your second recommendation can also come from an extracurricular source. This could be your supervisor at a community organization, especially if your performance for that organization was unusually strong, you believe your community profile needs more bolstering than your professional side, or you’re applying to a school that views “social impact” applicants favorably. Except for schools like Stanford that require them, letters from peers should be avoided unless you really have no stronger supervisory alternative. This is because peers have not usually been in a formal evaluative role where they could judge your performance.

Since schools insist that recommendation letters be recent and come (primarily) from business associates, do not dust off the academic recommendations you filed with your college’s career placement an eon ago. With rare exceptions, schools discourage academic letters not only because, for most applicants, college was a long time ago, but because schools glean all the academic-related information they need from your undergraduate transcript.

Whichever recommenders you finally choose, the first step is gauging whether your they are willing. In fact, you want them to be more than “willing”; you want them to be glad to help. The best method is to forthrightly ask them if they think they can write a strongly supportive letter. If you encounter anything short of unhesitating consent, you may want to consider someone else. Recommenders sometimes agree to write positive letters but then, suddenly overcome by a scruple of “objectivity,” submit tepid or vague letters that harm more than they help. A recommender who is only writing a letter out of courtesy or duty will probably accept an opportunity to back out if you offer one. So phrase your request in language that invites the unenthusiastic recommender to recuse himself.

One of America’s most experienced admissions consultants (serving clients since 1997), Paul Bodine has helped hundreds of applicants worldwide gain admission to such elite business schools as Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, Kellogg, MIT Sloan, Columbia, Dartmouth (Tuck), Berkeley (Haas), Michigan, London Business School, INSEAD, Yale, NYU, Duke, Cornell, and Virginia, among many others. Click here for more information about Paul Bodine Admissions Consulting.