If you’re like me, asking your supervisor or your colleague to write a letter espousing your virtues makes you feel incredibly uncomfortable.
Sure, you’ve worked hard over the past few years and have earned a good praising, but why must you have to ask for it, and in writing? Well, the answer is easy: as an Admissions Officer, I need perspective on your business acumen, your personality, and your leadership and teamwork skills. You’ve already written essays and submitted a resume explaining these things first-hand and you may have also been interviewed. Now it’s time for a third party to weigh in and offer us a new perspective that will hopefully add depth and value to your overall application.
The best letter of recommendation will come from a Direct Supervisor. Nobody knows your capabilities in the business world better than the person supervising you in your current role. There are of course some exceptions: Perhaps you’re new to the position, or your Supervisor may be new. There may also be a conflict of interest, for example if your Supervisor is also your mother. Lastly, there may be another situation that complicates you asking your supervisor: they could be opposed to you leaving your position for an MBA, or in rare situations, you may not have a healthy relationship with your supervisor or you may feel that asking your Direct Supervisor for a recommendation to business school would jeopardize your opportunity for promotion or a raise. All of these are valid excuses you may want to include in the Optional Essay, to give us context.
Other good letter of recommendation options would be a former Supervisor (especially en lieu of a current Supervisor, if you cannot ask them), or a professional colleague. You may also consider a business client if you’re in a career such as consulting or advertising. Remember that whoever you choose needs to be able to discuss with us in detail your qualities, skills, and virtues. We’ve read enough letters of recommendation to know when somebody knows you, and when they KNOW you.
Some final tips: Make sure to let your recommenders know way in advance you are going to request their help. I would even suggest letting them know a good three months ahead of time if possible, so that you are not rushing them if they haven’t completed it a month out, and you start getting concerned they won’t submit the letter on time. It is also a good idea to meet with them, let them know what your short and long-term goals are and why McCombs is the best school for you, and offer them a copy of your updated resume. That way they can talk about their belief in your direction and goals with an amount of knowledge. And most importantly, make sure to ask people who actually like you. You would be surprised how many candidates have letters of recommendation submitted by people who really just don’t care.
Good luck preparing your application! We look forward to reading it soon.