letter of recommendation

What to Avoid When Choosing Recommenders

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Welcome to this week’s edition of Wednesday Wisdom. The question that I typically get asked is about choosing recommenders. Here is a slightly different spin to it – how not to choose recommenders or how not to approach recommenders. I think one big problem that a lot of applicants have is they end up choosing a recommender.

For example if it’s a boss, they know they have to approach the boss, but they just develop cold feet, they feel awkward to reach out to the boss early on.
What happens is they keep waiting till a point where the application deadline is almost a week later and they approach their boss, especially when the boss is busy, he’s doing something, they go accost him and thrust the application and say, “I’m going to send you a link, can you take out the time and look at the recommendation?”


Now what happens in this case is:

a) The boss is not comfortable doing it.
b) Too short a time and he probably doesn’t have enough data.
c) He could also feel a little offended or he could feel he’s going to lose someone, so he may not write the best recommendation possible.

How do you get over this?


Try to identify your recommenders early on. In fact, the earlier the better. You don’t even have to tell them which schools you’re applying to. The best way is not to discuss this in the office environment, maybe you can take him to the cafeteria, take him to a coffee shop. If he drinks, maybe you can even take him out for a drink. Tell him what you really want to do. Why you want to really do an MBA.. What are the things that you hope you will achieve in life from an MBA Genuinely ask his opinion, let him give his two cents. Get him committed to the plan. Nobody is going to come and say you shouldn’t do an MBA. They will say, “This is my opinion and this is what I feel.” Take their opinion into cognisance and keep them updated.


After a couple of months, gently blow this topic and say, “Would you like to be my recommender and you know how much it matters to me.” At that point, hardly anyone will say no. Most of them will agree to it and because you have got them committed to the process, they are also more willing to give you a feedback.

When the time comes, give them at least a month’s notice in advance. Send them the link. One way you can prep them is give them your application form, give them your resume, give them things that they could possibly use in order to write the recommendation. At no point should you encourage them to give the recommendation to you and ask you to write it.
I think it’s unethical plus trust me when I say the college would definitely get to know, who wrote the recommendation. Get them to write the recommendation, prep them, give them some data points which they can use in order to write it.

In a nutshell, if you have enough time and if you are able to plan it well, recommendation letters can be a lot easier if not they can be a nightmare.


I hope you liked this and as always if you have any feedback, feel free to comment, and let us know. I would personally respond to your queries. Thank you!

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