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Weak Recommendation from Supervisor with Poor MBA Insight

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Weak Recommendation from Supervisor with Poor MBA Insight

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Hi all,
I am applying to several schools, two of which require one of the LORs come from an immediate supervisor. Unfortunately, my immediate supervisor is not the most skilled writer alive. Moreover, and more worryingly, she also does not seem to grasp what b-schools are looking for from a LOR, despite my best efforts to point her in the right direction (e.g. giving her examples, suggesting topics to focus on, etc.). For example, during a recent annual review, a couple executives I know well met with me separately and commended me for my high business acumen, for skillfully coaching my employees, and my dedication to seeing our organization excel by actively searching for areas for improvement and proactively problem solving. Yet, my direct supervisor said she was most impressed with my knowledge of technology (we are NOT an IT company, but a major non-profit in the blood products industry).
Note: for these schools, I do have strong LORs from executives in the company that know me quite well, but I am concerned about the weight a school’s ad-com will place on my supervisor’s LOR.

Both of these schools that require a LOR from a direct supervisor do have a caveat indicating we may find someone else, but must provide an explanation in a supplemental essay regarding the reasons it did not come from a current supervisor.
Is this perhaps a more viable option than risking a potentially (but inadvertently) damaging LOR from my supervisor? If I do forgo a LOR from my supervisor and choose to explain my reasons in a supplemental essay, how direct (but polite) should I be when I explain my reasoning?
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!!

- Matthew

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You can ask him to take a look at some MBA recommendation examples, just to get the sense of what should a good b-school LOR look like - the language, use of examples etc.
See here for example: http://www.aringo.com/MBA_recommendation_Examples.htm

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If you've tried to coach your recommender and you're not seeing eye to eye, then I wouldn't continue to try to coach him/her. This is your application and you need to take responsibility for the things that you can control. You want to be able to submit the best application that you can and feel comfortable doing so. It sounds like you can't do that if you go with this supervisor.

I coached my recommenders through the process and was able to create a holistic view of myself that supplemented the other information in my application. When applying, you don't want to give the admissions committee anything that could potentially be damaging to your candidacy. What I would do if I were in your position would be to go ahead and write the reason for not choosing this recommender and go ahead and find others who support you. I would also explain to them why you've decided to ask them.

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Hey there,

I agree with money9111 here - you've clearly taken the right steps to coach her along. If at this point it isn't working out, you need to find a different solution. Be careful how you explain this, however. The last thing you want is it to come across as "I know you wanted a direct supervisor but she wasn't helping my case so I went to someone else...".

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Bhavik

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CriticalSquareMBA wrote:
Be careful how you explain this, however. The last thing you want is it to come across as "I know you wanted a direct supervisor but she wasn't helping my case so I went to someone else..."
CriticalSquareMBA and Money9111, thank you both very much for your input! Certainly, I would not indicate that I chose another source because they didn't help/we didn't see eye to eye, etc. However, how honest can I be? If I spoke with this supervisor, I feel confident we could agree that for the purposes of MBA applications, others may provide a more useful portrait of my candidacy.

With that being said, I was debating saying something along the lines of, "My current immediate supervisor shows great focus and attention towards ensuring tasks delegated to her are accomplished in a timely manner and she is an excellent knowledge-based resource for the organization; however, I have not worked with her as closely as I have worked with others in the leadership team at [insert organization]. After a discussion with my immediate supervisor, we concluded that [insert name], whom I have also worked closely with, would provide a more useful picture of my candidacy for this MBA program."

Thank you both for your help!

- Matt

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You don't even need to say this - "My current immediate supervisor shows great focus and attention towards ensuring tasks delegated to her are accomplished in a timely manner and she is an excellent knowledge-based resource for the organization".

It's YOUR application and the application is valuable real estate that should be positive about you and not really about someone else. This is a great opportunity to maybe elaborate more on your thought process (since that's something adcoms always want insight to) and maybe explain more about why it is that you've had many positive interactions with this other person.

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Yup, I agree. That's wasted real estate. Definitely focus that word count on why the other person is a better choice. Perhaps indicate scope, impact, or duration. Effectively, detail why they should believe you when you say they're a better choice.

I mean, think about it from the adcom perspective. I asked for a direct supervisor. You haven't given me one. My initial assumption is going to be you went to someone else in the organization because they would write nicer things. This isn't always an accurate assumption but it's a logical one, right? So help them understand why that isn't the case here. Why your new recommender will give them stronger insights into your profile.

Bhavik

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I think money9111 is right - it's your application and you should do whatever you feel comfortable with.

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