Ask people who know you well…

Tempting as it may be to ask the CEO of your company or an old family friend who happens to be a prominent politician to write a recommendation for you, this isn't necessarily your best choice. Unless that person knows you very well, the generic recommendation they're bound to write will make very little of an impression upon the admissions committee members. Even if you tell that person about some of your accomplishments that you'd like highlighted, the final letter will undoubtedly sound overly scripted and bland. A good recommendation speaks to the kind of person you are, either in the workplace or in the context of your extracurricular activities. It captures your personality, your drive, your leadership skills...or conversely, how your quieter method of interacting with people has a positive impact on their lives. You don't have to portray yourself as a "master of the universe" to get into b-school; there's room for the more introverted personalities as well. Whatever type of personality you have, make sure that your recommender can make that shine through.

…But don't ask your friends

Yes, the person who knows you best may be your oldest friend from grammar school, but that doesn't mean he would be the best person to write a recommendation for you. It's assumed that your friends would have only good things to say about you; these letters are about as useful as the ones from the distant CEO. However, that's not to say that all your letters need to be career related. Have a piano teacher who's known you since you were 6? Perfect. Or a hockey coach or the head of the tutoring program you volunteer for? These will work too. The person writing your letter should have some sense of authority or objectivity coloring what he or she writes. The committees want honesty, and so anyone who can talk about obstacles you've overcome or accomplishments that have not come easy is perfectly qualified to show that, while you may not be perfect, you have what it takes to deal with the adversities that you'll face in b-school and beyond.



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