Mission Admission is a series of MBA admission tips; a new one is posted each Tuesday.
If you are having trouble negotiating with your supervisor to ensure that he/she is putting the proper thought and effort into your application, you are not alone. Because of this asymmetry of power, a junior employee can only do so much to compel his/her supervisor to sit down and write thoughtfully. So, before you designate your supervisor as a recommender, you must first understand how committed this person really is to helping you with your candidacy. In particular, your recommender needs to understand that creating a single template to be submitted to multiple schools is not okay and that each letter must be personalized and each MBA program’s questions must be answered using specific examples.
If your recommender intends to simply write a single letter and force it to “fit” the school’s questions, or to attach a standard letter to the end of the school’s recommendation form (for example, including it in the question “Is there anything else that you think the committee should know about the candidate?”), then your recommender is not really helping you—in fact, this kind of approach could actually hurt you! By neglecting to put the necessary time and effort into your recommendation, your recommender is sending a very clear message to the admissions committee: “I don’t really care about this candidate.”
If you cannot convince your recommender to write a personalized letter or to respond to your target school’s individual questions using specific examples, you will need to look elsewhere. A well-written personalized letter from an interested party is always far better than a poorly written letter from your supervisor.