Admissions Myths Destroyed: Title Trumps All!

In the past, we have tackled the myth that you must know alumni of top MBA programs to gain acceptance into those schools. Without rehashing that argument, a myth that is somewhat similar—in that it pertains to who you know instead of who you are—is that your recommendation must be written by someone with a flashy title. Each year, many candidates will persuade either someone outside their workplace (a congressman, for example) or an insider who does not know their work all that well (e.g., a managing director or CEO) to write on their behalf.

Unfortunately, when you obtain a recommendation from someone who depends on his/her title and not on actual knowledge of you when writing this important letter, the result is a vague endorsement. Consequently, the admissions committee will not get to know you—and this undermines the very purpose of recommendations. Even if you can educate someone far above you in the corporate hierarchy about your achievements and he/she can write a seemingly personal letter, it still will not make sense that a CEO, for example, knows what you—one of hundreds of analysts—is doing on a daily basis. So the intimacy of this individual’s letter just might seem absurd. Of course, if your CEO does actually know you and can write a personal letter that makes a logical connection between your position and his/hers, it should be helpful.

Instead of merely seeking a title when considering possible sources for your recommendations, you should identify an individual who knows you well and can write about your strengths and even your weaknesses with sincerity. If your supervisor has an unspectacular title, it will not reflect negatively on you;what will matter is what he/she writes. If that person can discuss your performance while providingpowerful examples of standout achievements, then he/she will help you to the fullest.


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