SBC Scoop: Finding the Elusive Third Recommender

*Please note that no client details are ever shared in SBC Scoop or otherwise without complete sign off from client.

Our client Jillian thought she had the recommendation portion of her applications locked up. A few years into her career, she had in hand a strong recommendation from her current supervisor attesting to her leadership skills, and a former boss happy to emphasize her communication skills in a second recommendation.

Jillian was aiming for some top schools, and as she combed through the requirements for Harvard and Stanford GBS with her consultant, they found the catch. Each school asked for not one, not two, but three recommendations. Harvard simply asked for a current or recent supervisor to write one recommendation, and Stanford was a little more specific, asking for the third recommendation to come specifically from a peer and not a supervisor.

“But I work eighty hours a week!” was Jillian’s first reaction. “I’ve made sure to focus on my job the last few years and give it everything I’ve got- I barely have time for anything else so I’m not sure who to ask.” Jillian’s consultant first advised her to look at the problem the other way around: she already had two home-run recommendations ready, so this might be an opportunity to show off a side that hasn’t been showcased elsewhere in her application. They went through all the possibilities, from colleagues at her current and former companies, to her church volunteer work, to her Friday night bowling league.

What they found was Jillian had missed an answer that was right in front of her. At a previous position, she had worked extensively with a peer on several projects in a row, and in the process had become good friends outside of work, continuing their friendship even though both had moved on to other companies. Jillian hadn’t even thought of Grace as a peer anymore since they spent more time at the movies than working on spreadsheets nowadays, but of course Grace was delighted to write her recommendation, and was able to provide personal insight that even Jillian’s supervisors could not.

After digging deep for that third rec, Jillian felt great about sending off her applications to Harvard and Stanford, and as a result of her participation, Grace is now thinking seriously of going for her MBA as well.

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