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Thread: LORs for candidate 10 years out of school

  1. #1
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    LORs for candidate 10 years out of school

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    Hello!

    Am new to the forum. Looking at a PhD application for 2020. I have read all the advice about getting academic not professional LORs, but I am a real outlier case and trying to work out what to do for the best. Advice welcome! For context the PhD will not be in economics but a more general management field.

    Options:

    1. My undergrad economics professor. Well published in his field. Really, really liked me and we have stayed loosely in touch even though it was 15 years ago (!). I graduated top of my (large) class from an Ivy-type school so I think this one should work (though it will be very, very old!)

    2. My graduate tutor in asset pricing. This was over ten years ago. It was a MSc in Economics from a top school. Problem is he would have absolutely no idea who I am. We never spoke beyond maybe my asking a couple of questions in class (all the actual teaching was done by PhD students). I could send him my masters thesis on asset pricing and my transcript (I was #1 in the year in all my papers so the grades are great). But he would be writing it totally and utterly blind. He is a published person in some good Econ journals but not super “eminent”. My worry is this reference would add basically nothing to my transcript which they would have anyway.

    3. A professional reference. I have a successful 10+ year career in a global “name” company that is related to my field but obviously isn’t actually in research. I would have a large choice of referees including “impressive” names in the world of business but of course they would be practitioners. My company will be sad to lose me to academia and these references would be great and very personal, but wouldn’t speak to research ability. Unfortunately none of the prime candidates to write the reference would have PhDs (they would all be MBAs)

    If I have to provide 3 then it has to be all 3, but my “dream school” only asks for 2 so I need to choose.

    What would you do? Am asking well in advance as whoever I ask will need appropriate “warming up”!

    I am looking at top 10 schools so I realise I can’t afford to get this “wrong”. I know I have got a fight ahead of me!

    Thanks.

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    Re: LORs for candidate 10 years out of school

    Best option: I would suggest reaching out to a local university and asking them if you can get involved in some research projects. However, that's not always practical for everyone.

    If I were you, I would go with number 3 and number 1. Number 2 is not going to help you much here because even if they agree to submit one, it will probably just be a generic letter with no real insight. for the number 3s, ask them to talk about your critical thinking skills, problem solving abilities, collegiality, work ethic, etc. Those are all factors that are also important. If you have any experience in data analysis or extended work projects that would be helpful as well.

    Since you aren't going to have standout reference letters, be sure that your test scores and research statement is top-notch if you are targeting top 10 universities.

    Finally, you can't afford to not network! If you are applying to management programs, you should absolutely put yourself in a position where you are going to meet other academics. If you are lucky, you may develop a strong enough relationship with someone to get a reference letter.

    Three suggestions to do this:
    1. Attend the AOM annual conference in Boston in August, 2019. Go to sessions/PDWs that align with your research interests. This will give you the chance to meet Faculty/PhD students in the programs you're wanting to attend and it will also help you develop a better research statement and a stronger idea of what your specific research interests are. This is a huge conference and people are pretty busy so it may be more difficult to make meaningful contacts here but it is a great conference to get acquainted with the management field as a whole.

    2.Attend the SMA annual conference in Norfolk, Virginia in October, 2019. They have a 2 day Pre-Doctoral PhD Workshop that is outstanding. The applications for it should open up around April (keep an eye on their website: Southern Management Association ).If you can only go to one, I would recommend going to the SMA conference over AOM since it is smaller and easier to meet people. However, there may not be as many top ten schools there.

    3. Attend a DocNet Recruiting event: DocNet – Promoting Doctoral Education in Business Throughout The World .

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    Re: LORs for candidate 10 years out of school

    It doesn’t get to reach out - but they won’t be strong letters. I echo sentiment to try to get involved with something that could get you a more recent letter

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    Re: LORs for candidate 10 years out of school

    Are you sure your dream school that asks for two LORs will not accept three? Sometimes schools mention that they require a minimum two LORs but are fine if you upload three.

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    Re: LORs for candidate 10 years out of school

    I think there's quite a lot of "by the book-ism" in this thread -- the only people that use it are the Type-A's (No offense meant, it's what got you guys this far). That said, business school committee's aren't dumb and aren't naive and don't sit around and think "Man, I wish this excellent candidate with an excellent background had a more by-the-book LOR."

    Business school PhD programs don't get the opportunity to have people with your professional background and record often (most people have sub-50 month professional experience, often much lower just have a look at class profiles) and will certainly accept recommendations from accomplished practitioners, to think otherwise is non-sense. With your background, you don't need to go volunteer in a research lab at a local college. In the grand scheme of your resume, that's peanuts and a waste of time.

    Go with the people who you feel would carry the most weight in the business community and you'll be fine. Obviously, include your academic reference in 1, if possible, but treat it as a compliment to the others. Acknowledge your situation honestly in your supplemental essay.

    You'll get in a PhD program somewhere.

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    Re: LORs for candidate 10 years out of school

    I totally agree with this. Having 10 years of experience in an application to a b-school is great. While for econ programs is bad.
    they will understand why you did not get both letters from research faculties. Ask your first recomender to emphasys his opinion on your research
    potential.

    More than been worried about that aspect I think they will be scared that you wont drop out because you will be changing dramatically the lifestyle you
    have been living this last years. Try to talk about that in your statement.


    Quote Originally Posted by sjb55 View Post
    I think there's quite a lot of "by the book-ism" in this thread -- the only people that use it are the Type-A's (No offense meant, it's what got you guys this far). That said, business school committee's aren't dumb and aren't naive and don't sit around and think "Man, I wish this excellent candidate with an excellent background had a more by-the-book LOR."

    Business school PhD programs don't get the opportunity to have people with your professional background and record often (most people have sub-50 month professional experience, often much lower just have a look at class profiles) and will certainly accept recommendations from accomplished practitioners, to think otherwise is non-sense. With your background, you don't need to go volunteer in a research lab at a local college. In the grand scheme of your resume, that's peanuts and a waste of time.

    Go with the people who you feel would carry the most weight in the business community and you'll be fine. Obviously, include your academic reference in 1, if possible, but treat it as a compliment to the others. Acknowledge your situation honestly in your supplemental essay.

    You'll get in a PhD program somewhere.

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    Re: LORs for candidate 10 years out of school

    Oh I totally understand your situation. I am facing the same issue.

    First of all, even if your professor agrees to recommend you, I simply can't trust that it would be a stellar one, for one simple reason of memory. Practically, no professor can remember just one student from so many and that too from 10 years ago. So what do we do? I don't know whether that is a right approach but I took professional recommendations. Fortunately one of my MBA classmates did his PhD. So, I took his recommendation. How effective was this? I can't say. I have no basis to attribute my applications' success or failure to this one factor.

    Another issue is the age - I think that there is a big bias against older candidates. My sample size is small, but I have really seen this happening. I know 3 other PhD applicants, excluding me, with 10 or more years of experience. The admissions all four of us received was just 4 out of 50+ applications. All four of us have 700+ GMATs, MBAs from top b-schools globally, and average 3.5 / 4.0 GPAs. And we were very careful in our school selection approach (no lofty, 'top' ranked criteria).

    All the best!

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