Experience vs impact in Recommendation Letters


Among the 3 recommendation letters, is it better to have a majority of the letters from senior folks who have worked with (supervised) you, or those who have only heard of your work?

I have gone through multiple posts on this topic in the forum, and I can see that it is generally recommended to sample your letter writers from multiple organizations, and include people that have not directly worked with you. However, wouldn’t the fine-grained insights offered by an immediate advisor be valuable in proving my skills? How much weightage can be given to the words of someone who doesn’t know you closely?

I am just finding this a little unintuitive since recommendation letters are generally expected from immediate managers who can attest to your skills. If it is good to maintain a good mix, what would you say is more important? The experience of close managers or the impact on far-off peers?

Any insights/opinions are greatly appreciated! Thanks


You need to bear in mind that you are demonstrating that your are recognised leader through sustained national or international recognition. Recommendation Letters from your immediate are not strong enough to show your National or international standing. Your can use your employer to demonstrate your impact. For recommendation letters doesn’t mean they must now you closely, they just need to affirm that your are recognised as a leader in the sector and say why you are regarded in your field.

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Ah, I see! What if my immediate advisors were globally reputed experts? I have been fortunate to work for organizations like IBM Research, BBC, University of Edinburgh etc. and my mentors have been highly reputed.

I do get the point regarding the value of external folks speaking to my reputation, though, and I agree it would be of great value. But, even I have worked with good people, would you still suggest making all my letters external?