Recommendations in B School application - Stacy Blackman
Recommendations are important to your MBA application. In fact, when pressed, some admissions committee members have admitted that recommendations are possibly the most important part. We have below an overview of the recommendations portion of your application. If you are looking for more in-depth information, you can visit the Stacy Blackman
Recommendation Letters Guide and we can also answer questions in this thread.
It often comes as a surprise to candidates that recommendations can be so important to applications. In fact, many applicants just don’t take recommendations seriously because they are not the ones to personally complete them.
These applicants fail to see one of the key reasons why recommendations are extremely important. Recommendations can provide a glimpse into your management skills. If you cannot ensure that your letter of recommendation is appropriate, professional and on time, what does that say about your managerial potential?
In addition, a letter of recommendation is the one piece of the puzzle that provides a very important and potentially revealing third party perspective.
Letters of recommendation are an extremely important part of your MBA application process. They must be carefully thought through and professionally managed.
Selecting the right people to draft your letters of recommendation is essential. In almost all cases, without exception, you will want to select professional references for at least the first two letters.
When selecting someone to write your letter, choose people with whom you work closely and who know you well. The person’s stature is not as important as how well they know you. Don’t choose the company CEO with whom you meet monthly, over your manager with whom work daily. In fact, the single best person to ask for your initial letter of recommendation is the manager to whom you report directly.
Choose people who like you, and who think you’re good at what you do. Choose good writers who can express their opinions clearly. If a potential reference seems less than enthusiastic in any way, keep looking. That person’s ambivalence is likely to come through in the letter.
If you select two references from the same company, try to make sure that they can provide different perspectives on you, so as not to be repetitive. As an example, one can be your manager, the other can be someone with whom you worked cross functionally.
Ask yourself these three questions, among others, when considering potential references:
- Have you worked closely with this person?
- Do you feel this person thinks favorably of you?
- Is this person an advocate for you internally?
We often hear questions regarding the benefit of selecting MBAs to write your letters, or even better, alumna of your target schools. All things being equal, we do believe it is helpful if your recommender has an MBA. However, don’t fool yourself into thinking that an alumni letter has great benefit. The truth is that many, many applicants have alums, and often very prominent ones, writing letters on their behalf.
Consider this a “nice to have” but don’t select an MBA at the expense of our number one rule: select someone who knows you well.
With academic recommendations, although you may think that your former Economics professor is a great person to write a letter, a professor usually cannot answer questions about interacting with peers, leadership abilities, career goals, areas needing improvement, and more. It’s truly essential that the people writing your letters have clear insight into the information that the business schools seek.
Should you choose to go outside of the workplace for a recommender, the next best option is often someone from an extra- curricular involvement, such as a volunteer commitment. Leadership is an excellent attribute that is often exhibited to a greater degree outside of work. If you have solid letters from your boss and one other person that you work with or have worked with in the past, you may opt to make a third letter from this type of non-corporate environment. This is generally accepted and can work very well for your application.
Once you have selected your recommender, you will want to broach the subject with the individual in a way that sets you up for success. Ask for their feedback or advice on the topic of business school. Get a feel for whether the person is supportive of business school in general. You may want to begin these discussions quite a bit in advance, so that there are no surprises.
If you are not comfortable with the meeting when you talk to your recommender in detail, remember that you can always choose a different recommender. This is an important part of your MBA application and you want to make sure you have a recommender that is both supportive and able to add meaningful information to your application.
Once you have spoken to these individuals, the next step will be preparing your recommendations. No applicant should just send recommenders off to do their job. You will always want to prepare them and make their job as easy as possible.
Preparing Your Recommenders
Preparation needs to happen. The worst thing that you can do is slave over your applications and then leave the recommendation piece to chance. In preparing your recommenders, you will have two primary goals:
- Share with them the details of your application strategy
- Jog their memory with regards to your accomplishments and actions
Supply your recommenders with information so they are likely to write about the content that you want to go into the letter and so that it is relatively easy for them to write one or many very strong letters on your behalf.
Above is an overview of the recommendations section in your business school application. If you are looking for more in-depth information, you can visit the Stacy Blackman Recommendation Letters Guide
and we can also answer questions in this thread.
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Stacy Blackman | Stacy Blackman Consulting Inc | http://www.StacyBlackman.com | +1 323.934.3936
MBA blogger, US News and Author, The MBA Application Roadmap