Recommendations: Are you taking them lightly?

Recommendations: Are you taking them lightly?

If all candidates could find someone to write a good recommendation, is it worth the effort. Yes, it is, especially because admissions officers attach a lot of importance to a recommendation letter from a credible source. In fact, recommendation letters are often seen as a means to learn about you and predict your success in the program. 

Choosing the right recommenders is a very important part of your application process. Potential recommenders must be approached carefully. But before that, you must be prepared to explain to them the following points. 

What goes into a recommendation 
  • Why are you planning for an MBA? Which schools have you applied to?
  • Why you are seeking a recommendation and how it is important to your application?
  • What would you like them to write and how it will help in your admissions?

What a recommender writes is read very carefully by admissions officers. They look for keywords that gives them the assurance that you will get through a business program successfully. Officers compare these keywords or qualities with your essays and see how close they are when it comes to your claims. 

Choosing a Recommender

If your recommender is from your workplace, schools are interested to see how you were in a business environment. They look for your managerial skills especially your ability to influence others and get work done. However, it is important that the stories that your recommenders tell are unique from that of yours, i.e. from the ones you mentioned in your essays. This gives an opportunity for admissions officers to view your application from different angles. 

If the recommender is from a reputed position, her views carry more importance than from a person of average reputation. At the same time, it is makes sense to seek recommendations from people who know you. Else how would admissions officers validate the claims made to vouch your candidacy. Most colleges ask for two recommendations. The two recommenders can be from your workplace or one from a professor. 

Aspirants find it tricky to seek a recommendation from their direct boss. One of the reasons being that some students want to keep the whole GMAT-MBA thing a hush hush, so that their career is in balance in case the MBA plans do not materialize. In such situations, who will be your workplace recommender. Is there a manager, a boss or a senior to whom you report occasionally? Did you report to someone when your boss was on leave? What about a former boss?

Make sure it a person who likes you or enjoys working with you. Who else would take the time to write a good recommendation. Your mom or dad, is it? Request your recommender to talk about your professional qualities through examples highlighting your intelligence and character. May be you provide a list of personal characteristics beforehand to help them make the recommendation credible and powerful. 

If you have a cordial relationship with your current boss and is someone who encourages your MBA aspirations, then go ahead and ask a recommendation from this person. You may also seek recommendation from a client with whom you work closely, a manager from another department who has seen your work or an external consultant with whom you worked on a recent project. Make a list of these people and others who know you and would be willing to write you a great recommendation letter. 

When you approach your recommender for the first time, ask her if she would be willing to give favorable recommendation. If she is uncomfortable, thank her for the time and move on to the next person. But if she is willing to write one, then set expectations. Inform her why you are pursuing an MBA and which schools you are planning to attend. Give her an overall framework to write. Recall instances where you have worked closely with her. Help her understand about you and your contributions. 

Set a deadline for the recommendation from the recommender. Share with her a copy of your own essays, a list of your target schools, your resume and some of your company projects. Managers are busy people. Hence help them and make this process as simple for them as you can. However, if your manager asks you to write the recommendation yourself, say no. Admissions officers can easily identify the language and find out who wrote that. Give them keywords, but do not write sentences. 

A Tricky Recommendation

In certain situations, your boss might be so busy you are left with no choice but to write the recommendation or part of the recommendation by yourself. These situations are a blessing in disguise. You are now in total control of the recommendation and can align it with your essays and rest of your application. This is your opportunity to talk new stories about you that you missed out in your essays. Do not generalize your qualities. Instead, talk about specific instances and how you fared in those situations. All the while, do the writing from your manager’s point of view. 

For the self-employed

For those in family business, use a supplier, customer or someone other than your family members. Same is the case if you are self-employed. If you are working in an organization, most schools expect all your recommendations to come from the work-place.

Make sure your recommendations are submitted on time. Most colleges provide links to submit them. It is very important that you follow-up on your recommenders. Make sure you thank them. Update them on the progress and the final result. Stay in touch with them during your business school time and after. It is not just about networking possibilities, it shows the sincerity in your appreciation.  

Anirban Bose

Anirban Bose

Anirban is an accomplished test prep teacher with multiple band 8 IELTS test scores and 99th percentile GRE test scores. He has been teaching for over fifteen years. His students have been accepted to Ivy League colleges and some of the most exclusive programs across the globe.


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