How to Prep Your Recommenders

Every component of your business school application is important, however, the recommender portion is a unique opportunity for the admissions committee to see how others perceive and evaluate you.

First, let’s cover the basics. While there is no right or wrong way to choose recommenders, most schools request at least one current or recent direct manager. Additionally, we strongly recommend that you waive your rights to read your recommenders’ submissions. This act demonstrates that you are confident in your recommenders’ abilities to advocate for your candidacy.

While at first it may feel like a relief to hand off this portion of your application to someone else, many candidates feel anxiety about relinquishing control. What will your recommenders say? What if they both focus on the same qualities and forget to include other key strengths? How will you know? To reduce this uncertainty and to ensure that your recommenders hit home the right points and messages, we strongly recommend that you prep your recommenders.

To begin, before you prep them, make sure you’ve written your essays or that you’ve at least outlined what you intend to cover. This will help you determine what areas, experiences, qualities or anecdotes you’d like your recommenders to share in order to round out your application. For example, are your essays light on people management? If so, ask a recommender to commend your management skills if appropriate.

The best way to prep recommenders is to provide them with an easy-to-read one pager with key qualities, professional successes and examples. Even if you think they will likely remember that you closed a big deal several years ago, if you want them to have this important success fresh in their minds when they submit their recommendations, then write it down. Air on the side of being overly comprehensive; however, try to stick to one page so you don’t overwhelm them with information. Consider providing copies of your essays (or essay outlines) so they can reference them as well if they choose.

Most importantly, remember that prepping your recommenders not only helps ensure that this portion of your application is first-rate, but it also helps your recommenders tremendously. When recommenders are rushed or don’t have enough information to pull from, that’s when recommendations can fall flat or not stand out. Making their lives easier can make your recommendations that much stronger!

Today’s post comes from Veritas Prep MBA admissions consultant Lauren Thaler. Lauren received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brown University and started working for The Advisory Board Company in Washington D.C. shortly after graduation. She worked in Business Development, Account Management and Marketing, and Business Intelligence Delivery. After a few years she decided to go to Wharton to pursue her MBA, and has since worked with dozens of business school applicants and founded her own business, Punchwell Press.