A lot of time and effort for candidates is spent on areas like the GMAT, essays, and the resume. However, an equally important component of the MBA application is consistently overlooked. Business school recommendations are an integral part of any successful candidate’s application because they give the only external evaluation of an applicant’s work experience and career progression. This component of the application tends not to get as much focus from prospective MBAs, which can be a grave mistake come decision day. As applications become more detailed and specific, so do recommendation forms so the days of blanket recommendations are long gone.
Typically recommenders are senior people in organizations so with all of their own personal obligations writing recommendations can be a tedious act amid their busy schedules. So make the process easier for them by creating a recommendation package. The recommendation package should arm your recommenders with all the tools they need to write you a breakthrough recommendation.
The following elements should be included in your package:
Give your recommender the full picture of your professional background especially if your current job/role is not your only career stop. The resume is also helpful because it includes academic experience and some personal interests in your “Activities” or “Extra-Curricular” section that your recommender may otherwise be unaware of.
2. Reminder of Accomplishments
Highlight the great things you have done while working with your recommender, this reminder will make it easy for them to get specific in the evaluation form.
3. Sample Essays
I would limit this to a Why MBA/Career Goals essay just so you both are on the same page on your motivations for pursuing a graduate education in business.
4. Application Positioning
Help your recommender understand your interest in each specific school and provide some insight on how you will position yourself.
5. Recommendation Questions
Some schools will have the questions available for candidates for others it will be sent directly to the recommender. Either way a quick internet search should pull these up for most schools.
6. Recommendation Question Deconstruction
Just like essay questions, the recommendation questions are not always as straightforward as one might imagine. Help your recommender connect the dots on what the admissions committee is looking for here.
This might be one of the most important aspects of your package. Remember YOU are applying to business school, not them. It is in your best interest to make sure they are clear on all dates and deadlines. A missed deadline can equate to you missing a target admissions round. I even like to give recommenders a hard deadline that is in advance of the real one, so even if they miss your self-imposed deadline, which most will, you are still in good shape.
Take advantage of these tips and help your recommenders help you!
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Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.