How to Build Strong Relationships with Your Recommenders

RecommenderAn often overlooked area of the application package is the recommendation letter. Many applicants take this very important component for granted when allocating time spent on their application. The recommendation process in its most optimal scenario should start months if not years in advance of an eventual submission. This is true because the quality of your recommendation like your resume is not earned during the time it takes to type it up but instead in the months and years you spend cultivating the experiences within the document.

Most candidates will simply blindly ask a superior at their company for a recommendation with little to no connection or background on the candidates life plans and career goals. The best recommenders can speak confidently about your unique contributions in the workplace and how these experiences position you as a strong candidate.

The best way to begin starts with the selection process. Identify people in your life that can speak to how you operate in professional settings; this can include people from the workplace, civic or volunteer organizations, and even school. You want to select the people who know you best and can speak to your strengths in a positive and comprehensive way.

Once you identify these 3 or 4 potential recommenders start to build these relationships. I feel the best way to do this is through consistent personal interactions. In person is ideal via lunches and coffee chats but email updates and phone calls are an adequate virtual substitute if the potential recommender is not local.  This should not feel like work, it is simply you connecting and cultivating a pre-existing relationship. As you build this relationship pick the recommender’s brain for advice on career related things to make them feel more invested in your future. With the relationship flourishing your request for them to write your recommendation will come as no surprise so utilize this improved relationship to better align on recommendation expectations. Writing recommendations is a huge undertaking for an already busy senior professional so the more vested they are in your success the better you can expect your recommendation to be.

Another key aspect of developing these relationships is continuing to excel in the capacity in which they know you. Whether it’s professionally, academically or civically this is not the time to slack. Use your performance as the real catalyst to build your relationship and get the recommendation you deserve.

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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.