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How to Get a Business School Recommendation

Tips on Choosing and Collaborating with a Recommender



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Most business schools ask MBA applicants to provide at least one business school recommendation. Some business schools ask for as many as three recommendation letters. Getting a good recommendation can really help your chances of getting accepted to your school of choice. Here are a few tips to help you get the business school recommendations you need.

Get the Right Number of Business Recommendations

Following directions is a vital part of the MBA application process. If you are asked for three business recommendations, then you need to get three recommendation letters--no more, no less. Submitting extra letters will not help your application.

Once you know how many business school recommendations you need, make a list of potential letter writers. If you need three letters, put three names on the list. If possible, choose at least one or two alternates in case your first choices fall through.

Choosing a Recommender

Choosing someone to write your business school recommendation can be tricky. You want to find someone who is not only familiar with your academic background or work history, but also someone who knows you well enough to offer a personable recommendation. It can be tempting to contact someone who is well-known rather than someone you know well, but closeness generally trumps rank when it comes to recommendations of this type. For example, if you work for a large organization, you may be better off choosing a direct supervisor that you worked with every day rather than a CEO or general manager you only met once at a company picnic.

Familiarity is important, but so is the competence of the letter writer. Writing business recommendations is practically an art form. It can be tough to incorporate everything that needs to be said, while sounding both genuine and original. Good grammar and spelling is also important. The letter needs to look polished and professional. Try to choose someone who can write the quality recommendation you need. Get more tips on choosing a recommender.

Recommenders to Avoid

There are some people you should not get a recommendation from. They include friends, family members, and colleagues. These people may know you well, but they cannot provide you with the type recommendation business schools want to see. You should also avoid recommenders who will give you anything less than a favorable recommendation. Business schools rely on the third party perspective found in the recommendations to determine whether or not you are suited to their program and a career in business. If your recommender doesn't think of you as a suitable MBA candidate, the admissions committee won't either.

Collaborating with Your Recommender

Collaborating with your recommender early on is the best way to get the type of business school recommendation you want. Some letter writers will not need or want your input. Others will be more willing to please and may even ask you what you would like them to say. Have an answer ready. If you want them to highlight a specific aspect of your personality or a particular achievement, say so. If you have won awards or were complimented on your work performance, make a short list for your recommenders so that they can easily mention them in the letter. And don't be afraid to give them your resume. It may help them to remember your responsibilities and successes.

Some business schools ask recommenders to fill out a form rather than write a letter. The form may contain specific questions about your strengths and weaknesses, your special talents, your achievements on the job, your leadership skills or potential, your ability to work with others, your communication skills, or your academic performance. The recommender may also be asked to explain how they know you in detail. They may even be asked to supply a short story or anecdote that summarizes your personality. Business schools do this to avoid getting vague and generic recommendations. If your recommender doesn’t know what to say, don't be afraid to help them out. You don't want to ask them to lie or exaggerate, but there is nothing wrong with making the experience a joint effort if the situation calls for it. Get more tips on how to ask for a recommendation letter.

What Your Business School Recommendation Should Say

Your business school recommendation should support or supplement the rest of your MBA application. If you highlight your leadership experience in your resume and essay, you better have at least one business recommendation that mentions your leadership skills. That's support. If you have limited work experience, you should have at least one letter focusing on your exemplary academic experience or your academic potential to supplement your application. A professional reference highlighting your commitment to volunteerism, your dependability, your teamwork skills, your leadership potential, or some other favorable aspect would also be beneficial. Get more tips on what your business school recommendation letter should say.

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