Asking for Recommendations that Lead to MBA Acceptance Letters
No matter how close you are to the people you are asking, how you ask for a letter of recommendation matters. This may come as a surprise, but most people don’t enjoy writing letters of recommendation. Your recommenders have busy schedules and plenty of other work to do, so be sure to recognize that they will be doing you a solid.
How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation
Rather than simply asking, “Will you write me a letter of recommendation?”, ask “Do you feel you know my work well enough to write a good letter of recommendation?” This will show your thoughtful intention in choosing them as a recommender while giving them an opportunity to decline if necessary.
Once you’ve got the yes and your recommender has agreed to write you a recommendation, you may be thinking your work is done.
Picture this: You agreed to sacrifice a weekend in order to help a friend move. On moving day, you arrive at their home ready to transport their things only to find empty boxes still waiting to be packed. How would you feel? Frustrated? Annoyed? A little taken advantage of? Of course you would. Agreeing to help someone and then having to do more work than necessary is a huge bummer.
When you ask for letters of recommendation, you are in the same position as the person asking friends to help them move. Your recommenders are giving you their time and energy, and it’s up to you to make it as easy on them as possible.
Not only will preparing ahead of time make your recommenders’ lives easier, it’ll also result in a stronger application. When it comes to recommendations, a little effort on your part will go a long way… So now is not the time to slack off.
Asking For A Letter of Recommendation: How to Prepare
You can help your recommenders help you in three key ways:
1. Give your recommenders plenty of lead time and be clear about deadlines, particularly if you are applying to multiple schools. (*ahem*This should be simple if you are staying on top of your to-do list *ahem*).
You should provide recommenders at least one month to complete all forms with the goal of having all your recommendations done at least one to two weeks before the application deadline. Like all of us, recommenders have demands on their time so planning to get forms done early provides buffer room for “life happenings."
2. Set the stage for your what recommenders should expect.
It is critical that your recommenders have a clear understanding of the basic logistics of the process and workload for completion. You should inform recommenders that you will provide their name and email address to the institutions you are applying to and that they will need to submit all materials electronically. Additionally, you should give recommenders a heads up that while there is usually overlap in the information requested, each program will require recommenders to answer specific questions. For example, MBA programs may ask that your recommender rank your performance or provide examples of your professional strengths/areas of improvement.
You must be firm on where you are applying so that you can confidently inform recommenders which institutions will be sending them electronic communications to fill out. This will also help recommenders plan their time accordingly based on application deadlines.
3. Give your recommenders everything they need to write a strong recommendation.
Did you know that recommendations should fit in seamlessly with the rest of your application? ...Yep. Effective letters of recommendation will support the content of your essays, resume, short answers, etc. Recommenders need clear context on why you are pursuing an MBA (and how you are defining your personal brand via your application), otherwise their recommendation materials won’t align with the story you have crafted for the admission committee. So, rather than crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, take it upon yourself to give your recommenders relevant information and make specific suggestions.
Brief your recommenders ahead of time by providing them with a copy of your resume and a written overview covering the following points:
- Why you want an MBA and what you plan to do with it (both short- and long-term goals).
- Why you asked them for the recommendation.
- Self-identified areas for development.
- What the school is looking for in a candidate + which of your skills, experiences, and capabilities you would like the recommender to emphasize.
- A list of key personal and professional character traits that you are seeking to demonstrate to the admissions committee + specific examples the recommender can cite to support them.
These materials should be presented as simply points of reference vs. tools they must use when writing your recommendation. Recommenders may have other things that they want to write about and that is totally fine. In fact, sometimes recommenders reveal positive, impressive nuggets of your character that you would not think of presenting.
Whatever you do, don’t treat letters of recommendation as your chance to relax. Put in the extra effort to ensure your personal brand, reasons for wanting an MBA, and future goals are communicated in every element of your application. Painting a clear picture of who you are is the best way to better your chances of acceptance!
Oh, and don’t forget to thank your recommenders with a thoughtful card or email. It’s the least you can do. Plus, this tiny amount of effort will go a long way. Not only will a thank you note show your appreciation for your recommenders’ time and energy, it will help cement relationships that could potentially benefit you in the future.
Remember, the business world is all about networking, which has everything to do with manners. Make your mama proud and send your thank yous right after the recommendations have been submitted.