A good MBA letter of recommendation is a vital part of an MBA application.
Although many business schools place great significance on every aspect of the applications they receive for MBA programs, all too often candidates focus more of their attention upon entrance tests and admissions essays, neglecting vital elements such as their letters of recommendation.
By nature, letters of recommendation don’t require a huge amount of time from MBA applicants; after all they are designed to be written by someone else.
However, performing the simple task of selecting the right people to recommend you to your selected business schools, and even briefing them on what you want to get out of an MBA program can sometimes be the difference between getting accepted, and getting rejected.
“Whoever you get, make him or her give examples and specific instances to back up their claims about you,” explains Avi Gordon, author of MBA Admissions Strategy: from Profile Building to Essay Writing.
“Brief them on your application content so their communication is consonant with your own. Ask them to address and reassure the admissions committee on any weaknesses apparent in your résumé, if applicable.”
Anna Farrus, head of admissions at Saїd Business School at the University of Oxford explains that rather than asking for a reference from someone that will simply be full of praise, a recommendation from someone that is honest about an applicant’s achievements can be more effective, sighting flaws that can be worked on as well as accomplishments.
“We prefer recommendations that come from someone that has known the candidate for a while in a professional or academic environment and can offer a candid description of the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate,” she tells TopMBA.com.
Many MBA applications include letters of recommendation from significant figures in a candidates previous workplaces, with the belief that a high profile reference will impress admissions departments.
However, a far better approach is to ask someone who actually knows you on a professional level.
Selecting the ideal reference
“Ideally the recommendations should come from a person who has been a reporting manager of the candidate,” explains A M Kannan, director of admissions and financial aid at the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad, India.
“This is not always possible and in such cases it should be form a person who has been closely associated with the career of the candidate and can evaluate the candidate’s performance.”
Gordon points out that letters of recommendation are an MBA admissions department’s sole method of evaluating how their applicants perform in a professional environment.
Therefore, a recommendation from someone with an impressive title, who doesn’t really know what you have achieved in your previous roles won’t help them to understand what you are capable of.
“You need a recommendation from your current work supervisor (if not, explain why not) and other recommendations should come from other current or past professional supervisors who know you well,” Gordon says. “Don't go for someone with a great title, who hardly knows you.”
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