What to give your Recommendation Writers

Your Letters of Recommendation.

Some part of your candidacy is determined by letters of recommendation written by – usually – your current boss and another manager. You can mix and match on the “who” writes your letter as long as at least 1 of the letter writers can speak directly and specifically to your work behavior. This is more than a client who can give feedback on the product your team delivered. This is someone who can speak specifically to how you responded to setbacks, criticism, praise, and “growth opportunities.” The admission teams want specificity not accolades. So it isn’t sufficient to pick people who think you are amazing. You need to pick people who know your strengths and weaknesses.

Letter Writer Package

1. They need to know you well and be reminded how well they know you.

To that end, include bullets of projects you’ve done together – including any feedback she gave you at the time. Send a current copy of your resume. Write up blurbs about your personal life that are applicable (!). BAD: teaches spin. GOOD: teaches spin for our department meetings after learning that physical activity in a meeting led to more productivity for our team. 

2. They need to believe you’re worth the investment.

The school forms ask something along the lines of how well does this candidate compare to candidates you’ve worked with in the past. Ideally your writer should be comfortable choosing top 5% or top 10% if you are heading to a top 10 program. If not, request that she inform you so you can move to the next writer. Be polite but direct on this. Also, your writer’s credibility will be at stake. So if she’s written several letters or a reviewer can presuppose that she has, then her version of top 5% will be worth more than a newbie’s. Ask your letter writers to allude to the breadth and depth of experience evaluating folks pre-MBA/post-MBA and producing letters of recommendation.

Choice: if you do not have a writer who would put you in the top 10% of candidates he has worked with, you may not be in the top 10%. So you have a choice to make, do you double down for another year to boost your reputation with this boss or get transferred/find new job where you can thrive and thereby demonstrate you really are top 10% or do you accept that you may not be top 10%?

3. Details!

They need all the pertinent logins and preferably in one reminder email and one reminder doc. So put notes on your calendar to remind you!

I like to create 1 master document organized by school.

Add blurbs of what you plan to express to each school – your theme, relevant responses, etc.

Final Thoughts

It is necessary to think through your entire application before you hand your letter writers their packages but you also need to make sure they get a few weeks to craft their letters before the due date. You don’t need to give them completed essays, but you should have a strong idea about Why School X, Why MBA, and Why now. If you’ve run through the 7 steps of the MBA App Map, this is covered completely in steps 1-3. That’s a good place to start if you need the help.

MBA App Map


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