Another one in the MBA Application Basics category. A commonly known fact (assuming you’ve read the application guidelines on bschool websites) is that your MBA application will be looked at as a complete package and the impact that it’ll have on the admissions committee (adcom) will depend on each of the components included. But candidates often discard that guideline and create their own priority list. There’s a clear pecking order while they work on their MBA applications – a preferential treatment for GMAT preparation, with the MBA essays coming in at a distant second and the letters of recommendations for MBA (LORs) often being sidelined.
You may have an enviable GMAT score, but that tells the Adcoms nothing about your work related accomplishments and business potential. And you think some decent essays will do the job, if you can structure and present your work-related experiences in an impressive manner. But it’s all from a single perspective – yours.
Recommendations are the only window for Admission committees to get a feel for what others think about you. So a little foresight and planning can help you get this aspect in good shape too.
Why give importance to the letters of recommendations for MBA (LORs)?
- This is the only component that provides the admissions committee an external perspective about your area of expertise, skills, capabilities or areas where you excel (when compared to your co-workers).
- All the good things about you would sound may sound boastful when mentioned by you. When the same comes from an authentic outside source, it gets more credibility
- Though some parts of the LOR may have an overlap with the MBA essays and resume, it would actually verify the claims you’ve made or the facts you’ve mentioned. It gives the admissions committee more reason to view your application positively, if your LORs too are as effective as the rest of your application.
So what can you do about your letter of recommendation?
- Plan in advance:
Most of the B-schools ask for two recommendations, however at Harvard, three are required. The format varies for each school and so the questions asked. Completing the recommendations can be time-consuming, so it would be advisable to start thinking about whom your recommendations would be from and approach them well in advance. This way your recommenders won’t be pressured about a specific time-frame within which they have to complete your recommendation. Give them some breathing space.
- Keep aside time for discussions:
You cannot just hand over the job to your recommender and sit with your fingers crossed and expect a fantastic output. There also has to be some proactive effort on your part too. You should be able to spend time in discussions, briefing them about your line of thoughts: why you’re planning for an MBA, what are your post-MBA goals and how an MBA from a particular B-school would help. You can let them browse through your essays and a well-written resume. The LORs would then be in sync with your entire application and the recommender would be in a position to point out how you would be a good fit for the schools you’ve chosen.
- Provide important bullet points:
Don’t assume that that your recommender has a sharp memory and remembers exactly all the details of the projects you’ve worked on with them. Chances are, they don’t. You can help them out by briefing them and providing bullet points of the various projects you’ve worked on; where you may have shown some exceptional ability by meeting tough deadlines, successfully leading a team, bringing in substantial revenue to the company or bagging in a contract for your company by using your marketing skills. A variety of instances demonstrating your dynamic personality would help spice up your application.
The LOR should be able to point out instances during your career span which highlight at least a few of the following aspects:
- Technical expertise
- Analytical skills
- Time-management skills
- People management or team-leading ability
- Ability to acclimatise to new environment
- Adaptability to new skills
- Spirit to motivate your team
- Marketing skills
- Communication skills within or outside the team as required
- Keep an eye on the application timeline:
It is essential to keep your recommender updated about the progress and status of your MBA application so that they are reminded of the various deadlines and are able to keep your LORs ready.
Keep these few thoughts in mind as you start working on your next set of applications. As with essays, you will realise the mistakes you’ve made with the earlier recommenders and recommendation process. So learn, rectify and re-attack.
Read these related posts:
– How to choose an MBA recommender
– How to ask for a letter of recommendation from professors