You’ve decided to apply to business school and get your MBA.
You’ve got a game plan on how to manage your entire MBA application, from studying for your GMAT to writing fantastic essays.
But what about your MBA recommendation letters?
Will your recommenders write strong letters of support that help you get accepted to your target B-schools or will they throw you under the bus?
[Check out my video “How to Get the Best MBA Recommendation Letter” about why choosing the right person to write your MBA recommendation letter is so important.]
In this article, I’m going to show you how to get MBA recommendation letters from people who want to see you succeed — your brand champions.
But before we get to the right way to get your MBA recommendation letter, let’s see what happens when you pick the wrong person to write you recommendation letter.
Will The Real MBA Recommender Please Stand Up
John’s an investment banker with a top global investment bank. He’s got 6 top business schools that he wants to apply to. He’s done a ton of research on each of the MBA programs including visiting campus and attending classes, speaking with students and alumni, and attending the admissions information sessions given by the admissions board.
He has a clear plan for why he wants the MBA. He’s put a ton of time into his MBA essays and he’s happy with their quality—they represented his brand well.
He’s taken his GMAT a year in advance of applying and he has a score that’s in the range for admitted students at the schools he’s targeting.
So with all of the other application components taken care of, John turns his attention to his MBA recommendation letters.
John chose 2 recommenders with whom he’s worked with before. He briefed them on his MBA goals, target business schools and rationale for each of the school. He reminded them of the key projects he worked on with them, highlighted his achievements, examples of leadership initiatives he took and the impact he had on each project.
Recommender #1 was extremely supportive.
But Recommender #2 was less enthusiastic.
It was something in Recommender #2’s tone as well as the comment that he thought John was “reaching” with all of the schools on his list. When Recommender #2 shared a draft of the recommendation, it was clear to John that he made a bad call in selecting Recommender #2 to write a recommendation letter.
When John finally saw his Recommender #2’s recommendation letters, they were worse than he’d imagined:
“John is a good guy but he’s not exactly B-School material…I’m surprised he’s chosen to apply only to top MBA programs…”
Imagine the impact that that recommendation letter will have on John’s MBA application? Clearly, Recommender #2 is doing John no favors and is trying to throw John under the MBA admissions bus.
John was fortunate to have seen a draft of Recommender #2’s recommendation letter before it was submitted and ended up making the tough call to un-invite the recommender from writing a recommendation letter on his behalf.
John’s recommendation experience reveals how recommenders can destroy all the hard work that an applicant has done. (For more tips on choosing the right people to write your MBA recommendation letter, check out my post “Selecting Recommenders Who Will Rave About You”)
John’s biggest mistake when approaching his recommenders is that he didn’t first confirm that the recommender was a brand champion.
John is not alone in making this mistake.
Many MBA applicants jeopardize their admissions by not doing enough due diligence on their recommenders.
So how do you make sure you’ve done your homework on your MBA recommenders?
How to Separate a Brand Champion from an MBA Dream Crusher
The most important question you need to answer when selecting your MBA recommenders is: Is this person a genuine brand champion for me?
If the person is someone who supports you and wants to see you succeed, then you’re headed in the right direction with your recommendation letters.
But if the person is someone who doesn’t fully support you or your goals to get an MBA, then you’re going in the wrong direction.
So how do you know whether you’ve got a brand champion or not?
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Do they know your work really well (can they use vivid stories to demonstrate my involvement, achievement, etc)?
2. Are they willing to understand your overall admissions positioning?
3. Will they actually write your recommendation letters or will they outsource it to [fill in the blank here] (even if they want an outline from you, will they take the time to write it in their own voice?)
4. Do they value the MBA regardless of whether they have one or not?
5. Are they one of your avid supporters (or raving fans) and will they do what it takes to support you in your MBA admissions process?
If you answered YES to all 5 of these questions, you’ve got the right person!
So, start working with them now to write your recommendation letters, before they get too busy. (Before you get going, read my post on “Recommendation Etiquette”, to make sure you’re well prepared.)
If you didn’t answer YES to all 5 of these questions, then may have the wrong person.
If you move forward with the wrong person, you’re taking a big chance on your MBA application. You could end up like John and Recommender #2.
And after all your hard work, why take that chance on your MBA application?
Brand champions are critical not only for getting into business schools. They’re necessary for accelerated career growth and you should do everything in your power to maintain strong relationships with your brand champions throughout your career.
So I’ve shown you how to get your MBA recommendation letter from your brand champions.
Now here’s what I want you go do:
First, write down a list of the people you’re thinking of using for your MBA recommendation letter.
Second, ask yourself the 5 questions above and decide who are the right people to ask.
Third, go ask them and see what they say.
What do you think? Did you find this article helpful?
Leave a comment in the comment box below with your thoughts on any challenges you’re facing in this area or any stories you’ve heard about this topic.