Did You Sabotage Your Recommendation Writers?

by on October 14th, 2012

Submitting excellent letters of recommendation in your MBA application is a challenge: You are asking someone who probably knows very little about the business school admission process to argue persuasively that an MBA admissions officer should take a chance on you instead of another ultra-impressive candidate. We’ve written before about how you can boost your chances significantly by choosing someone who knows you well and by arming that person with specific examples of your past deeds to illustrate just how terrific you are.

We preach these ideas all the time, but the questions we frequently get from business school applicants tell us that many are still hurting their chances by inadvertently sabotaging their recommenders. How can you manage to sabotage your own recommendation writers?

You Don’t Give Them Enough Time

One sure-fire way to receive bad recommendation is to put undue time constraints on your recommendation writers. Giving someone anything less than three weeks is just asking for them to crank out a marginal letter of recommendation at the last minute. Don’t forget that these are busy people and, as much as they support you and want to see you succeed in your career, they have 1,000 other obligations to worry about. Not giving them enough time to plan out your recommendation is just asking for trouble.

You Confuse Them About What You Want to Do With Your Life

If your recommendation writers are left wondering why exactly you want an MBA and what you want to do after you earn your degree, how can they possibly write letters that persuasively support your application story? Even if you are not 100% certain about what you want to do right after business school — much less in another ten years — you and your recommendation writers need to be on the same page about your career story. Yes, that story may change, and that’s normal and healthy, but if you say one thing and your letters of recommendation say something else, then MBA admissions officers will be left scratching their heads.

You Make Them Think Admissions Officers Want to See Understated Recommendations

We like to say that your letters of recommendation should ooze “pound the table” enthusiasm about you and your future potential. It’s easy to think that a very enthusiastic letter will sound unprofessional and may undermine your candidacy, but admissions officers read hundreds of thousands of words of boring stuffed-shirt drivel. Your recommendations should shout “You have to admit this person! He’s a rock star, and here’s why!” Anything less can make your candidacy a forgettable one.

If you’re ready to start building your own application for the world’s top MBA programs, learn more about how we can help you!

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