Many applicants don’t invest time and attention in their reference letters. Most applicants select their references, direct them to the proper forms, and hope for the best.
These are the key elements to keep in mind:
How strongly does the recommender champion you and your MBA aspirations?
Does the recommender have at least 3 to 4 meaty examples to share that demonstrate strong MBA-desirable qualities?
Will the recommender add dimension and valuable insights?
Does the recommender have strong written communication skills?
How open would the recommender be to input from you on the recommendation?
Will he or she feel comfortable with receiving a recommender brief or potentially sharing a draft with you to review?
How senior is the recommender, or are they an alum of the target school? Generally, these factors are less important relative to the content of the MBA recommendation letter. But they are worth considering, depending on the circumstances.
Does the recommender meet the specific school’s instructions?
Weigh the pros and cons of the various recommender options and know that a range of perspectives is best. A good set of letters will feature the client from professional, personal, and interpersonal standpoints.
Rather than submitting two highly duplicate recommendations, it can be more powerful to request recommenders who can share different perspectives and examples.
1. Professionals are better
For top MBA programs such as Harvard Business School and the Wharton School, professional recommendations are better.
2. Stand out
Many recommenders, especially those unfamiliar with the MBA application process, think that if they simply sing your praises and repeat how great you are in various different ways, that will be enough.
However, this is not true. The best way for your recommenders to help you stand out from thousands of other highly qualified applicants is by putting a clear picture of who you are both professionally and personally.
Standing out is especially crucial for traditional applicants from finance and consulting. Use the MBA recommendation letter to show that an applicant is at the very top of their classes.
3. Specifics matter
Sharing details of how you contributed to projects or giving specific examples of how you interact with others or went above and beyond can make for a great MBA recommendation letter.
Take a proactive approach to your reference letters. Sit down with each reference to let them know that a recommendation letter is integral to your MBA admission and highlight the key attributes that the recommender should try to address.