MBA REC LETTERS (or, in other words, recommendation letters). What makes a good MBA or EMBA business school application rec letter, and what will help you gain your coveted acceptance letter from the MBA or EMBA admissions department of your choice?
Whether you’re applying to HBS, Wharton, Chicago Booth, Kellogg, Stanford, Columbia, NYU Stern or one of the other “Top Ten” MBA or EMBA business programs in the U.S., who you ask in terms of gaining a strong MBA application recommendation letter, and how you prepare that person to write a good MBA rec letter for you, can easily in the end make or break your MBA business school application.
On the positive side, a strong rec letter can make an MBA admissions committee take you more seriously – especially if your recommender is a well-known thought leader or innovator in his or her field. That’s like the golden key, because by writing you a rec letter for your MBA admissions application, they are putting their own reputation on the line.
Even if your company is smaller though, based outside the U.S., or if your boss or supervisor is not well-known at all, don’t worry because most MBA (and EMBA) applicants are actually in that same position, as fame is not a prerequisite. What your recommender says about you though, regardless of how high up they are, can and will make a difference.
So, where to start in all this? Who, for example, do you ask to write your MBA rec letter (and usually you need to ask two)?
The best choice is going to be the person you directly report to in your current position. They are the ones who know your work habits and strengths (as well as your weaknesses) best, and a great supervisor or boss who speaks highly of you can do wonders for you in terms of the MBA admissions committee as they know few bosses would agree to recommend someone they didn’t really believe in or support.
Some MBA applicants however don’t want to ask their supervisor because maybe they don’t really want the company to know that they are thinking of leaving to get their MBA, or maybe they fully do intend to tell them, but only if and when they actually get in (so as not to risk their professional future at the company if they don’t).
This too is common, so don’t worry. If this is your situation, be prepared to be asked “why didn’t you ask your supervisor” in the MBA interview, but if you relate the true reason, everyone will understand. So, who do you ask if you can’t go to your boss?
A long-term client perhaps, a supervisor at your former place of employment if you still maintain a friendly connection. A colleague who knows you well, though someone in a position higher than you is always going to be a better choice.
Once you have decided who to ask, what kind of guidelines should you give them?
Give them your MBA resume. Make them aware of the MBA programs you’re applying to, as well as your short-term (immediately post-MBA degree) and longer term (down the road, post-MBA degree) goals. most people know to speak to your strengths, and most at this level will be happy to share what they’re written about you, as more often than not you, yourself, will have to send it in with the rest of your business school application.
If for some reason though you get a rec letter back that doesn’t sound very supportive or glowing don’t send it in. If the letter truly doesn’t show you off in a good light, thank the person, always be polite as they have sacrificed their time and most people don’t really want to write a letter but are happy to do so anyway to help you get ahead…but if for some reason it doesn’t sound great: ask someone else.
No one has to know about the “bad” or “not that shiny” MBA rec letter that so-and-so wrote for you. Don’t risk your entire MBA application because you’re afraid to be at least slightly selective.
Do your best and ask the best people – the ones you know understand what it takes to get into a top business school, whether on the MBA or EMBA level. Do that, and in terms of the MBA with a stellar MBA rec letter you should have no problem getting to the next level.
You also might like this article here: The GMAT Score You Need to Be a Top MBA Candidate!