Choosing a Reference
The best reference is someone who knows you well. That's the type of person who can provide an accurate, comprehensive and sincere MBA letter of recommendation. Don't choose a reference based on title alone -- this strategy could hurt your chances of getting in. Instead, choose someone who has known you for at least a year over someone with a higher title who has only known you for a few months.
You also need to choose someone who can write well. Poorly written MBA letters of recommendation will reflect badly on you. Make sure your reference provides specific examples to back up their claims.
The reference you should choose also depends on your level of work experience. If you have only been working for 2 or 3 years, you can use an academic supervisor as one of your references. This is particularly useful if you have worked in one job. If you have several years of work experience, all of your references should come from supervisors you have worked with recently.
Still don't know who to ask? Consider asking employers, professors, school administrators, or anyone else who is knows your work ethic. Avoid getting recommendations from people with whom you have a personal relationship, such as friends or colleagues.
Asking for a Letter of Recommendation
It's best to request your MBA letter of recommendation through an exclusive personal meeting with your potential reference. Tell them about your plans to apply to business school, before requesting that they write a letter of recommendation. You may want to take this opportunity to provide your potential reference with a copy of your resume. If you decide to bring your resume, make sure it highlights the key accomplishments -- the accomplishments that resulted in positive evaluations.
Make sure you ask for your letter several weeks before the deadline. A thoughtful letter of recommendation takes time. That's why you should be patient with the person writing your letter of recommendation.
Ask for a detailed letter of recommendation. Specify the personal qualities you want your reference to emphasize in the letter, such as your leadership skills or strong work ethic. Remind your reference of your past successes so your awards and accomplishments are highlighted in the letter
If your someone turns down your request for an MBA letter of recommendation, don't take it personally. They think that they don't know you well enough to provide an accurate recommendation. Alternately, they may think that another reference would be a better fit. Make sure you thank the person for their consideration, then ask the next person.
Letter of Recommendation Tips
Here are some tips to ensure that your MBA letters of recommendation make a good impression on the admissions committee:
- Plan on getting at least two letters of recommendation, since that's what most business schools request. Some schools, however, ask for three letters of recommendation.
- Make sure your reference knows the purpose of the letter of recommendation you're requesting from them. That way, they can customize the letter for the admissions committee.
- Never send in a letter of recommendation unless you are totally satisfied with its content.
- Proofread your letter of recommendation before you submit your application.
- Read over the letter to see if it complements your application form and essay. Fix any contradictions before sending in your application.
- Check the letter to make sure it's an accurate reflection of your character and work ethic. If not, use another reference.
- Thank your reference for taking the time to write your letter. A short, well-written note is all it takes.
- Although filling out online MBA applications will generate automatic requests for an online recommendation, you may want to avoid this option. Some references may not want to deal with the hassle of writing the letter of recommendation twice. Most schools will let you mail in a hard copy of the application.