Getting Letters of Recommendation for Business School
Recommendation letters are votes of confidence from managers, peers, and clients that you have the requisite qualities to attend business school. The thought process is that managers and clients can best judge your leadership potential, while peers can best judge your teamwork skills. These letters play a particularly important role in business school applications given the practical, hands-on nature of a management education.
You'll typically need three letters of recommendation for business school. With any luck, you'll be able to round up a few managers, clients, and/or peers who appreciate your character and intellectual quality. The strongest letters possess several characteristics. First, they paint a picture of your qualities: intelligence, dedication, maturity, curiosity, etc. Second, they provide detailed examples of your (stellar) work, giving the admissions committee something concrete to be impressed about. And, third, they are long. A great letter of recommendation for business school is long because the recommender has so many good things to say about you.
Now that you have an idea of what a great letter looks like, it's time to go off and get some. Below is a list of things you can do to bolster your chances of success.
Pick the Right Recommenders
To set yourself up for success, identify the best possible recommenders. Review each school's instructions, as some require both manager and peer letters, while others encourage manager letters only. Select those individuals who've been most impressed by you from different departments in your organization or, if you've worked for more than one organization, from different organizations. Don't feel like you need to go for big names, but, rather, pick individuals who can speak about you in depth. Sometimes it's appropriate to include a recommendation from a client or a professor if they can provide a valuable perspective on the school's questions.
Give Your Recommenders The Necessary Context
Next, meet with your recommenders or, failing that, speak to them by telephone. It's human nature for people to help you more after a face to face meeting. In your conversation, discuss your motivations for attending business school, the programs that you're applying to, why you chose them, and the work that you performed. Sometimes, a recommender will ask you to draft an outline. In this case, you'll have more control over what the final product will look like. A sensible way to handle this is to prepare a list of bullets that describe your qualities, accomplishments and detailed examples of your work, and set expectations for the length of the letter. Another tip is to have a CV ready before meeting with them.
Ask For Letters Well in Advance
If you absolutely need something done, leave plenty of time for it. Recommendation letters for business school are no exception, particularly since it's somebody else's time. Your recommenders are likely to be busy, lazy, or both. So it's best to recruit their help a couple of months before your deadlines, if not more.
Check Up On Your Recommenders
Once your recommenders are on board, you'll have to periodically check up on them to see if they've submitted your letters. If they're not organized, this can be a fairly tedious process. It's also a good idea to ask them to submit your letters 1-2 weeks before the deadline, in case they disappear at the last moment.
Protect Yourself: Ask For An Extra Letter
Call us paranoid, but you should ask for an extra recommendation letter for business school. This covers you in case one of your recommenders fails to produce the goods. You wouldn't be the first person to whom this has happened, believe us. Schools often accept additional letters or, if they don't, you'll be asked to indicate which letter to discard if they receive too many. Think of it as insurance for your letters of recommendation for business school.