Asking your recommenders for MBA recommendation letters?

Every MBA applicant would have faced this question during their MBA journey. How to approach bosses and colleagues for stellar MBA recommendation letters that would make them superstars in front of the Admission Committee? There are millions of articles and blogs about this and I will not be adding anything new in this blog. However, here are my 2 cents.

Be strategic:

If MBA is your goal in the future, then start building relationships with your supervisors and seniors who you think can write stellar recommendations for you. Dont ask them for a recommendation out of the blue. Once you have a good professional relationship going, you can slowly start telling them your long term goals and how doing an MBA supports that. Once the time comes, approach them politely, take them out for a coffee and explain to them how much you would appreciate their feedback and recommendation.

Have a list of your projects ready.

Prospective applicants would start researching the MBA process at least an year in advance. From the time you start thinking about it, keep a running list of your projects that you want your recommenders to highlight. Make sure they are aware of the work you are doing and your contributions to the projects. Moreover, don’t just think about work related projects. You should also include office wide initiatives that show your commitment to the core skills that the admission committees look for such as leadership, initiative, innovation etc. That TED like event that you did for your division or that Go-Karting session that you organised should be in your recommenders mind when they write your recommendation.

Give them a mini handout of your achievements and answers to straightforward questions.

Now that you have built your relationship with your recommenders and they have agreed to write the recommendations for you, don’t just expect them to remember all the details that you want them to remember. Give them a list of your skills and specific examples from your work that highlight these. Also, send them your CV / Resume and make sure they know the qualities that you want to showcase. Make sure they know the deadlines well enough and apologies in advance for all the chasing that you would have to do nearer to the time.

Thank them profusely.

Lastly, when they have submitted all the recommendations, take them out for a coffee and thank them for all the help they provided. Remember, without their support, even your application won’t be complete. So, you owe them big time.

Sample Letter for Recommenders:

I am including this letter that I sent to my recommenders. Here, I am highlighting the skills that I wanted them to mention in their recommendation letters. You can use this to remind your recommenders about your skills and qualities.

Dear XXX,

I want to thank you again for writing my MBA recommendations. The recommendations are extremely important part of my applications and I am very thankful for your help. Different schools look for different motivations and qualities and thus the questions could differ from school to school. I will try to do my best to make this as informative as possible for you.

For Fall 20XX, I will be applying to the following schools. These would be split across two / three rounds:

<School Name> <Round> <Deadline date>

The recommendation process is as follows:I will submit your name as one of the recommenders to the schools. I will include your work email and phone number. Depending on the school, I may also need to mention your job title and the number of people you manage. You will receive an email from the school with either a link to their application portal or detailed instructions on how to answer the questions.

To help you with the recommendation letters, I am including some details that would help you in answering the questions asked by the schools.

My Strengths: In my essays, I will be stressing my <strengths >XXX and ZZZ. They will ask for specific examples from the time we have worked together. These strengths can be best shown by .

My Weaknesses: As discussed, we believe my weaknesses are YYY and WWW. The best way to answer this question in my opinion is to show specific examples where these weaknesses can be shown as constructive feedback that I have received from you. It would be good to show that I have worked or have been working to improve my weaknesses. 

My other qualities: The school will also ask questions with specific examples about my other qualities such as leadership, teamwork, views on diversity and how I handle difficult situations. They might also ask questions about my future potential and where you see me in 5-10 years time. I believe the best examples that highlight these qualities are AAA, BBB, CCC etc. 

My post-MBA career: Also, the schools would want to understand why I need an MBA and my post MBA career goals. As discussed, the MBA would help me achieve XXX and YYY. It would help me get to YYY in the short term and XXX in the long term.  

I would really like to thank you for your help and the tremendous support that you have shown me. Please feel free to reach out to me whenever you want and I will be very happy to answer any of your queries.

Kind Regards,

Good luck on the recommendation process.