You need to attach at least two letters of recommendation (LOR) with your application when applying for admission into an MBA programme abroad. A great LOR can often be a deciding factor to seal the admission seat for you. Therefore, you should always try to secure the best LOR by following certain tips discussed in this post.
Importance of LOR
Business schools abroad pay special attention to the letters of recommendation of an MBA applicant for the following reasons.
- Outsider’s Perspective
An MBA application comprises various parts such as the main application, the applicant’s resume, the mandatory essays, test scores like GMAT and IELTS, etc. All these components are carefully prepared and curated by the applicants.
However, the letters of recommendation are usually the only document in an application set that the candidate does not prepare. Therefore, they provide a great and perhaps the only opportunity for Adcoms to know what other people think about the applicant.
- A Glimpse of Your Character
The LOR can give insights into your professional achievements, success stories, and sometimes your personality trait. In addition, it can help the admission council get a deeper insight into your career choices and soft skills.
For example, something like, “…was instrumental in resolving the management-labourer conflict of 2014 through amicable dialogues and negotiations…” can reflect that you have great communication skills and you like to resolve conflicts through dialogues.
- Potential Surprises
Sometimes you might have forgotten or ignored to mention a particular achievement in your resume as you thought it was insignificant. However, your recommender might highlight that achievement which the admission council might also agree to be an important one.
[READ: Tips to ACE GMAT Essay]
Whom to Ask for LOR?
The writers of your LOR should be the people who know you very well and can provide a positive report on your skills and abilities. Besides, most B-Schools have well-defined directives in place regarding the kind of recommenders they prefer. You can check the official website of the respective B-schools to know more about such directives.
Following are some common recommenders whose LORs are likely to be valid under most LOR directives.
- Personal Acquaintance
The person writing your LOR should know you well and should carry high credibility on the professional front.
- A Professor
The LOR from a professor always carries a significant weightage, especially if the professor teaches at the college where you did your Bachelor’s.
- An MBA Degree Holder
A person who already holds an MBA degree from a reputed college can write a LOR for you. For example, if you know someone or you worked with someone who holds an MBA degree from GSB Stanford, that person can write a LOR for your admission application for UC Berkeley.
- Your Boss or Superior at Work
If you have considerable work experience, asking your company’s superiors or your immediate boss can be the best way to secure a great letter of recommendation. Watch this video where I share how to get a great recommendation letter from your boss.
You can find any of the people mentioned above and ask them to write a recommendation letter for you. However, letters from politicians, friends, etc., are not accepted and can adversely affect your chances of securing an admission.
Dos and Don’ts for Obtaining Great LOR
- Don’t Write Yourself
Some applicants can be audacious and enterprising enough to write a recommendation letter themselves and convince their preferred person to sign it for them. However, such candidates must understand that the admission councils at reputed B-schools scan several thousand applications every year.
They have usually gone through every type of application and LORs and that too, several times. Naturally, they are experts in detecting fake or fabricated LORs. Hence, it would not be a smart idea to try fabricating a LOR yourself.
- Job Post Doesn’t Count
Sometimes applicants tend to think that getting a LOR right from the CEO or the founder of a company enhances the value of their LORs. Nothing can be farther from the truth. In fact, it can have the opposite effect in certain cases when such high profile people don’t know you personally.
A CEO or a director of your company is likely to write a template LOR that will have usual blanket statements like “.. he is highly talented”, “… he deserves a better role…”, etc. They are not likely to reflect on your exact achievements that should be highlighted.
Instead, try communicating with your immediate bosses, line managers or supervisors who are more likely to know about your professional contributions and strength areas. They can write letters that can truly reflect upon your abilities and skills.
However, if your line of work requires regular interaction with the c-suits and you are confident that they can vouch for you, you can consider them as potential recommenders.
- Provide Every Detail To the Recommender
Even if the recommender knows you well, you still need to provide many details such as your updated resume, details of your MBA programme and the B-schools you are eying for, some sample LORs, etc.
You can also consider providing a summary list of your achievements or the special mentions you would like to have on your LOR.
These materials will help your recommender have an idea about the things to be mentioned in your resume.
- Give Them Time
Sample this, “Hey, are you done writing the LOR that we talked about three days ago?” How does that sound, and what can you expect in terms of quality when you have rushed your LOR?
It is vital to give your potential recommender enough time to draft a good LOR properly. Besides, the recommender needs time to perform research before writing your LOR.
- Proper Acknowledgement
Certain old-world etiquettes can never go out of fashion. So appreciating the recommender for writing LOR for you is very important. You can send a thank-you note or perhaps invite for a cup of tea, or any such gesture that you think can possibly let your recommender know that you value the effort. Remember, you might need your recommender’s help in future as well.
[READ: 10 Points for the Perfect LOR]
MBA applicants, especially those with a good GMAT score or otherwise a strong application, often tend to ignore the importance of LOR until it’s too late. However, it can be another way around with little awareness and planning.
Consider taking the guidance of an expert councillor who can help you in removing any possible doubts and help you acquire an eye-catching recommendation letter. The admission cycles in MBA programmes often take 20-24 months to complete. You don’t want to prolong your wait for the lack of proper recommendations.