Often given the least importance by MBA applicants, letters of recommendation add immense value to your business school applications and require a significant amount of time and attention. Be proactive and start thinking of all the potential recommenders. Choose on the basis of how well they know you and how keen they would be to help you through your application. It is always an add-on to choose someone with good written skills; someone who can craft a compelling letter of recommendation.
Your list could comprise of current or previous employers, supervisors from the not-for-profit organizations you worked for, or college professors. The latter however doesn’t put as much impact as the others since it is from a much prior timeline. The newer the experiences you bring in to your recommendation, the more the value they add to it. In all, aim for a good combination of recommenders in order to showcase your skills and capabilities to the fullest, thus bringing a broader perspective to your candidacy.
A key thing to remember here is that your recommenders hold significant positions at their respective firms and will have deadlines to meet. So give them enough time to work on the letters, 4-6 weeks preferably. It is always nice to talk to them about the strengths you want to leverage in your application. Make them understand why a certain school appeals to you and your passion for pursuing MBA. From my own experience, I have observed that it is always easier for a recommender to provide an effective letter if they know about the process and the expectations that encompass it.
Start by connecting with all your potential recommenders and evaluating who would be keen on providing a recommendation. Once you narrow down to the final pool of recommenders, divide your applications among them. Keep it to 2-3 recommendations per person. Respect their time and consideration by not bothering them with too many recommendation requests.
I would also say, please refrain from writing your own letters. It is however always nice to help your recommenders through the process. So provide them with all the necessary information and do not forget to remind them of the deadlines. A good recommendation is of no use if not sent on time!
All the best!
Urvashi Marda, Forté Fellow
Class of 2014, Kelley School of Business at Indiana University