Letters of recommendation are an integral part of the MBA application that require more work than you might think. They also require you to tout your own successes. We often see candidates ask someone to write a letter, ensure it gets submitted and call it a day. This can be a big mistake.
Your role in the LOR process should be much more involved and it is crucial that you promote yourself. Let your confidence shine and do not be afraid to recount your success as you arm your recommenders to write the best letters possible.
We advise that all of our candidates share written documentation with their recommenders. Successful MBA students are leaders who have differentiated themselves from their peers, going above and beyond what would be expected in the role.
Provide your recommenders examples of how you have done so by documenting your top 2-3 accomplishments. This will not only make their lives easier, but it will also ensure they share the best stories.
Was it you who suggested a novel analysis that saved a client millions? Say so. Did you volunteer to take on an extra project? Remind them of this. Do you help out with recruiting? Especially in a larger company, your recommender might not know this. Your recommenders are busy and it is easy for them to forget details.
In addition, share your goals and aspirations. If you aim to start your own company, do not be afraid to dream big. If your goal is to become the CFO of a software company, tell your recommenders that.
It is okay to be ambitious. This will serve two purposes.
First, it will allow them to hone in on the skills that are necessary to succeed in your future roles and highlight them in their letters. Second, it will help them become vested in your future and develop confidence in your MBA ambitions. By understanding the difference an MBA will make in your career, it will be easier to write an authentic letter.
While most LORs ask about weaknesses, watch the self-doubt. As women, we can be tough on ourselves and overly critical. However, this is not the time to dwell on your weaknesses. Mentioning one or two development areas is appropriate, but be sure to position them in a positive light. Discuss how the MBA will help you close each skill gap and move on.
Finally, let your recommenders know what else you are covering in your application and consider giving them a copy of your essays. Doing so will help ensure that their recommendations fit within your overall application. Letters of recommendation are designed to be complementary. This means you do not want them to repeat exactly what you are already saying. At the same time, you want to make sure there is no conflicting information.
Perhaps they can share another example which demonstrates a complementary skill set or touch on an area you were not able to address in your essays. The more they know about what you are already saying, the more successful this will be.
The best way to share this document is face-to-face. While emailing this document is okay (and may be your only option), nothing beats a conversation over lunch or a cup of coffee. The more you sell yourself and help you recommender become vested in your future, the stronger the letter will be! Now is not the time to be humble.
Erin Wand is vice president at Personal MBA Coach, a boutique MBA admissions consulting and tutoring firm that has been helping clients with all aspects of the application process for over 10 years with a 96% success rate. As a former Forte Scholar and Yale SOM MBA, Erin has worked as a consultant and marketer for nearly 15 years for companies including Bain & Company, US Airways and Mars.