MBA - Application Process

Tips on Approaching Your Letters of Recommendation

Joanne Kang, Forté Fellow

Joanne Kang, Forté Fellow

So you’ve decided that this is the year you’ll be applying to business school. Congratulations! A key part of the application process involves your letters of recommendation; ensuring that you’re equipping your recommenders with the right amount and type of information makes their task easier and your application process smoother.

When I approached my supervisors with the request to write my recommendations, I prepared for these conversations by assembling a folder, which included:

  • a document describing my career vision and how an MBA would fit into it
  • my resume
  • table of application deadlines

Here are some tips I learned while working with my recommenders:

Anticipate the questions your recommender will face. How might your recommender’s comments build your credibility as an applicant? What does s/he know of your work history and career aspirations? Share your big picture. Recommenders may have a more defined view of you by understanding:

  • Your career choices to date and the direction you want to head
  • How your pursuit of an MBA relates to your long-term career path
  • Why you find your selected MBA programs appealing
  • The way you spend your time outside of work, e.g., extracurricular or volunteer activities

Refresh your recommender’s memory. Don’t be afraid to highlight any significant projects or work experiences you and your recommender have shared, especially if they’ve occurred some time in the past. Your recommender may find the following information helpful:

  • What was the nature and scope of the project?
  • How did you specifically contribute to the project, and to what outcome?

If you already have a resume that details your major work contributions in a concise manner, it could serve as a useful reference for your recommender.

Provide clear instructions. Be transparent with your recommenders and notify them of the deadlines you’re aiming for at the outset. If you’re applying to multiple schools, gather and organize all critical deadline information and relevant application material for recommenders in a clear format. Some recommenders who are particularly busy may welcome your proposal to schedule periodic, informal check-ins or reminders of approaching deadlines. Your recommenders will thank you.

Remember: You are the project manager of your application process. Have a clear vision of how your “application project” ought to unfold, and manage yourself and your recommenders to drive toward the results you want: a complete and sparkling application!


Joanne Kang
Forté Fellow and MBA Candidate 2015
UCLA Anderson School of Management

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