Four Steps To Attaining A Letter Of Recommendation

HEC Paris applicant advises constant contact with your recommenders to ensure they write a good letter

Recommendations are things I secured early.

I’m fortunate enough to have forged great relationships at work and when I asked my direct supervisor and another colleague to write recommendations for business school admission, they did it willingly.

My Method for Securing Good Recommendations:

Select people who:

Know you well
There’s really no point asking people to recommend you if they don’t have much basis. In my case, I had known my recommenders for over 4 years and they were fully aware of my career evolution. If your current supervisor doesn’t know you well (say you changed roles recently), then pick someone else above you who could make a fine recommendation based on the many occasions when you worked for him/her.

Write good English
I consider recommendations to be little essays. So pick recommenders who will be able to tackle this exercise well.

Are engaged in making you succeed
Ever met someone who said: “Sure, I’ll do your recommendation if you write it for me” ? I have. And although it may seem easier to be in full charge of your application, it’s not the point. And it shows how engaged they are (not) in making you succeed.

Discuss Why You’re Applying for an MBA with your Recommenders
Once you’ve picked the recommenders, there should be at least one discussion when the two of you discuss your motives.

This discussion is especially important with your supervisor as he/she will have to balance your motives against the fact that you’re basically going to quit your job (at least for 2 years) in a few months.

At the end of the discussion, your recommenders should be clear about why you’re applying for an MBA, the schools you’re applying to and the process for each school.

Double Check Regularly
Recommenders can be busy so don’t forget to remind them of deadlines, especially if they get close.

Keep them in the loop
Make sure to let everyone know about how you fare in your application process.
If you just submitted your application, let them know and thank them.
If you got accepted to an interview, let them know and thank them.
If you got admitted to a school, let them know and thank them.
Even if you got rejected, let them know and thank them.

It may sound cheesy but recommenders should be thanked as a full part of your success. And, then again, generate as much buy-in from your supervisor.

Paméla Chin Foo is in the first year of the MBA at HEC Paris. Her blog was originally published on June 2nd 2009.

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