It’s an honor to be asked to write business school recommendations, and also a big responsibility. Taking these steps will help you get great results, and also shows your recommenders that you appreciate their support.
- Get organized.
Create a document with a list of all the schools you are applying to, and the questions themselves. (You can find the forms on the school’s website, or through a google search.) Highlight the recurrent themes – there is a surprising amount of content overlap, and some schools even use a common form. Your recommenders will hopefully be reassured about the scope of the work.
- Polish your resume and goal statement.
Along with this comprehensive document, please give your recommenders a brief goal statement and the resume that you have optimized for business school. They can’t advocate for you if they don’t know what you want to do – “I think that Jim wants to go back to school to be a consultant” isn’t terribly compelling.
- Brainstorm – but don’t script.
After your recommenders have had a chance to review your materials, set up a time to strategize with them. Tell them more about your strengths and weaknesses as a candidate, so that they can offer details that help you present an optimized profile. Share relevant personal information that they might not have known, like the fact that you were a varsity athlete or the first in your family to go to college. Finally, offer to help them think about powerful illustrations for some of the trickier questions, like how you handle feedback or conflict. It’s really important not to write this content down for them, even in bullet form – the responses need to be in the recommender’s own words.
- Set deadlines.
To avoid stress and weird dynamics, set clear deadlines. It’s completely legitimate to tell your recommenders that you plan to submit the week before the application is due (that is your plan, right?) and that your application isn’t complete without their recommendation. Some candidates also find it useful to establish interim check-ins, which can alleviate stress on both sides.
These concrete steps will help you ask for business school recommendations the right way, and enable your recommenders to advocate on your behalf.