How to Ask Your Managers for MBA Recommendations

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Indian IT MBA applicant

A client of ours, Sarah, once shared her stressful experience while applying for an MBA program. Sarah, an ambitious and hardworking professional, had her heart set on a prestigious MBA program. She had crafted stellar essays and boasted an impressive resume, but hadn’t given due attention to the recommendation letters needed for her application.

As the application deadline loomed closer, Sarah realized her grave oversight and scrambled to ask her supervisors for endorsements. With only days left, she discovered that one of her supervisors had taken an impromptu vacation, while the other was swamped with a high-stakes project. The clock was ticking, and the situation seemed dire. Desperation set in as Sarah reached out to other colleagues in a frantic attempt to secure those crucial letters.


In the end, Sarah managed to obtain the recommendation letters just minutes before the submission deadline. The entire ordeal was a nail-biting experience, teaching Sarah a crucial lesson about the importance of planning for recommendation letters well in advance to ensure a strong MBA application. Her story serves as a cautionary tale, emphasizing the need for foresight and organization when preparing for the application process.

While preparing rigorous application essays and resumes, it’s easy to overlook the importance of recommendation letters in an MBA application. However, these letters can significantly impact your chances of acceptance, as they provide authentic proof of your credibility. Here is a step by step plan on how to get great MBA recommendations from your managers.


Tips for Preparing Strong LORs

  1. Start Early and Identify Your Strongest Advocates

If a current supervisor is not a suitable recommender, ask a senior colleague or an ex-supervisor. Choose your recommenders carefully, and consider including an “outside” perspective, such as a client or business partner.


Suppose you work in a sales role, and you have a great relationship with one of your clients. Asking this client to be your recommender can provide a unique perspective on your ability to build and maintain strong client relationships, showcasing your interpersonal and communication skills.


  1. Discuss Examples with Your Recommenders

Share 2-3 clear and concrete examples of how you demonstrated certain qualities at work. Providing context and quantifying your work adds immense value. Engage in a conversation to help your recommenders recall the impact of your work.


Remind your recommender of a specific project where you led a team to overcome obstacles and achieve success. Discuss the challenges you faced and how your leadership and problem-solving skills contributed to the project’s positive outcome.


  1. Avoid Sharing Your Essays with Recommenders

This can lead to biased or “manufactured” recommendations, and you may miss out on new perspectives or examples.


Instead of sharing your essays, provide your recommender with a brief summary of your key accomplishments and skills. This will give them an idea of what to focus on without influencing their writing style or content.


  1. Address Weaknesses and Constructive Feedback

Explain how you’ve responded to criticism and improved with effort. Provide specific examples of how you’ve worked on your weaknesses to become a better manager.


Your recommender may mention that you used to be disorganized, causing you to miss deadlines and create additional stress for your team. They can then describe how you recognized this issue, sought feedback, and implemented strategies to improve your time management and organizational skills, such as creating detailed schedules and setting reminders for important tasks. As a result, your ability to meet deadlines improved, leading to a more efficient and harmonious work environment.


  1. Be Professional and Respectful

When approaching your managers for a recommendation, always be professional and respectful. Explain your goals and reasons for pursuing an MBA, and clearly communicate why you believe they would be the best person to provide a recommendation.


Schedule a meeting with your manager and come prepared with a summary of your accomplishments and goals for pursuing an MBA. Explain how their perspective on your professional development would be valuable for the admissions committee and how much you appreciate their support.


  1. Offer Support and Guidance

Your managers may be busy, so offer to help them by providing any necessary information, such as a timeline for submission or specific points to address. Remember, though, not to be overbearing or try to dictate what they write.


Provide your recommender with a brief document highlighting your accomplishments, projects you’ve worked on together, and any notable feedback you’ve received from them. Also, inform them about the submission process and deadlines to ensure they have enough time to write a thoughtful letter.


  1. Show Gratitude and Follow Up

After your managers agree to write a recommendation, express your gratitude and keep them updated on your application progress. Once you receive the outcome, inform your recommenders of the results and thank them again for their support.


After your recommender submits the letter, send a thank-you note expressing your appreciation for their time and effort. As you receive updates from the MBA programs, share the news with your recommender and let them know how their recommendation contributed to your success.

Remember, a recommendation full of detailed accomplishments is more potent than a vague LOR with a list of qualities but no examples. By planning ahead, selecting the right recommenders, and working closely with them, you can maximize the impact of your letters of recommendation and improve your chances of MBA admission.

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