How to manage your recommenders

Guest post by Stacy Blackman Consulting.

The other day I spoke with a client who believed that poor recommendations were the primary reason she was not accepted into an MBA program last year.  She had specifically selected her recommenders and given them several months’ notice.  Her first recommender gave her a copy of his letter after submitting it.  Although it was five pages long and written with care, he had emphasized all of the wrong qualities.  He had also gone off track like crazy and did not provide relevant examples.  Unfortunately, this occurs frequently and is the reason why managing your recommenders is just as important as selecting the right people.

The goal of managing your recommenders is to make it as easy as possible for them to write the perfect letter of recommendation.  The following process will also help you with your own business school essays.

  1. Decide on four to five key characteristics that you would like your recommender to focus on throughout the letter.  Examples of these characteristics include innovative, leadership, charisma, and focus.
  2. Develop at least one example that you feel best represents each characteristic.  An example could be: “Initiative—Last month, when I learned that profits were declining, I took it upon myself to research the competition and learned of two new entrants.  I then offered to lead a team to analyze these new companies and developed an initiative for regaining our market share.”
  3. Create a bullet pointed list of important projects that you have worked on.  For these projects you should include more detail than your resume.  You want your recommenders to actually read this document, so try to keep it to one page, and do not overload them with information.  This should be a helpful, quick reference.

Next, you should invite your recommender to lunch and walk the individual through these materials. You should also provide a copy of your resume and discuss your goals.  If possible, you can even share some of your essays with them.  Don’t leave it to your recommender to remember everything that you have done and don’t leave this process to chance.  Your recommenders will appreciate your assistance and thoroughness and will produce a better recommendation on your behalf.

For more robust guidance on your MBA application essays, check out the Stacy Blackman Consulting Essay Guide Series – school specific guides with essay tips, sample essays, information on what your target schools value and more. Visit to learn more.

Founded in 2001, Stacy Blackman Consulting has helped thousands of MBA applicants gain admission to the most selective business schools in the world.  The Stacy Blackman team, comprised of MBA graduates, former admissions officers and expert writers, editors and marketers, helps clients develop and implement a winning marketing strategy.  Stacy Blackman clients have a significantly increased probability of admission to top schools and are frequent recipients of merit scholarships.  The company is regularly featured in publications such as BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal and the Economist.   Visit the Stacy Blackman blog for daily news updates and admissions tips, and check out the company’s e-publications for more in depth school-by-school guidance.

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