Tag Archives: recommendation letters

10 Common MBA Application Mistakes of Finance Professionals-Part 1

Surprised to hear that MBA applicants from finance make up the largest percentage of the incoming classes at many of the top business schools? I didn’t think so. Several firms require the MBA for top-level …

application mistakes finance professionals makeSurprised to hear that MBA applicants from finance make up the largest percentage of the incoming classes at many of the top business schools? I didn’t think so. Several firms require the MBA for top-level positions, and finance industries feed heavily into the most competitive programs.

At the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, for example, 45% of the Class of 2018 has previously worked in finance, followed by 36% of the entering class at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and 27% at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

While other applicants will have to work hard to demonstrate that they can handle classes such as finance, accounting and statistics, if you hail from finance, this box is already checked without question.  The admissions committee is quite confident that you can excel in the core classes. Consider it one less thing you have to worry about!

Because applicants from finance are overrepresented in the admissions pool, your goal is to stand out as much as possible from peers with similar backgrounds. However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to attract the admission committee’s attention, so make sure to avoid these 10 common MBA application mistakes made by finance professionals.

Mistake #1: Failing to develop an overall strategy

Applicants with a highly typical career background face one of the largest hurdles to admission. You need to develop a comprehensive application strategy that sets you apart from equally impressive peers. No matter how remarkable your pedigree, business schools don’t want a class filled with individuals of the same profile.

The MBA journey begins with considerable self-reflection to crystalize your life and professional goals, and find the right schools that fit and align with those aspirations. From your resume to your essays to your letters of recommendation to your interview, you’ll need to differentiate yourself through stories and examples that highlight both your analytical expertise and personal pursuits to add another dimension to your MBA application.

Mistake #2: Not filling in the “white spaces”

When strong finance applicants don’t get in, much of the time it’s not because they are unqualified or didn’t deliver when it comes to their GMAT, but because they erroneously believed that a perfect score or having Morgan Stanley on their resume was enough to make them the perfect candidate. With such fierce competition, you have to realize you are not just your resume. You are the white spaces in between.

MBA programs seek to attract applicants who show curiosity about the wider world, whether through academic, extracurricular or life experiences. You never know if those years on the college water polo team, the minor in game design or those articles you published in the school newspaper are just the ticket to creating a standout application.

Mistake #3: underwhelming recommendation letters

As an evaluation from an independent observer, letters of recommendation are a secret weapon for your application success. Your recommenders will be asked to evaluate you against your peers, and may even be writing letters for your peers, so you need to ensure that your recommenders consider you the top-ranked employee in their area.

Don’t leave them to their own devices. Make sure your recommenders share specific examples of your excellent work. To help them out, you may want to provide a bulleted list of projects you worked on together, especially if you were praised for the results. Sometimes a performance review or meeting can be a useful source for specific compliments if you are unsure how to steer your recommenders.

***

We’ll have more common mistakes that finance applicants need to avoid ready for you soon. Until then, please follow SBC in social media and sign up for the SBC newsletter, where you’ll receive expert advice on all aspects of the MBA application process delivered straight in your inbox each week.

Posted in Application Tips | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Avoid Choosing the Wrong MBA Recommenders

As part of our month-long anniversary celebration, I’m highlighting some of my favorite blog posts from along the way that I think will really resonate with applicants who are gearing up for submission this fall.  …

As part of our month-long anniversary celebration, I’m highlighting some of my favorite blog posts from along the way that I think will really resonate with applicants who are gearing up for submission this fall. 

Enjoy!

RecommandationYou probably already know not to ask the CEO of your company to write your business school letter of recommendation – unless of course he or she is  someone you work closely with and who knows you very well.

Below are three more potential pitfalls when it comes to selecting a recommender. Avoid these mistakes or you may find your chances of admission crushed despite having an overall compelling application.

• Don’t select someone who can’t answer the questions: In other words, you may feel tempted to choose someone who knows you inside and out, but not in a professional setting. He or she can speak to your love of soccer, your compassion and your integrity, which are all great attributes. But this person cannot answer the specific career questions recommenders must address.

Business schools typically ask recommenders to evaluate how the candidate’s potential, performance or personal qualities stack up against those of other individuals in a similar role.

We worked with one client, Mike, when he was applying straight out of college. He had done a few short internships during college, but had no full-time work experience to draw from or a supervisor to tap for a traditional recommendation.

Mike had a stellar academic record, but a choosing a professor is rarely a good choice for a business school reference, no matter how cordial the teacher-student relationship. However, once we learned that Mike had worked as a teaching assistant for one of his professors, we knew we’d found someone who could better speak to the types of questions asked. Though unconventional, the recommendation from a professor became the right choice for Mike.

• Don’t select someone who is not an advocate for you going to business school. This may sound strange, but plenty of successful and well-positioned professionals won’t understand why you would want to go to business school. They may even be actively against it. Maybe they don’t want to lose you as an employee for two years, or maybe they aren’t really your biggest fan.

Our client Todd worked in finance in an office that didn’t require the MBA degree for promotion, and many higher-ups scoffed at its value. While his boss agreed to write the recommendation and had plenty of good things to say about Todd, he sort of laughed it off and clearly would not act as a true advocate for him going to business school.

Todd worried about what might happen if one of his target schools called his boss to discuss the reference, and that uncertainty was just too stressful. He decided instead to choose his supervisor from a prior position, someone with whom he had kept in touch and discussed his graduate school plans with quite a bit.

Choose people who like you, who care about your success and who think you’re good at what you do. Choose capable writers who can express their opinions clearly. If a potential reference seems less than enthusiastic in any way, keep looking. That person’s ambivalence will likely come through in the letter.

• Don’t select a person who doesn’t know who you are and where you stand now: If you worked with someone four years ago and have not done a good job of staying in touch, that person really cannot comment on your progress and skills today.

We worked with one client, Guillaume, who was reapplying to business school after receiving a series of setbacks the previous season. Upon reviewing all of the components of his previous application, it quickly became apparent that a feeble recommendation letter had likely weakened his otherwise strong candidacy.

He had gone to a supervisor from a previous position, and while he left on good terms personally and professionally, Guillaume had never felt fully comfortable at the firm, which was why he resigned to find a job he felt more passionate about. Unfortunately, it appeared Guillaume’s supervisor had also perceived his lack of enthusiasm for his job.

Having few years of distance from Guillaume’s work, the former supervisor wrote a recommendation that would appear polite and generally positive upon hurried review, but a closer read revealed some deliberate omissions and even a few veiled criticisms. In this case, the recommender’s letter was actually damning with faint praise. 

When considering potential references, ask yourself whether the person has worked closely with you, thinks favorably of you, and will put in the time to write a thoughtful, detailed endorsement of your candidacy. If you can’t answer yes to these three requirements, move on until you find the person who fits the bill perfectly. Your chances of admission to the school of your dreams may well depend on it.

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

Posted in Application Tips | Tagged , , , ,

Getting Ready for Round 2 MBA Applications

For many people, the weeks leading up to the new year are a time of merriment and a full calendar of socializing with family and friends. However, for Round 2 MBA applicants, this is likely …

For many people, the weeks leading up to the new year are a time of merriment and a full calendar of socializing with family and friends. However, for Round 2 MBA applicants, this is likely “crunch time” as deadlines in early January loom.

Round 2 adviceIf you’ve already completed a first or second draft of your MBA essays, spend these next few weeks proofreading and polishing to make sure they hit all the right notes. Do they convey your passions? Do they clearly address your career goals? And crucially, do they show why X school is the best fit?

If you haven’t yet sought feedback on your essays, now is the time to enlist a family member, colleague, or trusted friend to look them over. However, their primary concern should be your spelling and grammar, not making you second-guess your strategy.

Another key component of the MBA application is the resume, so make sure yours is in tip-top shape. Get rid of any jargon or industry-specific acronyms that a lay person wouldn’t recognize; highlight achievements to identify results and impact; and show the skills you have gained.

Remember, this is not a resume designed to land a job interview—it’s another important way to tell your story to the admissions committee…and it’s often the very first document the person reviewing your application will open.

Finally, ensure your recommendation letters are in. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: you know you’ll get your materials uploaded in time, but you simply can’t be as confident about your recommenders. If you haven’t received confirmation that they’ve submitted their letters, stop everything and do what you can to help them finish this critical task.

Best of luck to all candidates applying in Round 2!

Posted in Application Tips | Tagged , , , ,

Avoid Choosing the Wrong MBA Recommenders

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com You probably already know not to ask the CEO of your company to write your business school letter of recommendation – unless of course he or …

This post originally appeared on Stacy’s “Strictly Business” MBA Blog on U.S.News.com

You probably already know not to ask the CEO of your company to write your business school letter of recommendation – unless of course he or she is  someone you work closely with and who knows you very well.

Below are three more potential pitfalls when it comes to selecting a recommender. Avoid these mistakes or you may find your chances of admission crushed despite having an overall compelling application.

• Don’t select someone who can’t answer the questions: In other words, you may feel tempted to choose someone who knows you inside and out, but not in a professional setting. He or she can speak to your love of soccer, your compassion and your integrity, which are all great attributes. But this person cannot answer the specific career questions recommenders must address.

Business schools typically ask recommenders to evaluate how the candidate’s potential, performance or personal qualities stack up against those of other individuals in a similar role.

We worked with one client, Mike, when he was applying straight out of college. He had done a few short internships during college, but had no full-time work experience to draw from or a supervisor to tap for a traditional recommendation.

Mike had a stellar academic record, but a choosing a professor is rarely a good choice for a business school reference, no matter how cordial the teacher-student relationship. However, once we learned that Mike had worked as a teaching assistant for one of his professors, we knew we’d found someone who could better speak to the types of questions asked. Though unconventional, the recommendation from a professor became the right choice for Mike.

• Don’t select someone who is not an advocate for you going to business school. This may sound strange, but plenty of successful and well-positioned professionals won’t understand why you would want to go to business school. They may even be actively against it. Maybe they don’t want to lose you as an employee for two years, or maybe they aren’t really your biggest fan.

Our client Todd worked in finance in an office that didn’t require the MBA degree for promotion, and many higher-ups scoffed at its value. While his boss agreed to write the recommendation and had plenty of good things to say about Todd, he sort of laughed it off and clearly would not act as a true advocate for him going to business school.

Todd worried about what might happen if one of his target schools called his boss to discuss the reference, and that uncertainty was just too stressful. He decided instead to choose his supervisor from a prior position, someone with whom he had kept in touch and discussed his graduate school plans with quite a bit.

Choose people who like you, who care about your success and who think you’re good at what you do. Choose capable writers who can express their opinions clearly. If a potential reference seems less than enthusiastic in any way, keep looking. That person’s ambivalence will likely come through in the letter.

• Don’t select a person who doesn’t know who you are and where you stand now: If you worked with someone four years ago and have not done a good job of staying in touch, that person really cannot comment on your progress and skills today.

We worked with one client, Guillaume, who was reapplying to business school after receiving a series of setbacks the previous season. Upon reviewing all of the components of his previous application, it quickly became apparent that a feeble recommendation letter had likely weakened his otherwise strong candidacy.

He had gone to a supervisor from a previous position, and while he left on good terms personally and professionally, Guillaume had never felt fully comfortable at the firm, which was why he resigned to find a job he felt more passionate about. Unfortunately, it appeared Guillaume’s supervisor had also perceived his lack of enthusiasm for his job.

Having few years of distance from Guillaume’s work, the former supervisor wrote a recommendation that would appear polite and generally positive upon hurried review, but a closer read revealed some deliberate omissions and even a few veiled criticisms. In this case, the recommender’s letter was actually damning with faint praise. 

When considering potential references, ask yourself whether the person has worked closely with you, thinks favorably of you, and will put in the time to write a thoughtful, detailed endorsement of your candidacy. If you can’t answer yes to these three requirements, move on until you find the person who fits the bill perfectly. Your chances of admission to the school of your dreams may well depend on it.

Posted in Application Tips | Tagged , , , ,