Admissions Tip – Creating a Recommender Package
Last week we discussed choosing recommenders. This week we are providing a few tips on how to prepare your recomenders, specifically how to create a Recommender Package.
First, you should discuss your need for a recommendation with recommenders a few months in advance of the deadlines — this summer if you are applying first round or the beginning of fall if you are applying second round. Giving them a a few months is not only polite but also shows that you are organized and inspires them to take notice of your performance. The bare minimum you can give recommenders is one month.
Next you need to prepare recommenders with a Recommender Package that provides instruction on both process and content. As etc and etc points out you should not assume recommenders are familiar with the application timeline, online submission process, or how to discuss your work.
There are three main components to the Recommender Package:
1. Instructions — First, lay out the schools (with deadlines) that your recommender will be writing a rec for. A simple table can be helpful. Many schools, such as Stanford, suggest that recommenders submit the recommendation at least a day in advance of the actual deadline to ensure your application is complete. Next, address whether each school needs the recommender to answer school specific questions or whether a general letter is acceptable. Finally, briefly explain the online recommendation process as most school prefer online submissions (HBS actually requires online submissions).
2. Your strengths — Explain to the recommender that in order to make the process easier for him/her, you are providing a list of characteristics that you are highlighting about yourself in your application along with a few examples of each characteristic from the time you’ve worked together. Of course, state that the recommender can amend or adjust any of these ideas. Then you should provide a list of at least three strengths (eg, leadership, vision, teamwork) with one or two examples. A recent performance evaluation can be a good place for you start in thinking up strengths and examples.
3. Area of development — Most schools ask recommenders about your weaknesses or areas of development. Rather than shying away from this, make your self-awareness a strength. Give the recommender a growth area for you (again a recent performance evaluation can be a good place to start) as well as examples of how you are working on it. Also you can address how getting your MBA will help you further develop in this area. Then the recommender can speak to your maturity and awareness, showing schools you intend to hit the ground running and improve through their program.
4. Your goals — You can also briefly state your career goals and reasons why you are seeking your MBA. Hopefully your recommender is already aware of your goals, but it can be helpful to give a succinct description that the recommender can use as a reference.
A Recommender Package is a win-win for you and the recommender. It allows you to influence the content of the recommendation and and it makes the process much easier for the recommender. This spring is a great time to start creating Recommender Packages before the essay topics are posted summer and demand your attention.