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Recommendation Letters: 6 Common Mistakes to Avoid


“Would you recommend me?”

Talk about an emotionally-charged question! Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If they say “yes” – and don’t feel it – you’ll earn a tepid recommendation that could blow back and damage your advocate’s reputation. Say “no” and they’ll likely see your performance drop (and your friendship permanently fractured).

It’s high stakes indeed. And who recommends you – and why – can make the difference between attending your first or your third choice. So what are the rules of thumb for choosing recommenders… and what should they say?

In a recent column on Beat the GMAT, Fortuna Admissions shared six common mistakes – and six tips to follow – when it comes to recommenders. Here is some of their advice:

Common Mistakes:

  • “If possible, avoid asking for academic references, unless you are in a doctoral program. What the admissions committee needs to know is how you engage and contribute in the workplace. Once you have started work, you should provide professional recommendations. Though well placed to describe academic achievement and participation, a recommendation from a professor will struggle to describe your potential for senior management.”
  • “Don’t assume your recommender can turn the letter around too quickly. Provide plenty of lead time, and follow up with gentle reminders about the deadline. You should also make sure recommendations are completed before any long planned vacations (such as the end of the year prior to Round 2). A panicked phone calls from an applicant worried about missing the deadline does not make a good first impression.”
  • “Avoid writing your own recommendation if at all possible. Not only does it contravene schools’ requirements, but file readers are expert at identifying style parallels when the same person has written both recommendations and essays. If your recommender asks you to write the recommendation yourself, suggest instead that you send them some ideas which they can elaborate on and write up in their own words.”

Tips to Follow:

  • “The recommendation should support your application without being duplicative. What your recommenders say about your strengths and achievements should give greater credibility to what you say about yourself. Make sure you share information about your essays with your recommendation writers so that they can understand your point of view.”
  • “Think about using two recommenders who can comment on different aspects of your experience. Perhaps your current and your previous boss; your boss and a client; your boss and an investor in your entrepreneurial side venture. Different perspectives can be both complementary and enlightening.”
  • “Make sure you keep your recommenders up to date on how your application is progressing. Securing a place at a leading business school is hugely competitive, and you may need to approach them again if Round 1 is unsuccessful. If you have kept your recommenders informed they are more likely to support you throughout.”

For additional tips, click on the link below.

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Source: Beat the GMAT