A.I. Specializations & Certificates For MBAs

Managing Your MBA Recommender: What To Avoid

The recommendation letter is a critical component of MBA admissions process. So much so that it can make or break your MBA application.

“Getting that third-party perspective on [applicants] is really important to figure out their personality, their passions, and their goals,” Natalie Lahiff, a former admissions counselor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, says. “The recommendation will either boost that application—or it could go the opposite way.”

Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, recently discussed what to avoid when managing your MBA recommenders and how to best set them up for success.


Assuming your recommender knows what to write about is one of the most common mistakes applicants make.

“Your recommender is probably time-strapped and doesn’t remember those three outstanding examples of your leadership,” Blackman says. “They also probably don’t know what schools are looking for in letters of recommendation.”

Rather than assume, set your recommender up for success by providing them with four or five characteristics you’d like them to emphasize in the letter.

“For example, think of leadership, teamwork, creative thinking, determination, focus, intelligence, charisma, and integrity,” Blackman says. “Next, come up with at least one concrete example that illustrates each characteristic.”


While you want to provide your recommender with adequate information to help write your letter, you don’t want to bombard them with too many materials.

Blackman suggests putting together a succinct document that gives them exactly what they need. No more, no less.

“First, create a bullet-point list of the projects you have worked on,” Blackman says. “Next, give them an outline of your strengths that goes into more detail than your resume. You want your recommenders actually to read this document. So try to keep it to one page and don’t overload them with information. It should be a quick, helpful reference.”


Too often, applicants will leave their recommender strapped for time and end up with an incomplete or late letter.

“It’s essential to get started on this process as early as possible,” Blackman says. “Your recommender should know that writing such a letter is both an honor and a responsibility. Give them plenty of time to prepare for your deadline. You may find it helpful to advance the due date by a week to remove one last-minute worry from your plate.”

Sources: Stacy Blackman Consulting, Fortune

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