An Open Letter To MBA Recommenders

MBA recommendation letter

Please don’t be that person!

I get it. You’re busy. You are slammed. You had all the best intent to write that letter of MBA recommendation your employee asked for.

And then here we are, 48 or even 24 hours before the deadline, and the candidate is anxiously begging you to submit and you just don’t have the time to deal with it.

So you think you’re helping them by saying “just write what you want me to say”.

But this is not helpful at all. In fact, it’s one of the worst things you can do to an anxious, overwhelmed MBA candidate as the runway to the deadline mercilessly shrinks.

In reality, what you’re doing is telling them you don’t believe in them. You’re not willing to invest the time and effort to support them.

Even worse, you’re taking their competitive edge away. And you’re giving it to someone else, whose manager is going to take the time to think of leadership and teamwork examples and outline them with care and specifics.

The VERY WORST part? You are asking the MBA candidates to do something unethical. And you are giving them no choice when the deadlines are mere hours away.

Oh, you didn’t know that the letters of recommendation have that level of importance? They do. They are the only piece of the MBA Application not produced by the candidate. The only source of external validation and nuance.

Your letter of recommendation can make or break an MBA candidacy.

I know I’m throwing a lot at you.

But it’s an important message and one that the MBA candidates themselves can’t say out loud. The asymmetry of power is too crushing.

So what should you do?

It’s simple. Do the right thing.

If you commit to writing that recommendation, find the hour or two that it requires and do it. If not, be honest with them from the get go so they can find someone else when they still have time.

Finally, if you are a fellow MBA Admissions consultant, a colleague who works in MBA admissions, or just a manager who believes in doing the right thing, you can share this message so it can reach more MBA recommenders.

Petia Whitmore

Petia Whitmore is the founder of My MBA Path, an admissions consulting firm. She is a former Dean of MBA Admissions at her  alma mater Babson College and the former Managing Director of The MBA Tour.


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