Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Recommendations

This is definitely the most complicated part of the application logistically. You need to find two or three persons with good English that are willing to write 3-4 pages about you. They need to know you really well. They have to write a recommendation for each school you apply to - and it's a different recommendation for each one.

You need to find people who actually care enough for you to write a long essay about you. They are probably very busy people. So it is twice as hard for them to write a decent recommendation. The recommendations are a very important component of the application - so your recommendations should be good.

Choosing the Recommenders
One of your recommenders should be your current direct supervisor. Of course he should know you really well. The highest ranked he is in your organization the better, but definitely favour someone who knows you well.

Your second/third recommender should be someone from your previous jobs. If you don't have one, you can pick a professor from your previous studies. You might choose a colleague, or someone who knows you proffesionally well. If you can get a famous person to give you a recommendation it will be great - but he should know you. There are no discounts for this recommender - his/her recommendation should be as long and well-written as the other recommendations.

How to start
No one expects your previous boss to remember every little thing you contributed to your team. You will have to sit and debrief your recommenders. In Israel, for example, it is not common to write a recommendation in the style that the MBA schools require. That is why it is very important to explain in details what this recommendation is all about.

Explain what the business schools require from candidate, what type of characteristics they need, what background they expect, and what experience the recommendation should show. The recommendation should be very enthusiastic about you and your future plans to become a manager. The recommender should use superlatives as much as possible. Your recommender should wholeheartedly recommend you to the school. Explain the structure of the recommendation: several questions that should be answered. Each school has different questions, so it will be a lot of work. Some schools give categories that based on them the recommender should rank you, and might need to explain. When giving the rankings the recommenders should not rank you highest in all categories, but mark several categories in the second highest level (so he will be taken seriousely).

Once the recommendation is completed the recommender should submit it online. You should not see the recommendation at all, nor should you participate in the process of writing the recommendation. The school might contact the recommender at later stages to verify the validity of the recommendation. The deadlines are important - the recommendations should be submitted before the deadlines, so you might want to create a schedule. Word limit is important too - the recommender should not exceed it - although some schools will be linient about this.

Meet your recommenders and share old stories. Make a list of all your contributions, times that you made an impact, examples for leadership and teamwork, and times you had to do better. Remember that the recommendation should not contradict your essays, and should support your strategy, so it is important that you come prepared.

Once you make the list together give the recommenders a list of common questions from previous years. The recommenders will be able to write a generic recommendation, and once the real questions are published they will have short work of adjusting the recommendations to the schools. It is important not to send a too general recommendation because the admissions comittees don't like it.

Common Recommendation Questions

The following 5 areas keep coming up again and again for each school: Applicant's role, strengthes, weaknesses, potential, and interpersonal characteristics. Some schools might have different wordings, word-limits, or more specific questions (for example, Wharton asks the recommender to describe the applicant's sense of humor; HBS asks about the applicant's English abilities). But if the recommender prepares good stories and examples for these questions, he will later be able to assemble the appropriate official recommendations once the questions are published.

1. How long have you known the applicant and in what connection? If applicable, briefly describe the applicant's role in your organization. Please comment on the frequency and context of your interaction. (HBS)

2. Strengthes - In what ways has the candidate distinguished himself or herself among peers? (HBS) What are the applicant’s most salient strengths? (Wharton)

3. Weaknesses - Comment on the candidate’s professional weaknesses and opportunities for growth. (HBS) What efforts has the applicant made to address these areas? (Wharton)

4. Charactristics - What observations do you have concerning the applicant’s leadership abilities, team and/or group skills? (Wharton) Describe the candidate as a person. Comment on his/her ability to establish and maintain relationships, sensitivity to others, self-confidence, attitude etc. (INSEAD) Please provide an example of the applicant's impact on a person, group, or organization. (MIT) Please provide a representative example of how the applicant interacts with other people. (MIT)

5. Potential- How will the MBA degree contribute to the candidate’s career development? (Wharton) Comment on the candidate's potential for senior management? Do you see him/her as a future leader? (INSEAD)

At the first stage the recommenders should not worry about word limit, or English styling. When they write your final recommendations they can use all the material and adjust it to fit. It is ok for the English level to be standard and not perfect - but the recommenders should be familiar with English - you cannot translate it for them.

Pick recommenders who know you very well proffesionally, and that care enough for you to get into this adventure. Sit and explain to them exactly what you need, and make sure that they understand what the recommendation should look like in the end. Remind them of your heroic stories. Make sure that they are on deadline, and that the styling, word limit and other requirements are fulfilled. Make sure NOT to participate in the process of writing the recommendation. They should submit it online and on schedule (or send it directly to the university - contact the specific school for details).

1 comment:

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Recommendations not work always but is a fear better requirement to work out.