This is my third article on the B School admissions, B School applications process. The first one focused on timing your business school admissions decision, the second touched upon writing great b school essays that get you accepted. In my third piece I look at recommendations.
Rather than choosing recommenders who are well known, important, public celebrities, it is better to find individuals who have worked closely with you, preferably in a supervisory capacity and can given an open honest outlook on you work ethic and your future success. Ultimately b school admissions are a self selection game. It is in the best interest of the school to admit candidates who would be successful without or without an MBA. In most cases you can determine the success probability by socially accepted test taking capacity (the GMAT), the ability to concisely express your thoughts and impress (the b school essay), your professional profile (the one page resume) and feedback from people who have worked with you on your ability to get along, your ability to deliver and your ability to execute. All of this gets further validated when you get interviewed by the school (but that comes later).
When you approach this individual to write your recommendations there are a few things you can do to help yourself. First make an assessment if the recommender will have the time to write the recommendation. Second decide if broaching the subject with him would have any negative consequences for your career (a direct boss who may not be too keen to see you leave. If the answer to the first two questions is to your satisfaction sit down with him and explain the rationale and the logic behind your decision to apply to business school. Share the timelines by which the recommendation needs to be ready and dispatched to the admissions committee and the factors the admissions committee would look for in a candidate. If you are serious about the process, also share your one page resume, a list of achievements and accomplishments (including the ones recording while you worked as a member of the recommender’s team), a few words on how you see yourself, your strengths and your weaknesses. All of these combined help the recommender get a better picture of yourself image and the one of your application to the program. It also helps in putting relevant information in front of him and occasionally makes his job easier.
Getting a recommendation from a personal friend of the dean, the Prime Minister of your country or a national business leader only works if the recommendation is personal and if you have worked with them directly. A note saying they know you well and wish you the best of luck and success in the admissions process is not going to cut it.