How to Get the Right Recommendation

Author: Paul Lanzillotti MBA Admissions Workshop Date Provided: May 5, 2010 Last Revised: 05/05/2010 Provided to: GMAT Club Members Program Type: Full and Part-time Version: 0505

DOCUMENT PURPOSE:
1. To provide the applicant with an approach for generating effective recommendations.

SCOPE:
This document is meant to provide a starting point for a client seeking to identify and approach their MBA recommenders. The information provided will help provide the client insight into what specific factors will contribute to a successful recommendation. The information and approaches laid out in this document are not meant to provide holistic nor strategic advice for all parts of the application process. The client will be expected to engage their consultant during the execution of this approach in order to maintain consistent positioning while determining the relevant recommendation information and examples.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright © 2009 by the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC. The SCARA™ and ARA™ methodologies are trademarks of the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC. All content, methods and materials within are the exclusive property of the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC.

Confidential and Proprietary– Not for External Distribution Copyright © 2009 by the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC.

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UCLA Anderson | MBA Class of 2004 | paul@la-mba.org | 1.424.354.0906 ______________________

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Paul Lanzillotti

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Respectfully,

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Email me with any questions, comments or concerns.

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However, please do not redistribute this work as your own, in a modified form or resell. This contradicts the mission of the LA MBA group and is very not cool.

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I have placed a lot of sweat equity and expertise into creating these materials and I hope you gain relevant and necessary information from them. Due in part to your enthusiastic response, I am planning on continuing my efforts at creating new material as the LA MBA group grows and evolves. If you must, feel free to send to your friends, colleagues and others readying for business school. All I ask is that you let me know if you will be distributing.

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NOTE:

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How to Get the Right Recommendation
Author: Paul Lanzillotti MBA Admissions Workshop Date Provided: May 5, 2010 Last Revised: 05/05/2010 Provided to: GMAT Club Members Program Type: Full and Part-time Version: 0505

1.0 A Collaborative Process
The process of obtaining the right recommendation is collaborative. • Meaning, generating the right recommendation is a process that you must lead in order to limit the amount of variability and uncertainty.

Proper preparation means doing your homework by generating an outline, prompts and examples that your recommenders can follow.

The example I use is that of “last week’s meal.” • • • •

Make your recommenders life easier. Recommendations are often a point of contention on my client’s applications. They are often delivered at the 11th hour and in a rush. This document is dedicated to mitigating these circumstances.

2.0 Selecting the Right Recommenders

To this point, it is key to start seeking out your recommenders early in the process. As soon as you know you are making the commitment to apply to an MBA program, start thinking about who has accountability for your results. •

On the recommendation, these individuals will be expected to attest that they have been responsible for your development and performance. • Their recommendation examples and stories will backup your essay examples and will be a testament to your qualities.
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Confidential and Proprietary– Not for External Distribution Copyright © 2009 by the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC.

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This will most likely be a current or former boss within your current organization. Set expectations early before others in your organization start seeking out recommendations as well.

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Remember that most applications are due around the Thanksgiving holiday or the winter holidays. This means that while recommender is out on vacation or spending time with the family, you become the lower priority.

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You need to be aware of your recommender’s work-life paradigm and the forces that will inevitably pull on your recommender.

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Can you, as the applicant, remember what you ate a week ago for lunch? How about for dinner? How about what you ate one month ago for breakfast? Now project this example onto your recommender, who may have more responsibility and moving parts at work than you. While you remember the intricacies of your great contributions, will your recommender remember the specifics of your role on a project you conducted six-months ago? I doubt it. Even if they are, eliminate the uncertainty by drafting an appropriate outline.

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This preparation work is in order to hit on the themes that will highlight your strengths while mitigating your weaknesses. Remember that a great candidacy can be wrecked by a recommender who does not have time or is simply unable to provide good examples of your contributions.

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How to Get the Right Recommendation
Author: Paul Lanzillotti MBA Admissions Workshop Date Provided: May 5, 2010 Last Revised: 05/05/2010 Provided to: GMAT Club Members Program Type: Full and Part-time Version: 0505

You need a recommendation from someone who knows you well, preferably someone who works with you daily and can provide personal insight into your character.

The job title of that person is less of a priority for the admissions committee. The admissions committee is not impressed by your boss's boss's title, and they are regularly bombarded by generic recommendations from celebrity business people. • Alumni of the school to which you are applying are excellent recommenders as well. They understand the culture of the MBA program and can sing your praises in an effective manner.

• •

Confidential and Proprietary– Not for External Distribution Copyright © 2009 by the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC.

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Find the actual recommendation questions for the schools to which you are applying. While most applications for top MBA programs now require using an online interface (non-PDF), PDF versions may be available and may require a quick download or Google search. Check the “apply” section of each target program to see if they have a PDF version for download. If you cannot find the PDF version of the application with recommendation form, please reference the generic example provided below. Once you have the recommendations questions, reference your resume. Think about the experiences that are on the resume. Specifically, vet through the leadership and management experiences that required you to overcome obstacles in order to gain results. Do not try to address every conceivable project or responsibility. This shotgun approach is overwhelming and results in decreasing returns to scale.

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The following is a good starting point for those of you who need to help your recommenders craft a very comprehensive letter that you can use for all of your schools.

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3.0 Drafting the Recommendation

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An example of this would be nepotism. That is, your father or mother is the owner of the company or perhaps your cousin is your direct boss. In this case, I would look outside of the company for a recommendation. In a client-facing business, it is completely appropriate to get a few significant clients to write glowing letters of recommendation. Just keep in mind that some admissions committees will want you to explain why you did not get a rec from your current supervisor. That simple fact that they ask you to explain means the admissions committee understands that there are exceptions to the rule. It's not a huge issue if you handle it correctly. Do not let it become another red flag on a path to the recycle bin. Remember, admissions committees take recs with a grain of salt. As an analogy, they are the mortar between the bricks (your story) and not the primary supporting evidence for your candidacy.

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Another situation you may encounter is a recommender who is too closely related and whose recommendation may be considered too partial in the eyes of the admissions committee.

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It is acceptable if you find a significant client or a former boss.

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This being said, admissions committees are sensitive to the fact that if your employer knows you are leaving, you may be let go.

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How to Get the Right Recommendation
Author: Paul Lanzillotti MBA Admissions Workshop Date Provided: May 5, 2010 Last Revised: 05/05/2010 Provided to: GMAT Club Members Program Type: Full and Part-time Version: 0505

Once you have identified these collaborative leadership examples, put metrics around these experiences. How many subordinates did you lead? How big was the impact in financial terms? How long was the engagement?

It is imperative that your recommendation back up the examples you use in your essays and on your resume. • • While the recommendation is not the most heavily weighted variable in the admissions decision, it is used to help connect all the variables. Inconsistencies are major red flags to the admissions committee.

In your answers, please describe specific activities or accomplishments that demonstrate this candidate's strengths and weaknesses. 1. What are the applicant's principal strengths and special talents? / Provide a short list of adjectives that describe the applicant's strengths. 2. Discuss the applicant's competence in his area of responsibility or specialization (i.e. organizational skills, attention to detail, ability to complete assignments). 3. How does the applicant's performance compare with that of his or her peers? How does he accept constructive criticism? How has the applicant grown during his employment with you? 4. Comment on the applicant's ability to work with others, including superiors, peers and subordinates. Would you enjoy working for the applicant? / Please discuss observations you have made concerning the applicant's leadership abilities and group skills. 5. Comment on the applicant's maturity. 6. How would you describe the applicant's sense of humor? 7. In what ways could the applicant improve professionally? / What aspect of the applicant would you most like to change? / In which areas could the applicant exhibit growth or improvement? Has he worked on these areas? 8. How well has the applicant made use of available opportunities? Consider his initiative, curiosity and motivation. 9. What do you think motivates the candidate's application to the MBA program? Do you feel the applicant is realistic in his professional ambitions? / Has the applicant given careful consideration to his

Confidential and Proprietary– Not for External Distribution Copyright © 2009 by the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC.

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Name of Person Completing the Recommendation: Position/Title: Organization: In what context and for how long have you known the applicant? Please comment on the frequency of interaction. Please give exact dates. Is this person still employed by your organization?

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You want to make sure that all the questions below cover all the necessary recommendations questions. Having to go back to a recommender with additional questions or points is a waste of precious time and might be considered unprofessional. Remember that there is considerable overlap between the recommendation questions required by differing MBA programs. A generic example is provided below. This should cover most questions asked by top 25 MBA programs.

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When you have identified the appropriate examples with metrics, fit them into a narrative form letter.

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4.0 The Generic Recommendation Letter

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How to Get the Right Recommendation
Author: Paul Lanzillotti MBA Admissions Workshop Date Provided: May 5, 2010 Last Revised: 05/05/2010 Provided to: GMAT Club Members Program Type: Full and Part-time Version: 0505

plans for entry into the MBA program? / Please comment on your impression of the applicant's capacity for graduate work. 10. Comment on the applicant's business ethics. 11. What is your overall assessment of the applicant's potential for success as an effective and inspiring upper-level manager? 12. Please provide detailed comments on the applicant's degree of self-confidence. Feel free to make additional statements concerning the applicant's accomplishments, managerial potential and other personal qualities. Comments regarding the applicant's aptitude for graduate work and a career in business and management will be especially appreciated. When you have appropriate answers, approach your recommender, discuss the questions above, get agreement and/or make edits. Then resend this document to your recommender for a final vetting. • • Confirm that they will be submitting this final version. Make sure you know exactly what is being written about you. Nothing should come as a surprise.

Most top 25 MBA programs have a “qualities grid” that needs to be filled out. The qualities expressed on this grid need to be consistent with the examples expressed by your recommender. • • I always recommend that the top two percentage tiers be checked when addressing the grid. Again, this demonstrates the importance of the collaborative approach.

Confidential and Proprietary– Not for External Distribution Copyright © 2009 by the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC.

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See the following example (from UCLA Anderson School of Management):

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5.0 Filling Out the “Qualities Grid”

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How to Get the Right Recommendation
Author: Paul Lanzillotti MBA Admissions Workshop Date Provided: May 5, 2010 Last Revised: 05/05/2010 Provided to: GMAT Club Members Program Type: Full and Part-time Version: 0505

6.0 Other Considerations
Some MBA programs will accept a long form letter submitted by your recommender. • • However, this is not case at most top business schools. Even if offered the option, follow the generally accepted rules and submit your recommendation using the school’s methodology. However, if necessary, your draft letter, using the above example, will help your recommender generate this long letter recommendation.
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Confidential and Proprietary– Not for External Distribution Copyright © 2009 by the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC.

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Again confirm your recommender will be submitting this final version.

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How to Get the Right Recommendation
Author: Paul Lanzillotti MBA Admissions Workshop Date Provided: May 5, 2010 Last Revised: 05/05/2010 Provided to: GMAT Club Members Program Type: Full and Part-time Version: 0505

Most schools require at least two recommenders. • Some programs, such as HBS require three recommendations. Additionally, the full and part time programs at a specific school may require a differing number of recommendations and in differing formats.

I have encountered recommenders that do not want to take the time to write a long letter or fill in the "grid boxes" found in some recommendation forms. • • Remember, sometimes it’s hard for people to just say no. However, if a recommender keeps putting you off or delaying the process, you should reconsider whether or not this person will actually take the time to do your recommendation justice.

7.0 Next Steps

Begin generating your recommendations based on this approach.

Confidential and Proprietary– Not for External Distribution Copyright © 2009 by the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC.

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This can be done in parallel with your school selection. When you deliver your draft letters to your recommenders, they need to include all relevant recommendation questions, if possible. This means that when your draft recommendation is delivered, you will have decided on your final set of MBA programs. Having to continually go back to recommenders is frustrating for all involved.

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A bad example would be one that contradicts your story as a collaborative, innovative, resourceful leader who gets results the right way. A good example is one where MBA coursework will address your need for enhanced acumen as you continue your progression into senior management.

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When addressing weaknesses make sure it is something that a business school can help you overcome through coursework.

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How to Get the Right Recommendation
Author: Paul Lanzillotti MBA Admissions Workshop Date Provided: May 5, 2010 Last Revised: 05/05/2010 Provided to: GMAT Club Members Program Type: Full and Part-time Version: 0505

About the Author
Paul Lanzillotti (http://www.linkedin.com/a/paullanz) is founder of the Los Angeles MBA Admissions Workshop. Paul has worked with hundreds of MBA applicants and GMAT students over the past eight years and has parlayed these experiences into the Los Angeles MBA Admissions Workshop. His goal in creating the Workshop was to create a relaxed environment where no MBA admissions topics were out of scope or off-limits. Formerly, Paul was the Vice President of Operations for the second largest GMAT prep and MBA admissions consulting company in the world. Prior to this, Paul was a management and IT consultant, and a manufacturing and quality engineer for a global Tier One automotive supplier. He has extensive operations, production, supervisory and project management experiences within large corporate and entrepreneurial environments. Paul holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Kettering University in Flint, Michigan. Currently, he guest lecturers for the UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Riordan Program. During his business school tenure, Paul also served as admissions interviewer for the UCLA Anderson admissions committee.

Confidential and Proprietary– Not for External Distribution Copyright © 2009 by the Amerasia Consulting Group, LLC.

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END OF DOCUMENT

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