Admissions, Application Tips, Exec Application Tips, Executive MBA

Executive MBA Application Tips: Recommendations

By Brett Twitty-
executive-mba-recommendations

Recommendations are always a popular topic among our Executive MBA applicants, and, in the spirit of the start of our Executive MBA application cycle, are sharing some of our favorite tips and insights about this part of our Executive MBA application.

In Darden’s Executive MBA application process we require just one recommendation. While applicants may submit up to three recommendations, it is worth noting that one is all we need to make a decision on your application. If you choose to have more than one recommender, make sure each recommender is offering a unique perspective on you.

As we often mention, recommendations typically take longer than the other parts of your application to come together. This is understandable – after all, they are the one part of your application you don’t control! With this in mind, make sure you give your recommenders plenty of time to submit their recommendations. We typically suggest at least two weeks, and, in our experience, most recommenders are motivated by a deadline, so make sure your recommenders know your application deadline and don’t be afraid to stay in touch with them throughout the process.

A few more tips:

  • Talk with your recommender before starting your application and make sure they understand why you’re pursuing an MBA and why you’re interested in Darden. Sharing a current copy of your resume is always a good idea! This way your recommender will understand the full arc of your career and your many accomplishments.
  • Recommenders will receive materials via email. Check in with them a day or two after you enter your their contact information in your application to ensure they received the email containing the link to the recommendation materials. We find that our emails occasionally get caught in spam filters, so trust but verify that your recommender received the link.
  • Your recommender will fill out two pieces of information — a ratings grid in which they will evaluate you across a set of competencies and a series of short answer questions. The short answers questions are:
    • Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization. How does the performance of the applicant compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles?
    • Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.

We share these questions in advance so that you can help prepare your recommender; however, you — as the applicant — should not write your own recommendation.

Reading these questions, you may now understand why we suggest selecting a supervisor or someone who has evaluated your work in a professional setting as a potential recommender. Colleagues or associates typically find it more challenging to fully answer the questions above. Sure, they might know you and what you do, but they might not have shared feedback with you or have a meaningful sense of how you compare to other candidates in similar roles.

Of course, there are other reasons why you might not ask your current supervisor — you may both be new to the relationship, you recently transitioned companies, etc.. If you choose not to ask your current supervisor to be one of your recommenders, be sure to use the Additional Comments section to help us understand the reason(s) for this choice.

And last, but not least, we often hear from candidates whose recommendation has not been submitted by an application deadline, wondering if they can still be included in the round? The answer is yes! We are always happy to work with you and accommodate you in any way we can. Our strong preference is to include you in the application round (we get to know you sooner, you get an answer sooner — everybody wins!), so if your application is incomplete at the deadline, we will reach out to you about any missing materials. Open communication is important in relationships, but also during our application process!

A final caveat: This advice, as most advice seems to be, is very broad, and there are exceptions to the statements above. If you have recommendation questions, just let us know! We can be reached at ExecMBA@darden.virginia.edu.

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