Applying to Darden? Have questions? We have answers! With our application cycle heating up, we wanted to share some application-related blog posts. Throughout this series, we will provide tips and insights that are generally applicable for all Darden applicants, with the occasional sub-section for our Executive MBA applicants. Tune in. Read on. Apply.

We get a lot of questions about recommendations (Who to ask, How our process works, etc.), so we thought we would share some of our recommendations advice in a blog post. Hopefully these tips will help you as you plan for this part of our application.

How many?

We require one recommendation as part of our application process, and one recommendation is all we need to fully evaluate your candidacy. However, you may include a second recommendation with your application, if desired. If you choose to add a second recommender make sure they can provide a different viewpoint on you and your candidacy than your other recommender. Sometimes more is just more!

Timeline

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 complete yourself. With this in mind, make sure you give your recommenders plenty of time to submit their recommendations. We typically suggest at least two to three weeks, and, in our experience, most recommenders are deadline-oriented. In other words, make sure your recommenders know the application deadlines and stay in touch with them throughout the process.

Setting Expectations Early

Talk with your recommender in advance of starting your application and make sure they understand why you’re pursuing an MBA and why you’re interested in Darden. Providing your recommender with a current copy of your resume is always a good idea! This way she will understand the full arc of your career and your many accomplishments.

A Few Details

The recommendation is actually not a letter! 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. In our experience, these materials can be completed in 30-45 minutes of focused work.

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 so that you can help prepare your recommendation writers; however, you – as the applicant – should not write your own recommendations.

Who Should Recommend You?

Reading the above questions, you may now understand why we recommend a supervisor or someone who has evaluated your work in a professional setting as potential recommenders.
But what about your current supervisor? We know that for applicants to our full-time MBA this can often be a complicated situation. For example, asking your supervisor to write a recommendation for business school could potentially affect your employment, potential for promotion, or bonus. 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.

Running Late?

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 a 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. We generally ask that recommendations for our full-time rounds be submitted by no later than a week after the application deadline, but it’s always helpful for you to keep us posted as you finalize your application. If your recommendation may arrive late, let us know. Open communication is important in relationships, but also during our application process!