Transforming Your Recommenders Into Brand Champions

by Chioma Isiadinso, author of The Best Business Schools’ Admission Secrets (June 2008)

Part One: Choosing the Right Recommender

I have read numerous recommendations in the ten years I have been in the admissions business. The one fundamental difference between excellent recommendations and mediocre ones is that the former are written by individuals who are champions of the candidates have worked closely with them, and have a clear understanding of the unique value they offer personally and professionally. Building a powerful brand in the marketplace, whether at work or in your personal life, requires that you have brand champions who are invested in you. These brand champions are committed to helping you refine your brand and are phenomenal marketing agents of your brand.

So who are brand champions? They are individuals who are interested in your professional and personal success. They understand what you stand for, your passion and values, and your skills, accomplishments, and goals for your future. Most important, these individuals are committed to seeing you succeed, are willing to speak up on your behalf to promote your career, and are quick to bring you on board projects with high visibility and importance.
Not all recommenders are brand champions. In other words, just because someone writes a recommendation letter on your behalf does not mean that they understand who you are, what matters most to you, and how you envision the MBA to help you achieve your life goals. I have read many recommendations that have had damning consequences on a candidate’s admission outcome. Choose wisely and make sure whoever you select is truly an avid supporter.

Questions to Ask before Selecting Recommenders

1. Do they understand your brand, and are they avid fans?

2. Do they have an MBA? If not, do they understand the value of an MBA?

3. Have they written recommendation letters before? Are they good writers? Have the people they recommended gained admission to top business schools?

4. Are they open to your providing them with information about your brand, accomplishments, and rationale for an MBA?

5. Do they have time to write an excellent recommendation letter?

6. Are they supportive of your school choice?

7. Do they have enough in-depth interaction with you to provide evidence of your leadership?

8. Are they senior enough in title to have a broad perspective of what your role is and how it fits into the company?

9. Are they optimists? You don’t want anyone approaching your recommendation from a “half empty” perspective.

10. Are they punctual? Avoid procrastinators who have a reputation of not delivering quality work at deadlines.

If you answer no to any one of these questions, you should think long and hard about whether the recommender is right for you.

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3 of this E-Bulletin topic...

Written by Chioma Isiadinso, author of The Best Business Schools’ Admission Secrets (June 2008) and CEO of EXPARTUS (www.expartus.com), an admission consulting company based in New York City.

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