Starting in 2014, many business schools standardized on a set of two questions that they ask recommenders to write about … or they tried to. When this trend started, we wrote about the problems that we see with it. Regardless, it’s here to stay. Whether it’s good or bad appears to be irrelevant since that’s what’s happening now.
UPDATE JULY 2016: There is apparently (another) new effort underway to “standardize” with, now, a new and different variation on the original requirements – this time it’s 4 questions, and again, the implementation has not been consistent with every school. Here are the schools that are participating in this effort (these are the most “standardized” of any that think they’re standardized in 2016):
NEWLY Standardized MBA Recommender Questions: 2016 Participating Schools
PREVIOUSLY “Standardized” which are now no longer standard in 2016
These schools all have the same questions as each other, but the questions are different from the list above. Sheesh.
Schools with Sort of Standardized Recommender Questions: 2016
Schools that Do Their Own Thing with Recommender Questions – 2016
Standardized Recommender Questions: The Questions
Here are the four questions that we consider “newly standardized” for 2016:
- Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization.
- How does the applicant’s performance compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (E.g. what are his or her principal strengths?)
- Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.
- Is there anything else we should know?
Here is a PDF with all the requirements which the “newly standardized” schools have claimed they’ve adopted.
As noted above, HBS, Booth and Columbia have only two questions and they are similar to #2 and #3 above, but worded differently.
It’s great that a few schools really are standard now – but not all of them are, and it’s confusing! Supply your recommenders with some guidance!
Also be sure to coach your recommenders that all recommendations need to be completed separately, online at the individual schools’ sites. Most schools also have an assessment grid that they ask recommenders to complete; these vary significantly by school. Important advice on all of these aspects is included in our packet for recommenders.
This leads us to…
EssaySnark’s Recommenders’ Instructions Sets
The purpose of this EssaySnark product is to help you help your recommenders.
Well shoot. There are two sets of “standard” questions this year.
Even if you’re applying to only schools with newly standardized rec questions, then it’s actually going to be potentially MORE DIFFICULT for your recommender to cover the needed information about your background, skills, strengths, and work experience, based on the tight space and restricted questions that they must answer. Sure, they can submit the same answers to multiple schools, but where in heck are they going to get guidance on what those answers should be? How do they even know what to say for these questions, in order to do a good job on your behalf?
And what if your set of school targets comprises other schools, too, not just these that have the same set of questions?
That’s where this product comes in.
When you make the decision to apply to business school, you soon recognize the amount of work involved. Are you aware of how much work your applications will require from your recommenders?
You’re already asking these people to do you a huge favor by recommending you to just one school. A letter of recommendation can often add enough value to an app that it takes it over the edge from neutral territory to an “accept” decision. Letters of recommendation are important. Each one matters.
When you’re applying to many schools, the ‘favor’ you’ve asked of your recommenders soon balloons out to mammoth proportions. It can become a very big project.
The EssaySnark Recommender’s Instruction Sets will simplify the effort for your recommenders. This is a special one-of-a-kind product that lays out a straightforward view of what’s required, for the specific schools you’re targeting. It makes life easier on your recommenders.
Pricing starts at $65 for two schools
None of the requirements are actually “standardized”; each school has its own requests and questions. Every recommender must go through separate steps for each school you’re applying to. Not only is it a lot of work, but can often be a lot of rework. It’s a highly inefficient process. Your recommenders will need to jump through a bunch of hoops in order to submit their reference letters for you.
- Some schools let them upload actual letters; other schools don’t.
- Some schools allow for three pages or more in a written recommendation; other schools only permit two, or have specific word count guidelines.
- Some schools ask difficult questions which may prove tricky for your recommenders.
- Some schools ask identical questions, yet your recommenders won’t know that until they dig into each school’s online system to discover it.
- Even worse: Some schools ask almost identical questions!! Which variation is important? Where can a recommender re-use an answer? How will they know how to navigate this mess?
You can prepare your recommenders for what to expect and what’s required of them with this streamlined and convenient recommender’s prep packet from EssaySnark – customized to the exact schools that you specifically are applying to. The Recommenders Instructions walk through the specific questions that they must draft reasonable-length answers to. We don’t give instructions on the evaluation grid because if your recommender needs help on those, well, you should choose another recommender.
If you’re applying to three or more schools, you really need this. It will seriously simplify things for your recommenders. You want the process of submitting strong letters of reference to be as friction-free as possible. EssaySnark’s Recommender Instruction Sets smooths this project as much as it can be – without crossing any ethical lines.
You already know our stance on writing your own letters of recommendation (don’t do it). The Recommender Instruction Sets are for you to give to your recommenders – we do NOT condone applicants writing recommendations themselves. That would be a very bad call on your behalf; the schools will reject you if they discover you have done that. EssaySnark reserves the right to cancel any client engagements with no refund if we discover unethical behavior such as this (this policy is covered in the Terms & Conditions you agree to when using this service).
The Recommender Instruction Sets include expert advice to your recommenders – written by EssaySnark – explaining how to handle the exact questions in a way that will give the schools useful input into your background and experiences (don’t worry, it’s not snarky). The Recommender Instruction Sets are a tool to help you get better recommendations, by helping the recommenders know what to focus on and how to present info on your performance.
This is not a substitute for our Letters of Recommendation App Accelerator, which is a tool for you, the applicant, to design your recommenders’ strategy and identify the best people to write your recommendations, based on the realities of your circumstances and specifics of your profile. If you are having trouble deciding who you should ask to recommend you for specific schools, that App Accelerator is the way to go.
The Recommender Instruction Sets is a win-win-win: Your recommender’s job is easier, you get better recommendations, and the schools get more useful information to consider as part of your application.
Here’s what one former Brave Supplicant reported after getting admitted to his top choice schools:
How it works
- Buy the Recommender Instruction Sets for two schools minimum, up to five schools total. Note: You must order all schools together; you cannot break up your order into multiple purchases.
- When you sign up, you will specify which schools you want the Instruction Sets to cover. Currently supported are the 16 U.S. schools listed here though some schools not on the list also have standardized questions (e.g., IESE in Spain is one and there’s others as well). If you are applying to multiple schools tagged with the icon, then to save money, you can buy the Instruction Sets for one of them (but then it will only be tailored to the one that you buy for).
- Within 2 business days of payment, you will receive your customized Recommender’s Instruction Set as a PDF of guidelines and best practices for your recommenders.
- You will provide your recommenders with the Recommender’s Instruction Set when you are ready for them to start writing recommendations. You may also want provide them with your own prep packet that you have developed, with your resume or other background information on your work experience, projects, and performance that you feel may be useful to them in writing about you. We caution you against providing too much content though. Your recommenders must write the recommendations themselves – not copy in what you provided.
What you get
The Recommender’s Instruction Sets is more than just a list of the questions; it is a detailed step-by-step personalized guide, organized and optimized for efficiency, to walk your recommenders through the process of meeting each school’s requirements in the best way possible. It gives busy recommenders the key details they need to do a good job on your recommendation letters – with tips on what to include for each question your schools ask, and an emphasis on providing the examples and details that the adcoms need to see.
What it costs
- 1 or 2 schools: $65 (minimum order)
- 3 schools: $105
- 4 schools: $165
- 5 schools: $255 (priced higher because these are SIGNIFICANTLY more work)
Adding schools to the set is a non-linear increase in the amount of effort required by the ‘Snark to produce it for you, so that’s why pricing goes up so much for the larger quantities. You must order all schools together in one purchase. We will not honor multiple orders of this product per person.
Your Instruction Sets will be tailored to the specific schools you name. You will get one document that streamlines your recommenders’ process. Please note that there are NO REFUNDS; once you purchase, we start working on the analysis required to produce your custom order.
Again, the Recommender Instruction Sets are not for you to use in writing your own recommendations. That is a very bad idea. Don’t do it. This is a support tool for your recommenders, to make their task easier. Don’t be a shmuck about it.
Order your Recommender’s Instruction Sets now and make the job easier on your recommenders!
Hear what others say
Thank you for the very insightful feedback and comments, it is well received.– 2016 Rd 1 BSer who bought a 3-school set
Did you get the Recommender’s Instruction Sets? What do you think – will they help your recommenders? What did your recommenders say about them? Please offer some comments on whether it was useful or not.
Excellent resource to help your recommenders!
Very detailed, step-by-step instructions that are going to make your recommender’s life easier. Get this guide early on and send it to your recommenders and you won’t have to worry about a thing as the deadline approaches. It worked well for me; one of my recommenders followed the instructions carefully and he produced a high quality letter. The other recommender pretty much relied on me to read it and provide feedback but still helpful. For this price, you won’t regret it.
I already had a memo for my recommenders outlining the steps in the process and the questions, but I thought I would buy this since this is one of my recommenders first MBA recommendations. This guide is extremely helpful especially if your recommender is busy. It gives him or her a step by step process on what recommendation to start with and how to move forward through the process. Definitely worth the money!
Informative Guide to Navigate the Nuances of Recommendations
I am a military candidate, so my supervisors who I chose to write recommendations for me have no experience writing business school LORs. This service broke down how to approach the process and what to emphasize in each letter depending on the school, enabling my supervisors to focus on key elements.
This product is highly recommended, and especially so if you'e a non-traditional candidate like me!
This instruction set gives you the guideline specifically tailored to the schools you indicate to be covered, and by covered I mean covered EXTENSIVELY and IN DETAIL.
It was really helpful especially when I was developing ideas with my recommenders about what I hope to include in the letters. As this instruction tells you what skillsets or qualities are highly valued by each school, it really made it easy for me and my recommender to quickly dig up stories that fit those criteria.
I strongly recommend this service to those who are seeking the most effective way to guide their recommenders. With this service, you are good to go in terms of recommendation letters.
You gots to get this!
As with all things essaysnark, I never realize how in over my head I am with this whole application process till I sit down with one of their guides. This recommendation set was particularly useful to me, as it served 2 purposes - it helped both me and my recommender dig up stories we wouldn't have considered, had the right question not been asked in the guide.
And it makes the recommenders life so much easier, with step by step directions that are pretty exhaustive.
Recommender Instruction Sets
Very helpful, since I was applying to more than 1 school without the "standardized" recommendation question set. I was trying to compile them myself and highlight the similar questions between schools, but lacked confidence mostly, on how to best present it to my recommenders (I had my stuff on an excel table). The PDF was really professional, and told them which recs to write first, and made a few suggestions on length and general comments on how to write, what not to do, etc. It gave me more confidence in my recommendations... My bosses are also not experienced in writing these, so I'm betting this was helpful for them