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MBA Recommendation: The 10-80-10 MBA Recommendation Rule

How much impact does an MBA recommendation letter have on your overall MBA admissions outcome?

You’ve heard of the 80-20 rule, right?

Well, when it comes to the impact MBA recommendation letters have on your MBA admissions outcome,

I like to use the 10-80-10 MBA Recommendation Rule.

Here’s how it works:

1. 80% of MBA recommendations are average and neither hurt nor help your MBA application.

2. 10% of MBA recommendations will hurt your MBA application.

3. 10% of MBA recommendations will help your MBA application.

So, how do you end up a recommendation that’s in the top 10% and helps you get in to your target business schools?

I’m going to show you how to use the 10-80-10 MBA Recommendation Rule to pick the right recommenders and steer clear of the wrong ones.

Keep reading.

Good MBA Recommendations Are Not Good Enough

Imagine the MBA applicant pool as a bell curve.

The vast majority of applicants in the middle of the curve get “good” MBA recommendation letters.

The problem is that “good” isn’t usually good-enough in the competitive MBA admissions landscape.

So in about 80% of the cases the MBA recommendations neither hurt nor help the applicant.

These recommenders tend to write letters that are generic and lack examples of how you had an impact at work, school or elsewhere.

Most MBA candidates fall into this group.

So, what about the other 20% of MBA recommendation letters?

How Bad MBA Recommenders Can Hurt Your MBA Dreams

In a few instances, the recommenders can do great damage to your admissions chances.

This is when the recommender throws a candidate under the bus. (Read an earlier blog I wrote on How to Get MBA Recommendation Letters From Your Brand Champions).

These recommenders tend to say things that question your character, maturity, ability to work with others, intellect, and self-awareness.

But here’s some good news – only the bottom 10% of MBA recommenders write damaging MBA recommendation letters.

These types of MBA recommenders are relatively rare.

But they still do exist.

So, how do you prevent yourself from getting a recommendation that’s in the bottom 10%?

1. Choose your MBA recommenders very carefully.

2. Make sure you choose people who won’t write things in your recommendation letter that raises red flags about you.

Now, how do you end up with MBA recommendation letters that are in the top 10%?

Getting MBA Recommenders Who Rave About You

If you want to get a head start on your MBA application competition,

pick people who’ll rave about you (i.e. brand champions).

How do you do that?

Before you pick your final list of recommenders, ask yourself whether each of them is likely to write you a recommendation that’s in one these groups:

1. The 80% average group,

2. The 10% who could  hurt your MBA chances, or

3. The 10% genuine brand champions whose recommendation letters can push your application towards a resounding “yes”.

Try as much as possible to get people who fall into the 3rd bucket — they”ll rave about you and the impact you had in your MBA recommendation letters.

And that could help you get in to your target business school.

Next Steps

So, I’ve explained how the 10-80-10 MBA Recommendation Rule works and how it can help you pick the right people to give you the right recommendation.

Here’s what I want you to do next:

First, make a list of the potential MBA recommenders you are considering.

Next, rate each one on a scale of 1-3 (1 likely to hurt, 3 likely to help your MBA application).

Lastly, go back through your list and eliminate people who could possibly derail your MBA admissions outcome.

Are you working on your MBA recommendations? What types of challenges are you facing in getting the best MBA recommendations?

I’d love to get your thoughts, so leave me a comment in the comment box below.

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