Many applicants unable to manage the recommenders choose to write their own letters.
As someone who has read hundreds of essays, we could easily spot applicants who have written their own recommendation letters. Imagine how a reviewer who reads thousands of essays can spot the duplicity.
1) Remove Cliches
2) Include elements of storytelling to transform the letter from mundane to interesting
3) Review for Grammatical Mistakes, Spelling Errors, Punctuation and Wrong usage of words (their vs there, where vs were etc.)
4) Edit for Structural Inconsistencies (repetition of words, phrases, excessive usage of transition words, the wrong pairing of words, etc.)
5) Remove unnecessary adjectives and adverbs
6) Maintain Tonal consistency (Formal vs Informal vs Formal for statements & Informal for narrative)
A few Quick Tips to help you manage the writing process:
1) Specificity wins over general statements, but supervisors are expected to summarize your traits in general statements. Also, the admission team has a much higher tolerance for grammatical mistakes if the supervisor’s first language is not English.
2) Make sure that they don’t repeat the same traits highlighted in the Essays unless it is about leadership, communication, maturity or problem-solving skills. The supervisors should cite traits that complement your skills
3) Bigger Picture: They should bring a leadership-level perspective on your contribution to the team and the organization (IMPACT). Don’t repeat the same numbers used in essays. Use different versions of the numbers.
For Example: If you cite mentoring a team member with project revenue, the recommender should cite the impact it had on the organization– explicitly in numbers or range if confidentiality agreements prevent them from sharing the data.
4) Make sure that they don’t overdo the numbers part. Verifiable data on impact is required, but the narrative should include anecdotes on your actions and attitude; something numbers might not capture.
5) Rating: Recommenders will have to rate your profile (scale of 1-10) on traits like Leadership, Communication, etc. Ensure that consistency is maintained between rating and your strengths & weaknesses captured in the letter.
6) Allow the recommender to capture genuine weaknesses. Confirm that the weakness doesn’t contradict your narrative
For Example: We had a client for whom a narrative on his initiative and leadership was the prime selling point. One of the recommenders wrote that the candidate needs a lot of pushing and nudging to get things done. We edited it, but if that sentence had gone through, he might have lost his chance at a top MBA program.
7) Guide the recommender but don’t write your own letter.
Faking one’s voice is tough. As someone who has read hundreds of essays, I could easily spot applicants who have written their own recommendation letters. Imagine how a reviewer who reads thousands of essays can spot the duplicity.
8) Set Deadlines: Like how you might have set deadlines for iteration of the Essays, you should do the same with recommendation letters too. Of course, tactfully. Without deadlines, the last minute writing can be inefficient, and the recommender might miss out on interesting anecdotes or numbers.
Example: Draft Version: August 6th
First Edit: August 8th
Second Edit: August 14th
Final Version: August 17th
Final Review: August 22nd
Share the plan with the recommender and mention what you expect on each date.
9) Supporting Document: Give the recommender an excel sheet with project details, your role, your contribution and other intangibles you have done for the team. Most supervisors are super busy, and they might not recollect everything you have done.
Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions on recommendation letters or our Editing Services (Essays, Recommendation Letters, and Resume).
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