How to ask for a reference letterChen Wan Lim
Reference letters are almost a must when applying to business schools. Looking for the part of the admissions board, they will want to have a third party opinion on your background, your character, your qualifications but more importantly, how they view you as a potential graduate school candidate.
From the perspective of the prospective candidate, asking for a reference letter can be daunting, from who to ask, how to ask, how to follow up and what to ask to be written!
Here are some helpful tips on how to get a good reference letter that shows your good side which will increase your chances of being chosen by the admissions board.
Identify the referee
Some business schools are certainly more lax than others when it comes to the referee – be it from academia or from the industry you are in. But many would discourage having a family member write it. Follow your business school’s instructions carefully and select an appropriate referee.
Approaching the referee
After you have identified the potential referee, write them an email, call or meet up with them. Do be clear and explain to them that you have appointed them as a referee for your business school applications. Indicate to them that you firstly value their opinion and their industry expertise and that you are confident that their professional opinion of you will carry weight. Beyond just flattering them, you will need to highlight that their qualifications and track record make them the best person to be your referee for the applications.
Provide a template
You do not want to burden your referee by making them go out of the way to write a letter for you or cause them to spend hours cracking on what to write for you. Instead, provide them with a template of what to write instead. Include some key points to display your work ethics, your aspirations, your goals, your motivation and your contributions. But be careful not to put words into your referee’s mouth or to write something which you would think they might not agree to. Even better, prepare a full draft for your referee to vet through – they will be appreciative of this.
Communicate a due date
As business school applications have due dates, be sure to indicate to your referee that you will be following up at an agreed upon date (which is obviously before the actual dateline for the application). You do not want to seem pushy by constantly following up or getting back to them a day before the application dateline. Keep in mind that a grumpy referee will not write a good reference letter.
Now that you know the ‘Do’s’ in approaching a referee to request for a reference letter, here are some ‘Don’ts’ you will want to keep in mind:
- Do not choose a referee whom you are not well acquainted with;
- Do not force someone to write you a reference letter – always give them the option of declining your request;
- Do not follow up one day before the dateline or request for changes on a short notice and;
- Do not fabricate stories which are not true when drafting a letter for them.