2. Praise should be specific: Applicants and recommenders also have a bad habit of considering letters of recommendation to be "pro forma" exercises, wherein b-schools "just want a lot of hot air about people skills, vision, [and] 'achieving whatever he sets his mind to,'" Bodine says. Instead, schools want "factual, concrete anecdotes that demonstrate that the applicant has the skills that the recommender says [he or she] does," he says.
3. It's advocacy, not journalism: Applicants should also be aware that too many recommenders view letters of reference as performance reviews, and they tend to submit letters that are "overly critical, objective, and lacking in advocacy," Bodine says.
4. Don't ghostwrite: But that doesn't mean that the widespread practice of applicants writing their own recommendations for their references to sign is advisable, either.
"The resulting applicant-written letter is usually very bad," says Bodine, who recognizes that recommenders don't always have time to write their own letters. "That's why I sometimes interview the recommenders and turn their comments into letter drafts that they can edit and submit—keeping the applicant out of the process."
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