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MBA申请者为什么自己动手写推荐信?

Lauren Everitt 2013年07月17日

调查发现,近4成的申请人被要求自己撰写自己的推荐信。然而,大多数入学顾问相信,真实数据要高得多,大概每10封攻读MBA学位的推荐信中,有多达6封是申请者本人所写。这在MBA招生领域已经是一个公开的秘密,而大多数顶级商学院对这种现象置若罔闻。这背后到底有什么样的隐情?

    这位雇主在信上签了字。但许多推荐信甚至没有获得这枚象征嘉许之意的图章。一些MBA申请者的推荐信是自己写,自己签名,最后也是自己递出去的。“MBA申请者最关心的事情是如何跨进商学院校门,他们可不想把这个前景交给某个人拍脑门写就的一封评价信来决定,”克里斯托弗解释道。“要是你搞砸了之前的工作,那可不是好事——特别是如果上司自己邮递推荐信的话,你都不知道他们写了些什么。”

    当然,在一般情况下,获得一封给予MBA申请者强有力支持的推荐信是一个需要高度协作的过程。供职于HBSGuru.com的入学顾问桑福德•克赖斯伯格说:“谁都不喜欢写推荐信。这有点像出任陪审员的义务。没人想干这件强加在自己身上的工作。这种事对他们没什么好处,所以往往需要申请者和推荐者进行合作。”

    入学顾问对客户推荐信的介入之深也可能会让一些招生官员感到惊讶。克赖斯伯格声称,他对推荐信质量的重视程度跟他对申请书的关注度相差无几。

    “许多申请者都可以提前看到他们的推荐信,在入学咨询界,这是一个公开的秘密,”MBA入学咨询公司mbaMission创始人兼总裁杰里米•施恩瓦尔德说。“我们不会坐在那里对推荐信进行编辑修改,但我们会做一个健全性检查,以确保信中不包含可能有害的内容。”

    安娜•艾维咨询公司(Anna Ivey Consulting)创始人、国际研究生入学顾问协会会长安娜•艾维相信,虽然国际研究生入学顾问协会的调查没有深入挖掘自己撰写推荐信的学生究竟有多少,但这个比例可能非常高。人们通常指望入学申请者会要求他们的顶头上司写一封推荐信,但如果老板推脱或直接拒绝的话,事情或许会变得非常棘手。

    “甚至那些试图维系诚信操守的申请人也有可能陷入这种困境,”她说。一些商学院建议,如果老板推三推四的话,申请人可联系一位本职工作之外的管理者。“那么,如果他们在周末带领一帮童子军(Boy Scout)参加某项活动,他们是不是应该使用童子军领袖的推荐信呢?”艾维问道。“实际上,我并不觉得这是解决问题的办法。”

    对于非美国裔申请者来说,找人写推荐信可能是一件更加让人头疼的问题。这项(基于337位MBA申请者反馈意见的)研究报告发现,国际申请者被要求自己撰写推荐信的可能性是美国申请者的两倍。比如,有高达61%的日本申请者表示,他们有过被要求自己撰写推荐信的经历。

    即使国际推荐人的英语非常棒,一封内容扎实的推荐信也有可能会迷失在异国语言之中。MBA入学咨询机构Expartus公司CEO、国际研究生入学顾问协会董事基奥玛•伊斯阿丁索表示,不同的文化推崇不同的品格,推荐信往往会体现出这种倾向。“美国人的推荐信通常带有一丝夸大成分,每个人都才气过人,令人惊叹,不可思议。德国人则直截了当,‘汉斯的工作没话说,棒极了。’”但她还表示,大多数入学申请咨询团队都能够洞察文化的细微差异。部分责任落在申请者的身上,即帮助推荐人了解每所学校的价值观,以及这些学校为什么适合他们自己。

    The employer signed off on the letter. But many recommendations don't even get this stamp of approval. Some MBAs write, sign, and send off their own references. "An MBA's motive is to get into school, and they don't want that left to someone's whimsical evaluation," Christopher explains. "If you messed up at work the day before, then it's not going to be good -- especially if they mail it themselves, and you don't know what they've said."

    In general, of course, getting a strong letter in support of a candidate's MBA application is a highly collaborative process. "People don't like to write recommendations," says admissions consultant Sanford Kreisberg of HBSGuru.com. "It's kind of like jury duty. No one wants to do it. It's imposed on you. There is nothing in it for them. Collaboration is the standard."

    The extent to which admission consultants advise their clients on recommendation letters may also surprise some school officials. Kreisberg says he pays as much attention to the quality of a recommendation letter as he does to the application essays.

    "It's an open secret in the admissions world that a lot of candidates get to look at their recommendation letters beforehand," says Jeremy Shinewald, founder and president of mbaMission, an MBA admissions consulting firm. "We're not going to sit there and line edit something, but we will do a sanity check to make sure there's nothing in there that can be harmful."

    While the AIGAC survey doesn't dig into how many students actually write their own letters, the percentage is likely high, believes Anna Ivey, founder of Anna Ivey Consulting and AIGAC president. Candidates are generally expected to request letters from their direct supervisors, but if the boss pushes back or refuses to write one, things can get tricky.

    "Even applicants trying to act ethically find themselves in this bind," she says. Some schools suggest contacting an extracurricular supervisor in lieu of a reluctant boss. "So if they're leading a Boy Scout troop on the weekends, are they supposed to use their scout leader's recommendation instead?" Ivey asks. "Realistically, I don't think that's the answer."

    Letter writing can be particularly problematic for non-U.S. candidates. The study, based on 377 responses from MBA applicants, found that international candidates are twice as likely to be asked to write their own letters. A whopping 61% of applicants in Japan, for example, said they were asked to draft their own letters of recommendation.

    Even if international recommenders are fluent in English, the art of writing a solid recommendation letter can get lost in translation. Different cultures value different traits and this comes through in the letters, says Chioma Isiadinso, CEO of MBA consultancy Expartus and AIGAC board member. "American recommendations are a bit over the top -- everyone is brilliant, amazing, and incredible. German ones tend to be very direct, 'Hans did a good a job.'" However, she says most admissions teams can pick up on cultural nuances. And part of the responsibility falls on the applicants to educate their recommenders about each school's values and why they're a good fit.

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