Scott Edinburgh
June 26, 2020

How To Ensure Your MBA Letters of Recommendation Shine

How to Ensure Your MBA Letters of Recommendation Shine

MBA letters of recommendation are an integral part of your application that require more work than you might think. As you begin to narrow down your school lists, study for the GMAT/GRE and draft your essays, LORs should also be top of mind. Not only must you select the ideal recommenders, but you must also prepare them adequately!

Personal MBA Coach is here to guide you through this process!

Selecting Your Recommenders

As you make this crucial decision it can be tempting to select the person with the most prestigious resume or the person with whom it is easiest to discuss your business school plans. Instead, I encourage you to carefully weigh your options, keeping these tips in mind.

Do not just look for impressive titles: This is not to say that impressive titles are a bad thing, but title should not be the primary criteria for selecting your recommenders. Admissions committee members will see right through a strategy to have the CEO of your company, with whom you sat in on one meeting, write a letter for you. Not only will he not be able to explain the most important aspects of your candidacy, but the letter will also not be as credible if it is clear that you do not have a strong relationship with the recommender.

Look for someone who will take the time to write a great MBA letter of recommendation: This tip addresses two very important criteria. It is best to select someone who is not only a good writer, but who will take the necessary time to write a great letter. Not everyone is great at writing and similarly, not everyone realistically has time to draft a carefully thought out letter. The quality of the writing is important in demonstrating your candidacy. That said, do not worry about English proficiency. Letters are not evaluated based on grammar alone.

Select someone who knows you well: This is one of the most important pieces of advice I can provide. It is crucial that your recommender be familiar with your work, your character, your strengths, your weaknesses and your career aspirations. The best MBA letters of recommendation show intimate familiarity with the candidate. The recommender should also be familiar with your peers and be able to talk about how you compare. The use of specific examples will be important and the better the recommender knows you, the easier and more genuine these will be.

Consider non-professional references based on your personal circumstances: While the general advice is to select professional supervisors to write your letters of recommendation, there are some exceptions to this rule. If you have taken a considerable role in an activity outside of work, such as a leadership role in a sizable charitable organization, you might consider asking a colleague/supervisor in this organization to write on your behalf. If you devote a considerable amount of time to this activity, particularly if it requires strong leadership, this person should know you well and be positioned to write a strong MBA letter of recommendation. Further, they will be able to provide a different perspective on your candidacy.

Similarly, if you do not have a suitable professional reference option, perhaps because you absolutely cannot tell your supervisor you are applying to business school or because your company is structured such that you do not work closely with one particular person, you may be best suited selecting a non-professional reference.

Preparing Your Recommenders

Share your career aspirations: The more your recommenders know about your short-term and long-term goals, the more they can highlight examples and skill sets that would best demonstrate your ability to succeed in these endeavors.

Tell your recommenders what you plan to discuss in your essays: If you have taken our advice and started early, you may be preparing your recommenders before you have finalized your essays. However, share highlights from what you plan to discuss. Beyond your goals, let them know the traits you are highlighting and the success stories you are telling. The idea is for the letter to complement the rest of your application. This means you do not want them to repeat exactly what you are already saying, yet at the same time, you want to make sure there is no conflicting information. If they have a sense of your stories, they will be better equipped to share examples of accomplishments that demonstrate a complementary skill set or touch on an area you were not able to cover in your essays.

Remind your recommenders of your key accomplishments: Do not be shy about reminding them of your successes. This will not only make their lives easier but it will ensure they share the best stories. Your recommenders are busy and it is easy for them to forget details. Take the time to think of the top stories you would like them to recount and remind them of your role in certain projects or assignments.

Model the behavior now that you want them to write about later: If you have a skill set your future recommender has not seen yet (especially one that fits with your story), now is the time to let it shine! Take on an extra project, sign up to volunteer within the organization or mentor a junior colleague. Whatever you can do to show your strengths will help ensure they have enough examples to write a glowing MBA letter of recommendation. Keep this in mind when you are at the office or client site at 8PM and debating whether to leave or burn the midnight oil.

Need help? Personal MBA Coach is willing to be your guide. Founded by a Wharton and MIT graduate, we regularly help applicants navigate their applications each year. We also conduct mock interviews with former M7 interviewers on our team.

Personal MBA Coach has been guiding candidates through all aspects of the MBA application process for 13 years with a 96% success rate. Call us today at +1 617-645-2424 or email for a free consultation on your profile along with how we can help make your MBA dreams a reality!

You may also like these other blog articles:

Columbia Business School Class of 2023 – Updated Essay Question & Analysis – Fall 2020 – Spring 2021

Wharton 2020-2021 Essay Analysis