Mastering the MBA Recommendation Letter


Mastering the MBA Recommendation Letter

April 12 2024 By The MBA Exchange
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MBA letters of recommendation provide critical third-party endorsements of your candidacy, offering insights that go beyond your resume and essays. Understanding how to select, approach, and support your recommenders can significantly enhance your chances of admission. This guide will walk you through the essentials of managing this crucial aspect of your MBA application.

Why MBA Recommendations Matter

Recommendation letters are a vital component of the MBA application process. They serve as endorsements from individuals who can provide detailed observations about your professional and personal qualities. Admissions committees (adcoms) scrutinize these letters to gauge your qualifications and fit for their programs. Delaying or mishandling this part of your application can jeopardize your chances of admission.

Selecting Your Recommenders Wisely

When it comes to choosing your recommenders, the title of the person matters less than their familiarity with your work and their enthusiasm for your success. Opt for someone who knows you well, understands your professional and personal strengths, and is invested in your future. A recommender who can offer specific examples and anecdotes about your achievements and potential is far more valuable than one with a lofty title but little personal insight.

Evaluate your professional network and think about those who have witnessed your growth and achievements firsthand. Your immediate supervisor is often a prime candidate, but other possibilities include senior colleagues, clients, or mentors. It’s crucial to choose someone who has seen your work ethic, leadership skills, and ability to overcome challenges. Their intimate knowledge of your character and performance will lend authenticity and depth to their recommendations.

Approach Your Recommenders Thoughtfully

Recommenders are often busy professionals who may not expect to be asked to write detailed letters on your behalf. Approach them with respect and appreciation, and provide them ample time to complete the task. Early engagement allows you to find an alternative if your first choice declines. When you approach your potential recommenders, express your admiration for their work and explain why you believe they are uniquely qualified to support your MBA application. Make it clear how much you value their perspective and how their endorsement can make a significant impact on your candidacy.

Supporting Your Recommenders Strategically

While you shouldn’t dictate what your recommenders write, providing them with relevant insights and examples can help them craft letters that complement and reinforce your application. Avoid drafting the letters yourself, as this can raise ethical concerns and diminish authenticity. Instead, share an outline of your achievements, goals, and key themes you wish to highlight in your application. This approach allows recommenders to write authentically while ensuring their letters align with the rest of your application.

Give your recommenders all the information they need to write a compelling letter. This includes your resume, a summary of your career goals, and specific examples of your achievements. Highlight any projects or accomplishments that demonstrate the skills and qualities you want to emphasize in your application. The more context you provide, the easier it will be for them to write a detailed and persuasive recommendation.

Understanding Recommenders’ Perspectives

When asking someone to recommend you, it’s important to consider their perspective:

  1. Value to the Applicant: Recommenders need to understand the significance of your MBA aspirations to your career. Clearly communicate your passion and the importance of this education for your future. Explain how an MBA will help you achieve your career goals and make a meaningful impact in your field. This will motivate them to invest the necessary time and effort into writing a strong recommendation.
  2. Impact on the Company: Supervisors will consider how supporting your application affects the organization. Address how your MBA plans can benefit the company both during and after your studies. For example, you can highlight how the skills and knowledge you gain from the MBA program will enhance your contributions to the company, leading to improved performance and innovation.
  3. Personal Implications: Recommenders may feel personal and professional impacts from supporting your MBA application. Emphasize their importance in your career and how their support can further your professional growth. Acknowledge the potential challenges and reassure them of your commitment to maintaining your performance and responsibilities during the application process.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Several common mistakes can undermine the effectiveness of your recommendation letters. Being aware of these pitfalls can help you avoid them and ensure your letters are strong and impactful:

  1. Choosing the Wrong Recommender: Avoid selecting recommenders based solely on their titles or prestige. A high-ranking individual who does not know you well will not be able to provide the detailed and personal insights that adcoms value.
  2. Procrastination: Waiting too long to ask for recommendations can leave your recommenders with insufficient time to write thoughtful and detailed letters. Start the process early to give them plenty of time.
  3. Lack of Communication: Failing to communicate your goals and the context of your application can result in generic or misaligned letters. Provide your recommenders with the necessary information and guidance to ensure their letters align with your application strategy.
  4. Neglecting Follow-Up: Not following up with your recommenders can lead to missed deadlines or incomplete submissions. Regular check-ins can help ensure everything is on track.


MBA recommendations are more than just another application requirement; they are powerful endorsements that can significantly influence your admission chances. By choosing the right recommenders, approaching them thoughtfully, and providing strategic support, you can ensure your recommendation letters are compelling and effective. Start early, be proactive, and remember that these letters can make a critical difference in achieving your MBA dreams. Investing time and effort into this aspect of your application can pay off in the form of a successful admission to your desired business school.

If you find the recommendation process particularly challenging, consider seeking professional help. Admissions consultants can provide valuable guidance on selecting, approaching, and supporting your recommenders. They can also help you develop strategic outlines and ensure your recommendations align with your overall application narrative.