Tips on Effective Recommendation Letters from Tuck

by Chris Aitken

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Applicants sometimes think that they have little influence over the recommendation letter process. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

By carefully selecting the best recommenders and giving them suitable guidance, you can positively influence the quality and impact of your recommendation letter.

Here are some great tips inspired by a longer article by Pat H. (Associate Director of Admissions at Tuck).

  • Who should write your recommendation? Ideally, your immediate supervisor. Someone who has worked with you closely and can really speak to your experience, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • What if I can’t ask my boss for a recommendation? Good alternatives include a client, previous manager, or contact from extracurricular organizations you’re involved with. Be sure to explain the situation in an optional essay!
  • Should I ask friends, family, or an old professor? Definitely not recommended. You need people who can provide specific, detailed insight primarily into your work performance and leadership potential. If you work in a family business, ask a client, customer, or non-family member to write your recommendation … rightly or wrongly, school’s generally won’t value a family member’s recommendation.
  • Pre-qualify your recommenders! Don’t automatically assume you’ll get a positive reference! Be sure by asking two key questions: 1) are you willing to write a positive recommendation for me? and 2) do you have the time to write a detailed recommendation? If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” find someone else. Period.
  • Prepare your recommender. Give them plenty of time before the deadline, take them out for coffee to discuss your career goals and motivations for pursuing an MBA, remind them of your recent performance reviews, and talk about your significant accomplishments. The key here is to ensure they include detailed examples in support of your candidacy.
  • Thank your recommender! Writing recommendation letters takes a *lot* of work. Be supportive and show your appreciation.

You can read her entire post by clicking here.

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About Chris Aitken
Chris is a co-founder of MBA Prep School and co-author of How to Get an MBA, the essential guide to earning an acceptance letter from the world’s best business schools.

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