MBA Recommender Cheat Sheet For 2016-2017

recommendations

The typical drill with business school recommendations is that you have to enter the names and email info on your recommenders in your online application form. The school then pings your recommender to fill out an evaluation form–often a grid assessing your leadership traits–and to answer a series of questions about your performance on the job.

The most common question candidates ask is whether they should get an alum of the school or a high profile recommender to support their candidacy. The quick answer on that is no. It’s better to simply have someone who knows you well and can write about you in some detail You obviously want to make sure that what they convey to a business school is highly positive. You would be surprised how many recommenders say things that can harm an applicant’s chances of admission.

Most schools require two recommendations, but several now only want one. Almost always, they prefer professional evaluations from direct supervisors. Here’s what the schools are asking of recommenders, listed in order of the school’s Poets&Quants’ rank.

1. HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL in Boston, Massachusetts

Two recommendations required. Recommenders must fill out a personal qualities and skills grid (see below) and answer two questions:

How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (300 words)

Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words)

Advice From HBS: Use your best judgment on who you decide to ask – there is no set formula for who should be your recommenders. We know it is not always possible to have a direct supervisor write your recommendation – we would not want you to jeopardize your current position for the application process. Look at the questions we are asking recommenders to complete. Find people who know you well enough to answer them. This can be a former supervisor, a colleague, someone you collaborate on an activity outside of work. How well a person knows you should take priority over level of seniority or HBS alumni status.

HBS Grid


Stanford_GSB_Logo2. STANFORD UNIVERSITY’S GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Stanford, California

Two recommendations required. Recommenders must answer three questions and complete a leadership behaviors grid (see below)

How does the applicant’s performance compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (E.g. what are the applicant’s principal strengths?) (Up to 500 words)

Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response (Up to 500 words)

(Optional) Is there anything else we should know? Please be concise. (Letter should be 2-4 pages)

Advice From Stanford: Stories about your behaviors, impact, and personal qualities told by others play an essential role in our evaluation of your application. Your letters of reference should provide specific examples and anecdotes that illustrate your ability and desire to make a difference in the world. Submit one reference from your current direct supervisor (or next best alternative) at work and one from either on additional supervisor reference or one peer reference.

If you are unable to provide a letter from your current direct supervisor, use your judgment in finding a source for your recommendation — a previous supervisor, an indirect manager, a client, a member of your board of directors, or any other individual who evaluates your work. If you don’t have full-time work experience, you may use a direct supervisor from a summer, part-time, or internship position. Alternatively, you may ask someone who managed you in an extracurricular, research, volunteer, or community activity.

GSB Grid


Chicago Booth logo

3. UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO’S BOOTH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Chicago, Illinois          

Two recommendations required. The first letter of recommendation should come from a supervisor, while the second should be either professional in nature or come from an individual who has worked with you in an organization, club, or on a volunteer project. Recommenders are asked to complete a skills assessment for each applicant (see below), as well as submit a letter answering the following questions:

How does the applicant’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.

Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.

Booth recommender grid


wharton-logo14. UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA’S WHARTON SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Two recommendations required, preferably from supervisors, plus an evaluation of basic skills (see below). The recommendation questions:

How does the candidate’s performance compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (300 words)

Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words)

(Optional) Is there anything else we should know?

Wharton Grid


Kellogg logo5. NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY’S KELLOGG SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT in Evanston, Illinois

Two recommendations required, plus the typical evaluation grid (see below).

Ideally, one letter should come from a current supervisor or manager. The second should come from someone who can evaluate your professional performance and your managerial/leadership potential (e.g., former supervisor, previous employer, client). If you are unable to ask a current supervisor or manager for a letter of recommendation, you should include a brief explanation in the “Additional Information” section of the application.

Kellogg Grid


6. COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL in New YorkColumbia Business School logo

Two recommendations required.

Recommenders are asked to consider the following guidelines when writing their recommendations (Up to 1000 words):

How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.

Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.

Advice From Columbia: All first-time applications require two recommendations. Reapplicants are required to submit one new recommendation. If you have been working full-time for at least six months, one recommendation should be from your current supervisor. If you are unable to secure a recommendation from your direct supervisor, please submit a statement of explanation in the Employment section of your application.The second recommendation should be from either a former direct supervisor or from another professional associate, senior to you, who can share their insights on your candidacy.


mit-sloan-logo-e1415722630580

7. MIT’s SLOAN SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Two recommendations required. Professional recommendations are preferred from individuals who are able to speak with certainty about your professional achievements and potential. Recommendations may be in either letter or short answer format and should not exceed two pages each. We do not accept recommendations from family members. Choose recommenders who are able to provide specific answers to the following questions:

  • How long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?
  • How does the applicant stand out from others in a similar capacity?
  • Please give an example of the applicant’s impact on a person, group, or organization.
  • Please give a representative example of how the applicant interacts with other people.
  • Which of the applicant’s personal or professional characteristics would you change?
  • If you are an academic/technical recommender, please tell us how well the applicant mastered the subject you taught or supervised and in what ways did the applicant demonstrate this mastery.
  • Please tell us anything else you think we should know about this applicant.

Berkeley Haas logo8. UC-BERKELEY’S HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

Two recommendations required, at least one from a current employer. Recommenders are asked to complete a grid on the applicant and address the following questions in their letters:

  • How does the candidate’s performance compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.
  • Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.
  • In the Berkeley MBA program, we develop leaders who embody our distinctive culture’s four key principles [www.haas.berkeley. edu/strategicplan/culture] one of which is “confidence without attitude” or “confidence with humility.” Please comment on how the applicant reflects this Berkeley-Haas value.
  • (Optional) Is there anything else we should know?Haas Advice: Select individuals with whom you have had considerable professional interaction, such as your supervisor or a major client. The title or status of those you select is not important. What does matter is how closely your letter writers have worked with you and whether they can attest to your value as an employee, your professional accomplishments, and your personal qualities and interpersonal skills in an organizational context. For this reason, we strongly discourage academic references. Letters of recommendation from co-workers, someone you have supervised, relatives, or personal and family friends are inappropriate and can be detrimental to the review of your application. Please do not submit more than two letters, and if you choose not to obtain a letter from your current supervisor, be certain to explain why.Haas Grid

    Tuck School Logo

    9. DARTMOUTH COLLEGE’S TUCK SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Hanover, New Hampshire

    Two recommendations required, plus the completion of a leadership grid (below). Recommenders should be capable of commenting on your professional, leadership, and intellectual capabilities. The most useful evaluations are those from people who are able to speak with certainty about your leadership, maturity, team orientation, communication skills, intellectual ability, and interpersonal skills. If currently employed, Tuck prefers that you submit letters from people who know you well and are in a position to judge your professional performance and leadership, such as your direct supervisor. If unable to provide a recommendation from a direct supervisor, please include a brief explanation as to why in the optional essay section. Generally, Tuck says it does not find recommendations from professors to be helpful in our evaluations.

    Recommenders are asked to address the following:

    1. How long have you known the applicant and in what context? Have you served as the applicant’s supervisor? If so, please provide approximate dates. Please comment upon the frequency and nature of your interactions with the applicant.

    2. What are the applicant’s three principal strengths? Please provide an example of each.

    3. In which three areas can the applicant improve? Please provide an example of each. How
    has the applicant worked to address these areas?

    4. How does the applicant respond to constructive criticism?

    5. Describe the impressions this candidate makes in meetings, presentations, interviews or other important interactions.

    6. If you would like to provide any additional insights into this individual’s candidacy, please feel to do so.

    HBS Grid


    MastersProfile-Yale University's School of Management

    10. YALE UNIVERSITY’S SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT in New Haven, Connecticut                           

    Two recommendations required, both professional in nature, plus the completion of a leadership grid. Ideally, at least one of the recommenders should be in a position to assess your performance in your most recent role. Recommenders should address the following:

    Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization.

    How does the candidate’s performance compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.

    Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.

    Are you in a position to know whether the applicant is sponsored for the MBA by his or her current employer? If so, please comment.

    (optional) Is there anything else we should know?


    duke11. DUKE UNIVERSITY’S FUQUA SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Durham, North Carolina

    Two recommendations required, although Fuqua has an unusual twist here: It allows additional recs from current students or alumni. Separate forms are used for these recommendations.

    Otherwise, your required recommenders are asked the address the following:

    Comment briefly on the context of your interaction with the applicant.

    How do the applicant’s performance, potential, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles?

    What do you perceive as the applicant’s areas for growth?  Describe the applicant’s awareness of these areas and his/her response to constructive feedback.

    Please include additional comments you feel will be helpful to the Admissions Committee.

    Advice From Fuqua; One recommendation should reflect your performance in your most recent professional setting. Volunteer activities or other service-oriented roles in which you are deeply involved may also be excellent sources for recommendations. The most valuable recommendations come from people who know your professional skills and abilities. Recommendations from relatives and friends are strongly discouraged. Academic recommendations in most cases provide a similar perspective to what is in your transcript, and are less helpful.
    Use recommenders’ work email addresses versus personal accounts, like Gmail or Yahoo, which will be more closely monitored in our credential verification process.


    Darden-Logo-112. UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA’S DARDEN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in  Charlottesville, Virginia

    Two recommendations required, though Wadditional recommendations may be submitted, but they should offer additional and valuable insight. Generally, work-related recommendations are more valuable than academic-related recommendations.

    Recommenders are asked to complete a leadership grid (see above example for Harvard) and address the following:

    Please comment briefly on the context of your interaction with the applicant. If applicable, describe the applicant’s role in your organization. (500 characters)

    How do the candidate’s performance, potential, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.

    Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.


    michigan-ross-school-logo1

    13. UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN’S ROSS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Ann Arbor, Michigan

    One recommendation required. Recommenders are asked to comment on the following:

    How do the candidate’s performance, potential, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (250 words)

    Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words).

    How do the candidate’s performance, potential, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (250 words)

    Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words).

    Advice From Ross: We highly recommend selecting a recommender who can discuss your professional performance and work style. A current or former supervisor is an ideal choice. Other alternatives include a client, project manager, or professional mentor. Your application is not considered complete until we receive your recommendation.


    UCLA logo14. UCLA’S ANDERSON SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT

    Two recommendations required. Recommenders are asked to comment on the following:

    1. How do the candidate’s performance, potential, or personal qualities compare to those of other well qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.

    2. Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.

    3. In UCLA Anderson’s school culture we share success, drive change and think fearlessly. Please give examples where the applicant exhibited any or all of these.

    Advice From Anderson: The school prefers recs from individuals who are well acquainted with your performance in a work setting, preferably from a direct supervisor or manager. Choose recommenders who will support your candidacy with concrete examples of performance and impact on the organization. Ideally your recommendations should be from current direct supervisors or managers who are best equipped to answer questions about your leadership, communication, teamwork, initiative and other skills. If you are unable to ask a current supervisor for a recommendation, then you can ask a former boss, a manager from another department, or a consultant or client who knows you well enough to answer the questions insightfully.


    Cornell Johnson logo14. CORNELL UNIVERSITY’S JOHNSON GRADUATE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT

    One recommendation required, though two would be accepted. Ideally your recommendations should be from current direct supervisors or managers who are best equipped to answer questions about your leadership, communication, teamwork, initiative and other skills. If you are unable to ask a current supervisor for a recommendation, then you can ask a former boss, a manager from another department, or a consultant or client who knows you well enough to answer the questions insightfully.

    Advice From Johnson: You should seek recommendations from people capable of commenting on your professional, leadership, and intellectual capabilities. The most useful evaluations are from people who are able to speak with certainty about your leadership, maturity, team orientation, analytical skills, and interpersonal skills. Examples include a colleague, client, or former supervisor. If you are currently employed we recommend that one of your recommendations come from your direct supervisor. If you are still in school, we recommend asking an internship supervisor or an individual who knows you from a leadership role.



    NYUStern_logo2-0116. NEW YORK UNIVERSITY’S STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in New York

    Two recommendations required. Recommenders are asked to rate you on a number of professional abilities and qualities, as well as provide an answer to these four questions:

    How long have you known the applicant and in what capacity?

    How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.

    Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.

    How would you describe the applicant’s interpersonal skills?

    Advice From Stern: Professional recommendations are strongly preferred. One recommendation must come from your current supervisor. If you cannot include a recommendation from your current supervisor, you must provide an explanation in the Professional section of the online application. Recommendations should come from individuals who can objectively assess your professional performance and your potential for success in Stern’s MBA program and in your future career. Recommendations from family members, family friends and close friends are discouraged. Submitting more than two recommendations is not encouraged but is allowed. Please carefully consider whether additional recommendations add value and a unique perspective to your application.



    UNC-Kenan-Flagler-Logo-350x35017. KENAN-FLAGLER BUSINESS SCHOOL AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA

    Two recommendations required, preferably from supervisors. They are also asked to complete a leadership grid (see above for Harvard). Recommenders are asked to comment on the following:

    How long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?

    Describe the applicant’s potential for becoming a responsible and successful manager.

    What are the applicant’s major strengths?

    What are the applicant’s most noticeable areas for improvement or growth?

    Advice From Kenan-Flagler: Applicants designate their recommenders within the application which triggers an e-mail directly to the recommender with specific instructions and a link to the recommendation form. Recommendations are due on the same date as your application. It is your responsibility to notify your chosen recommenders of this deadline. We offer a 10 business day grace period past the deadline to receive recommendations, but this will delay the processing of your application.


    mccombs logo18. MCCOMBS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS-AUSTIN

    One professional recommendation required from a person who has supervised your work and/or has assessed your performance during your career. McCombs provides two options for submitting your recommendation: Its admissions management system, or the recommendation function within LinkedIn.

    Recommenders are asked to comment on the following:

    What is your relationship with the applicant?

    What was your position at the time you worked with the applicant?

    What was your organization at the time you worked with the applicant?

    Please provide any additional comments about the applicant’s performance, potential, fit with the program, or personal qualities you believe would be helpful to the Admissions Committee. (200 words)


    tepper19. CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY’S TEPPER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

    One recommendation required from a professional relationship. Recommenders are asked to comment on the following:

    If you were to coach this candidate with respect to how s/he works within a team, what would you advise that s/he does well? What would you advise the candidate to do differently? Provide specific examples that support your advice. (300 words)

    If you were to coach this candidate on his/her professional development, in what areas would you suggest s/he focus? What areas are strengths on which s/he can build? Provide specific examples that support your advice. (300 words)

    If you had the opportunity to work with this candidate in the future, would you? Why or why not? (300 words)


    Emory logo20. EMORY UNIVERSITY’S GOIZUETA SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

    Two recommendations required, though you could submit a third if you desire. The school wants recommendations that are professional in nature. Recommenders are asked to complete a leadership grid on the candidate and to comment on the following:

    How long have you known the applicant and in what capacity?

    What characteristics or attributes best describe the applicant?

    In what area is the applicant most exceptional?

    In what area does the applicant need the most improvement?

    How well do you feel the applicant handles disappointment or differences of opinion?

    Please indicate to which group you are comparing this candidate (i.e., co-workers, MBA graduates, etc):


    kelley-school21. INDIANA UNIVERSITY’S KELLEY SCHOOL OF BUSINESS in Bloomington, Indiana

    One recommendation required. Your recommender should be someone who can comment meaningfully on your professional performance. A current or recent supervisor is preferred. Recommenders are asked to fill out a leadership grid and to address the following:

    How well and in what capacity do you know the applicant?

    Does the applicant have potential as a leader and a manager?

    What have you observed that leads you to think the applicant will be successful?

    Are there areas where the applicant can improve his or her potential for graduate study and a managerial career? If so, what are those areas?



    michael-g-foster-school-of-business_416x41622. UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON FOSTER SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

    Two recommendations required, though three are permitted. Preferably, recommendations should be provided by professional contacts versus academic or personal contacts.


    McDonough logo24. GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY’S MCDONOUGH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

    One recommendation required from someone who can objectively evaluate your professional performance as well as managerial and leadership potential. McDonough discourages letters from university faculty, family members, and additional letters of recommendation. A current supervisor is strongly preferred for Full-time MBA applicants.

    Recommenders are asked to address the following questions as well as complete a rating section on a candidate’s interpersonal and cross-cultural skills, team and leadership qualities, business savvy, and intellectual curiosity.

    Describe the applicant’s strengths. How does this applicant’s professional performance compare with his/her peers? (750 characters)

    Describe the applicant’s main areas in need of development. Provide specific examples. (750 characters
    )
    Describe the applicant’s interpersonal skills. Is the applicant effective when working on a team? (750 characters)

    Describe the applicant’s professional poise, his/her ability to handle him/herself in a business setting. (750 characters)

    How does the applicant typically handle him/herself under pressure? Provide a specific example. (750 characters)


    26. MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY’S BROAD COLLEGE OF BUSINESSBroad Logo

    Two recommendations required, preferably from a supervisor who can attest to your ability to work within and lead teams as well as to contribute significantly to a professional business environment. Your reference should be able to provide specific information on your professional and intellectual skills and abilities. Employment related references are strongly encouraged.


    USC Marshall logo27. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S MARSHALL SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

    Two recommendations required. Recommenders are asked to complete a skills evaluation form and address the following:

    Against which group are you comparing the applicant? (500 characters) Examples: All students I know who have entered graduate school, all students I have taught or known, etc.

    In what capacity have you known the applicant? (500 characters)

    What do you consider the applicant’s most outstanding talents or characteristics? (500 characters)

    What are the applicant’s areas for growth? (500 characters)

    If you wish, include additional comments concerning the applicant’s aptitude for advanced study.

    Advice From Marshall: Recommendations are used as a gauge of your professional achievements and managerial and leadership potential. We prefer that one of your letters of recommendation be provided by a direct supervisor. This person should provide specific observations and examples of your leadership, teamwork, analytical skills and personal qualities. Your letters of recommendation must be submitted online.


    Rice Jones logo28. RICE UNIVERSITY’S JONES GRADUATE SCHOOL OF BUSINESS

    One professional recommendation required from a current direct supervisor. Otherwise, two recommendations are needed, if the first is not from current direct supervisor. Applicants can submit up to three recommendations. In addition to the recommendations, if you know a current Rice MBA student or alumni, you may ask them to write you a Build the Class referral, which will qualify you for an application fee waiver.

    Advice From Rice: At least one recommendation needs to be from someone highlighting your professional abilities; the second recommendation can be from someone that can speak to your involvement or leadership outside of the work place, if you wish.


    Vanderbilt Owen logo29. VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY’S OWEN GRADUATE SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT

    Two recommendations required.

    Advice From Owen: The Admissions Committee is interested in recommendations from people who can assess your ability to succeed, not only in an academic environment but also in your career and in positions of leadership or management. The Admissions Committee wants to know about your communication and analytical skills and how you work with others. People who often serve as strong references include your current supervisor, a former supervisor or those with whom you have worked for a reasonable amount of time. There are times when applicants don’t want their supervisors to know their plans to attend business school. In these situations, a client, previous manager or contact from an extracurricular organization can be useful. The recommender need not be the CEO, CFO or other head of a company, especially if he or she has had little direct contact or interaction with the prospective student. Familiarity with the candidate is key. Academic recommendations provide the Admissions Committee with information on your ability to succeed in an academic environment, but professional recommendations tell us more about your ability to contribute in a business context. Recommendations from friends, work peers or subordinates, family members or family friends are not appropriate and may detract from the overall strength of your application.


    Carlson logo30. UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA’S CARLSON SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT

    Three recommendations required.

     

    DON’T MISS: 2016-2017 MBA APPLICATION DEADLINES FOR LEADING BUSINESS SCHOOLS