Monday, November 10, 2008

Finding Great Recommendation Letters

Good recommendation letters are often the toughest to find. But they are well worth the effort since the importance of good letters should never be underestimated. Admissions officers use recommendation letters to gauge a number of things, including your ability to work with others, your leadership skills and your values. For these reasons, it’s important to 1) identify potential writers who can compose strong letters on your behalf, 2) create a line-up of writers who can add dimension to your application and 3) successfully approach prospective writers with the ask.


First, identify individuals who can provide compelling examples of your stellar performance and how you would be a good fit for a particular business school. Make sure that you have selected individuals who can successfully communicate their thoughts on paper. Their titles or job functions are not important. What is important is that you’ve worked closely with them in a professional or extra-curricular setting.


Second, these individuals should be able to provide different perspectives. In other words, make sure that the writers are each communicating something unique about your candidacy. For my applications, my writers consisted of 1) a manager whom I worked with closely and could talk about my initiative and practical skills, 2) a co-worker and peer who could attest to my ability to work well in teams, and 3) the president (of a non-profit organization I volunteered with) who could provide examples of my leadership capabilities.


Third, set a meeting with each individual. Be straightforward by asking if they would be willing to write “good” or “great” recommendation letters on your behalf. Be prepared to provide details about the application process and the time necessary for the writing of these recommendations. To help your writer along and help you manage the process, provide your writer with reminders of your recent, relevant accomplishments, your motivations for business school and a timeline of key dates. I wanted my writers to feel engaged to the process, so I also provided them with brief summaries of the content within my application essays.

Great recommendation letters may make the difference! Please take the time to find writers who can provide meaningful stories for your application.

Good luck!

Jennifer Jeng
MBA Class of 2009
MIT Sloan School of Management

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