How to Get A Great MBA Letter of Recommendation

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By Bethanny Parker

With Advice from Phillippe Barr

Published on August 19, 2021

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Business schools can be very competitive, so your application needs to stand out. One way to shine is by getting a great letter of recommendation. An exceptional letter of recommendation for graduate school can be the deciding factor that gets you into the MBA program of your choice.

This guide delves into what makes a great letter of recommendation and how to ask someone to write it. We also cover whom to ask and how to give them the information they need to write the best letter possible.

What Is An MBA Recommendation Letter?

To get into an MBA program, you usually need two letters of recommendation from people who know you well and can provide insight into why you would make a great MBA candidate. A great letter of recommendation can cement your spot in the MBA program of your choice. An outstanding letter can even help move your application out of the "reject" pile.

“Admissions committees want to see letters of recommendation that are substantive and share insightful information and observations about the candidate.”
Phillipee Barr, Former Assistant Director of MBA Admissions for Kenan-Flagler Business School

A bad letter of recommendation could spell disaster for your chances of admission, so if you're not happy with your letters of recommendation, try asking someone else to write one for you and scrap the less-than-positive review.

What Makes a Great MBA Letter of Recommendation?

A great MBA recommendation letter helps paint a picture of the applicant that validates and enhances the candidate's application. The letter should provide support for the claims made in the application. Most schools prefer a professional letter of recommendation from a supervisor or manager to an academic letter of application from a current or former professor.

“An outstanding letter of recommendation is a letter in which the recommender demonstrates his or her understanding of the applicant’s strengths and vulnerabilities and aligns them with the program’s offerings.”
Phillipee Barr, Former Assistant Director of MBA Admissions for Kenan-Flagler Business School

Your letters of recommendation should highlight the positive aspects of your personality and qualifications. A great letter may praise your communication and decision-making skills or mention the time you saved the company thousands of dollars. Whatever you have accomplished that you would highlight on a resume would be great content for a letter of recommendation.

How to Ask for an MBA Letter of Recommendation

When asking for an MBA recommendation letter, provide the person you're asking with a copy of your resume and a list of your accomplishments. This will make it easier for the recommender to write a glowing recommendation letter that provides more information about your role in completing specific projects or assignments.

Some schools ask recommenders to answer specific questions. If that is the case, make sure to give the recommender a copy of the questions and any other requested requirements, such as word length or format.

If you're wondering how to ask a professor for a letter of recommendation, try to catch them during office hours. Don't approach them at the end of class when they may need to get to another class. Regardless of who you ask, try to ask when your recommender is in a good mood. If you've just received a compliment, that may be the perfect time to ask.

How to Make Your MBA Letter of Recommendation Stand Out

Start the Process Early

Don't wait until the last minute to ask your recommender to write a recommendation letter for an MBA program. You don't want your letter of recommendation to be rushed. Give the person plenty of time to do a thorough job.

“Applicants should give their recommenders enough time to write a great letter… A rushed letter will never be a great letter. Timing is everything.”
Phillipee Barr, Former Assistant Director of MBA Admissions for Kenan-Flagler Business School

Ask at least 6-8 weeks before the application deadline. That gives your recommender plenty of time to fit writing into their schedule without feeling pressured.

Choose the Right Person(s)

Most MBA programs want to see letters from people you have worked with in a professional environment. If possible, try to get all of your letters of recommendation from supervisors or other managers at your current or former job. If that is not possible, see if you can get a colleague to write you a professional letter of recommendation.

If you can't get a professional letter of recommendation, a letter of recommendation from a professor in your bachelor's program may be acceptable.

Prepare Your Recommender

Remember, you want your recommendation letters to showcase the skills you've already listed on your application and resume. Giving your recommender a copy of your resume will help ensure that their letter of recommendation includes complementary information.

You might also want to make a list of your accomplishments while working in your current position (or former position, if your recommender is a former supervisor). This list helps the recommender remember your contributions to the organization.

Frequently Asked Questions About MBA Letters of Recommendation

How many MBA letters of recommendation do I need? true

Check with each school to find out how many letters of recommendation are required. Most MBA programs require 2-3 letters. Check the admissions page on the school's website or contact an admissions officer to find out how many letters of recommendation you need.

How important are MBA letters of recommendation? true

MBA letters of recommendation can make or break your application. A really good letter of recommendation could get you into a program that you might not have gotten into otherwise. Bad letters of recommendation can have the opposite effect, keeping you out of programs that you may have been accepted to otherwise.

Do all MBA programs require a letter of recommendation? true

Not all MBA programs require a letter of recommendation, but most programs require at least two letters of recommendation. In many cases, your letters of recommendation should come from direct professional supervisors. These recommenders are best qualified to evaluate your ability to excel in an MBA program.

What should an MBA letter of recommendation include?

An MBA recommendation letter should include anecdotes about your accomplishments at work, your skills, and your character. It should highlight the qualities that make you a good candidate for the MBA program you're applying to.

Who should write MBA letters of recommendation?

Immediate supervisors write the best letters of recommendation. They are close enough to accurately evaluate the work done by the applicant and give their honest opinion about whether the applicant would make a good MBA candidate.

Interview From:

After having served for three years as Assistant Director of MBA Admissions for Kenan-Flagler Business School, Philippe has been an admissions consultant at Accepted.com for the last 5 years where he helps prospective students present their competitive advantage on paper and in-person. Prior to joining Kenan-Flagler, Philippe served as an assistant professor at UNC, Chapel Hill for seven years where he coordinated the admission process for the masters and doctoral programs. He holds an M.A from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University.

Should you choose a full-time or part-time MBA program? Learn more about the pros and cons of each. Whether you're majoring in business or thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, these 25 must-read business books can give you the tips you need to succeed. Learn about scholarships and financial aid available for students pursuing a degree in business.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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