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What makes a good letter of recommendation


How to choose recommenders for MBA applications

Letters of recommendation play a very crucial role in the MBA application process. Best recommendations are those which are consistent with what you write in your essays, which detail out and support your qualities/ weaknesses with examples and which come from somebody credible. One should keep in mind that the quality of recommendations depends on the choice of recommenders to a large extent.

Hence, choosing the right recommenders hence becomes very important. Here are some useful tips on how to choose the recommenders for MBA application

a) Knowing closely matters: You should look for a person who knows you closely and hence has enough stuff to write about you. This could be your boss, a client with whom you have worked closely or even a close friend with whom you have worked at-least at some point in your life.

b) Brands and Designations are secondary: Remember that the admissions committee is not looking for recommenders, who are brands in themselves, have celebrity status, work in Fortune 100 companies or have fancy designations. What matters is how well the recommender knows you.

c) Seniority matters: While it is never stated but one must look for people who are senior (to the applicant) in the organization to give recommendations. If you get your recommendation from colleagues, it is likely to leave an impression that you could not get anybody better (in terms of professional seniority) to build your case

d) Writing skills also matter: Try to choose a recommender who has decent writing skills. He/ She may not be a terrific writer but some skills are required to express the thoughts he/she has for you. A recommender with shallow writing skills will not be able to strengthen your case irrespective of how high he thinks of you.

e) Different perspective: If you are getting 2 recommendations (or 3 for some b-schools) ensure that both recommenders do not end up writing exactly the same about you (especially the examples/ anecdotes). While some qualities are expected to be common, 2 recommendations should be replicas in terms of content. Example: If you have dotted line relation with 2 managers in one project and you foresee that they will quote same points about you, then you should choose one out of these managers and look for second recommender somewhere else.

f) Alums of b-schools you are applying to: This is just an icing on the cake. If you can find people who themselves are alumni of mba schools you are applying to, nothing like it. It adds to credibility. Also, since they have been through the process themselves, they know how to go about writing recommendations.

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The journey to a Business School

A typical B school application process with timelines

B school aspirants ask us all sort of questions from “Do I need a coaching for GMAT” to “Is there a good month to take GMAT” to “Should I devote 15 days, 1 month or more to my essays” and so on.

Most of the applicants don’t even know why they want to do an MBA (apart from the fact that they will get a career jump).

The purpose of this post is not to make that cleared but to give you certain valuable insights tip etc to help you in your journey to a Business school.


1) Registering for GMAT: Register for GMAT in atleast 2 months in advance. This will give you time to make a study plan and also allow to get a date and time slot of your choice.

2) Taking the GMAT: Since most of the schools start accepting applications in October time frame, make sure that you are done with your GMAT latest by July end. This will allow you enough time for your applications or enough time to retake the GMAT in case you haven’t performed well in the first attempt.

3) GMAT Preparation & coaching: Most students also ask us whether coaching for GMAT is necessary. GMAT coaching plays an important role in making you familiar with GMAT, getting discipline in your studies and providing you an easy access to some instructor who can solve your queries. If you feel that you have someone who can guide you and you are disciplined enough in your studies then you may actually not require a coaching ( but normally that’s not the case with most of us)

B school research and Applications

Most applicants don’t spend a lot of time in doing proper research on which B schools they should apply to. It a rat race largely. The attitude is “normally people with my kind of score and profile apply to ISB, Harvard and Chicago GSB kind of schools, so let me apply to these”.

In our opinion that’s not the correct approach. Spend time talking to B school alumni, checking out the schools website, attending admission committed road shows, webinars and events to see what the B schools are looking for. At the same time also figure our whether the B school offers what your are looking for. E.g. INSEAD me be a great schools for a consulting career but if you want to start you own venture then it might not be the best choice.

This research will also help you collect ample material for your application essays specially the “Why us’ and ‘Why should we take you’ essays.

Transcripts: While you are researching about the Business schools, make sure that you complete the task of getting transcripts from your undergraduate college. Make sure that you have atleast as many copies of duly attested and signed transcripts as the number of schools you are planning to apply to.

Essays: Again, when you start drafting essays make sure that you don’t just give the B schools the normal stuff. B schools want to know more about you and essays are the medium. Start writing down your strengths, weaknesses, your goals, what makes you different etc. Talk to people and take inputs from them. If you are going for professional Essay services make sure that you choose one with good reviewers and success rate. Give atleast 1 month to essays for one school. Don’t think that essays are a cut paste job and can be done in a matter of a couple of days.

Letters of Recommendations: Decide on who are the people from your professional life who can give you letters of recommendation. Make sure that you select atleast one supervisor (from any of your jobs) as a recommender. If you feel that you can’t tell your boss that you are applying, talk to a team lead kind of person. But we strongly advice NOT to take both recommendations from peers. Also, choose people who have given recommendation to applicants in the past so that they are familiar with the concept.

Start talking to these people well in advance so that they shell out sufficient time to write for you. Don’t just knock their door 2 days before the deadline.

Interviews: If you have written the essays well and have a strong profile, you will start receiving interview calls by late October or early November. If you get calls, prepare well by talking to alumni, getting mock interviews done and going through your essays and application again and again to make sure you know well what you have written in the application.

If you don’t get any calls, do a ding analysis – what was missing in your profile and application. Also, focus on the remaining schools you want to apply to.

This post is written from the experience we have in this domain to get the best results. Thanks for reading… Watch this space for more….


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