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What makes a good letter of recommendation

Letters of recommendation are a very important part of a successful MBA application. Selection committees often see recommendations as an independent and reliable method of gathering inputs about the candidate. The sheer fact that a person who has observed your qualities first hand is writing about you, surpasses whatever you have written about yourself in the essays.

Recommendation letters provide you a platform to distinguish yourself from the rest of applicant pool. One must remember that they have the potential to make or break the case for your selection in your dream business schools.

Here are 5 useful tips on what makes a good letter of recommendation.

  1. Mention the Level of interaction: It is very important to specifically mention about the amount of interaction, type of interaction and the closeness of interaction between the recommender and the applicant. Here, amount of interaction means time duration in months/ years. The type of interaction indicates the context and relation. For example: relation of supervisor in a professional context. The level of interaction is both qualitative and quantitative. For example – one can say “I have worked closely with ABC” or it would also be fine to say “I used to have daily/ weekly interactions with ABC during our project work”
  2. Specific details matter: While nobody in admissions committee is looking for long stories of what the candidate did to demonstrate his skills, brief examples supporting the strengths are imperative to be written. It is not enough to say that the candidate has very good people management skills. It must be substantiated by an example such as: “He led a team of 10 people to successfully manage a project with very strict timelines, with a Fortune 20 company”
  3. Be genuine – also talk about weaknesses: The adcom does not expect a candidate to be perfect. It is hence important that some areas of improvement (if asked for in the recommendation letter) must be mentioned. Avoid using words such as perfectionist. Such words are too cliché and do not sound genuine. One can be honest to write small improvement areas such as multitasking, giving feedback etc. Make sure that you also mention some bit about the efforts that the candidate has made to improve on the weakness.
  4. Consistency is the key – Recommendations determine your credibility, hence consistency is very important. If you have highlighted patience as your strength and one of your recommender states aggression as your improvement area, you have had it. One should have a discussion about the recommendation with the recommender, if possible and an honest feedback may be taken by the applicant even before one starts writing the essays/ application so that consistency does not become a problem later on.
  5. Why you are the right candidate– Recommender should write a few lines on why (or on basis of what qualities) he is recommending you. Recommender should also tell how he sees the candidate as a manager post MBA.

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  1. Kartik says:

    Hi. Very useful tips. Through your article i came to know that it is good to write abt weakness as well..thanx


  2. Vivek says:

    I agree to Kartik. especially given that recos generally remain a grey area…. this article is very useful… atleast this can be fwd to our recommender to read through 🙂

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