Write Amazing MBA Recommendations: How Does This Applicant Compare To Other Qualified Individuals?

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

This week’s for the recommenders! So your colleague/friend has asked you to write a great MBA recommendation letter, and you’re looking for advice to highlight the MBA applicant’s key strengths and performance. Luckily, Angela Guido is spending the next two weeks talking about MBA recommendation advice and how to write a strong letter of recommendation that will get your subject into their target business school through outlining the applicant’s outstanding characteristics and more.

Great tips for MBA recommendations are hard to come by, but in the next two videos, Angela lets you in to the adcom’s head: what they’re interested in, how to understand the two most common recommendation questions, and how to make the applications professional characteristics shine through.

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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:

Writing a Great MBA Recommendation Letter, Part 1

It's Tuesday! No, it's Monday, it's Monday. This is Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol, and I'm talking about MBA recommendation letters. This is a special video just for you, recommenders. People writing those big important letters that are going to help your mentee or colleague or friend get into the MBA school of their dreams. You have a very important job, and I'm here to help. Welcome to MBA Monday. 

Most MBA recommendations follow the same core questions as the common MBA recommendation, which you can find linked in our description down below. There are two core questions in this recommendation. Number one – I'm going to read it verbatim – “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.”. That's the question I'm going to tackle today. Come back next week and you'll hear the next question, which is potentially even more important. But let's talk about how to tackle this one.

Highlighting the MBA Applicant’s Performance

The question is effectively about how this applicant compares to other people that you've seen throughout your career. To do this really well, you need to include three things.

  1. First of all, you need to include your basis for comparison. So how many people of this tenure have you managed in your career? How many different professionals have you observed under similar circumstances? What is the basis by which you are comparing this candidate to others?
  2. The second thing you need is to compare that candidate extremely favorably to those other people you've observed. The reason this person asked you to write their recommendation letter is because they want to be successful in getting into this MBA program and all MBA programs are looking for people who are exceptional. Now, here's the good news. They don't have to be exceptional across the board. They don't have to be the very best at everything. But in that recommendation, you want to focus on the ways in which they do excel, vis a vis the competitive set you've observed. So, if you don't believe that this candidate is truly excellent, then I recommend you break that bad news to them now and don't write the recommendation, because a bad recommendation or one that isn't fully laudatory of the candidate is actually going to do more harm than good. And hopefully you have a good relationship with this person and you don't want to damage their candidacy. So, if you don't feel like you can really speak very highly about this person, then I recommend you don't write the recommendation. Once you've decided to write it, you want to look for the gold. You want to find the few ways in which you believe this person truly, truly excels vis a vis other people you've worked with. And you can look at their performance, their potential, their background or their personal qualities. And I recommend that you really make this personal. You highlight the things that have been most valuable and meaningful to you. And in the process of describing this person, actually talk about your relationship, talk about the specific kinds of tasks and activities that you rely on this person for. The values that this person has brought that have added the most value to your professional life and that have made your job as their mentor, their manager, their collaborator, their colleague easier. So look for the gold and make sure that you're really highlighting how this person is truly awesome.
  3. And then the third thing that this question needs is specific examples. The question even says that please provide specific examples. So that means that you need to illustrate the qualities that you find most valuable through concrete anecdotes, by explaining when that person demonstrated those skills, those values, those qualities, and describe it in a way that anyone can understand, even someone who's outside of your industry or your function. If you're in a very, very technical role, this can be quite challenging because the admissions committee doesn't know anything about the software or the engineering protocol or the processes that you use to reach results in your company. And that's OK. What you need to describe is what was at stake, what were the results that were produced and how did this person get to that outcome in an efficient, uplifting, powerful, inspiring and meaningful way that added value to you, the client, the project, the company, the team.

You’re On Your Way to Writing a Great MBA Recommendation Letter!

So, when writing an answer to the first main recommendation question, be sure that you provide insight into your basis for comparison, then very favorably compare this candidate to everyone else you've worked with and then finally provide really specific examples of how they demonstrated those kinds of excellence in your work together. This is the first step towards strong letters of recommendation.

And if you do that, you will be doing everything that you can do to help your friend get into business school. Make sure you take a look at our article giving even more advice on how to write great MBA recommendation letters too! This has been #MBAMonday. Come back next week and I'll talk about how to answer the dreaded feedback question.

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Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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