Getting the Best MBA Recommendation Letters

What Qualifies as a Good Letter of Recommendation?

Woman in an office with letters.
Oli Kellett / Stone / Getty Images. Oli Kellett / Stone / Getty Images

MBA program applicants often have a difficult times procuring recommendation letters that work. If you are wondering what qualifies as a good recommendation letter, who better to ask than an actual admissions representative? I asked representatives from top schools what they like to see in a recommendation letter. This is what they had to say.

Good Recommendation Letters Show Strengths and Weaknesses

''The best letters of recommendation highlight with examples both the strengths and weakness of the candidate in light of a peer group. Typically, admissions offices limit essay length, but we all encourage recommenders to take the space they need to help build your case.'' - Rosemaria Martinelli Associate Dean of Student Recruitment & Admissions at Chicago Graduate School of Business

Good Recommendation Letters Are Detailed

"When choosing someone to write a letter of recommendation, don't get wrapped up in title, you want someone who can really answer the questions. If they can't answer the questions, they aren't really helping you. You want some one who knows what you have done and what your potential is." - Wendy Huber, the Associate Director of Admissions at the Darden School of Business

Good Recommendation Letters Are Insightful

"Letters of recommendation are one of the few components of an application that are submitted by an objective third party. They provide important insight into an applicant's professional abilities and characteristics. We ask for two letters of recommendation, ideally from professionals as opposed to professors, and one is required from a current, direct supervisor. It's important to find people who can provide true insight into your professional accomplishments and potential to be a future leader." - Isser Gallogly, Executive Director of MBA Admissions at NYU Stern

Good Recommendation Letters Are Personal

"The two letters of recommendation that you submit should be professional in nature. Your recommenders may be anyone (current/former supervisor, former professors, etc.) who is able to comment on your personal qualities, career potential, and potential to succeed in the classroom. Recommenders should know you personally and be familiar with your work history, credentials, and career aspirations." - Christina Mabley, Director of Admissions at McCombs School of Business

Good Recommendation Letters Have Examples

"A good letter of recommendation is written by someone who knows the candidate and his/her work well, and can write substantively about contributions, leadership examples, and differences of opinion and disappointment. A good letter of recommendation highlights these characteristics through recent examples and is persuasive about a candidate’s ability to be a positive contributor, both inside and outside the classroom." - Julie Barefoot, Associate Dean of MBA Admissions at Goizueta Business School

Good Recommendation Letters Include Work Experience

"The George Washington University School of Business views recommendation letters as an essential component of the evaluation process. Recommendation letters from clients or individuals who have worked closely with the applicant and can speak specifically to the professional performance of an MBA candidate are most useful. While recommendations from high profile figures can be seductive, in the end if the recommendation cannot demonstrate that that the recommender has had any personal experience of the applicant’s work, it will do little to bolster the candidate’s prospects for admission. A good recommendation letter clearly speaks to the candidate’s professional strengths and challenges and provides concrete examples whenever possible. Overall, we look to a recommender to provide insight as to how a candidate can both benefit from and contribute to an MBA program." - Judith Stockmon, Executive Director of MBA and Graduate Admissions at The George Washington University School of Business

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Schweitzer, Karen. "Getting the Best MBA Recommendation Letters." ThoughtCo, Jul. 29, 2021, Schweitzer, Karen. (2021, July 29). Getting the Best MBA Recommendation Letters. Retrieved from Schweitzer, Karen. "Getting the Best MBA Recommendation Letters." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).