MBA Recommendation Letters: 10 Tips for Writing them Right

By - Nov 20, 06:00 AM Comments [0]

MBA Recommendation Letters: 10 Tips for Writing them Right

Well-crafted, impressive, and persuasive letters of recommendation are a core part of your MBA application. Whilst you can carefully select who writes them, what and how they write is somewhat out of your control. One thing you can do, however, is pass on these essential tips – the collective wisdom of our experienced admissions consultants – to your recommenders to ensure they cover all the key elements of an outstanding LOR and express themselves compellingly enough to snag you that acceptance letter.

10 tips for writing MBA letters of recommendation

  1. Review a copy of the applicant’s personal statement or application essays so that your letter of recommendation can dovetail with–not conflict with or duplicate–the rest of the application. 

  2. Ask the applicant to supply you with additional information like a resume. These additional sources of information can help you to paint a more thorough picture of the applicant and their strengths beyond your immediate knowledge of said applicant.

  3. Whenever possible, explain how the applicant compares to others you’ve worked with/supervised/taught. And, describe your qualifications for comparing the applicant to other applicants. For example:

    • “I have been teaching for twenty years and have advised approximately 450 students on independent research projects over the last five years.”

  4. “I have personally supervised ten interns every summer for the last five years; I have also worked with over two hundred college graduates in my capacity as trainer for Big Bank Corp.”

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  5. Discuss how well you know the applicant. For example:

    • “I was able to get to know Mr. Doe because he made it a point to attend two of my sections every week when only one was required.”

    • “Ms. Smith reported directly to me for two years prior to her well-deserved promotion to the position of Senior in our Big Four Accounting Firm.”

  6. Choose two to three positive qualities that you have observed in the applicant. For example:

    • “Jane’s writing and interpersonal skills are both very strong.”

    • “The combination of tenacity, analytical abilities, and good communications skills truly make Mr. Doe unique.”
  7. In discussing those qualities, support your statements with specific instances in which he or she demonstrated those attributes. Be as concrete and specific as possible. For example:

    • “He is the only student I ever had who came to all my office hours as part of a relentless, and ultimately successful, drive to master financial theory. He was one of just ten percent of the students in the class to receive an A.”

    • “Because of Jane’s writing skills, I didn’t hesitate to ask her to write a report which was used by our PAC as the basis for a major policy statement. Congressman X eventually used the statement, based on Jane’s sophisticated 20-page analysis of Middle East politics, in lobbying for increased funding.”
  8. Try to quantify the student’s strengths or rank him or her vis-a-vis other applicants that you have observed. For example:

    • “He was in the top 10% of his class.”

    • “She has the best analytical skills of any person her age that I have ever supervised.”
  9. Avoid generalities and platitudes. 

  10. Include some mild criticism, typically the flip-side of a strength. For example:

    • “The only fault I have encountered in him is his retiring nature. His modesty sometimes hides a young man of remarkable strength and broad interests.”

    • “Occasionally, her fortitude and persistence can turn into stubbornness, but usually her good nature and level-headedness prevail.”
  11. Discuss the applicant’s potential in his or her chosen field. For example:

    • “I enthusiastically recommend Mr. Doe to your business school. This well-rounded student will be a fine businessperson.”

    • “With her exceptional leadership, writing, and quantitative skills, Ms. Smith will be an outstanding strategic consultant and a credit to the business school she attends.”

Are you a recommender looking for more advice on how to write a strong, honest, and helpful recommendation? Please see our business school letter of recommendation consulting & editing services for more information.


For 25 years, Accepted has helped business school applicants gain acceptance to top programs. Our outstanding team of MBA admissions consultants features former business school admissions directors and professional writers who have guided our clients to admission at top MBA, EMBA, and other graduate business programs worldwide including Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Booth, INSEAD, London Business School, and many more. Want an MBA admissions expert to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!

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