For most graduate business school programs, providing at least one letter of recommendation is a key part of the application and how admissions officials determine whether you are a strong candidate for their programs. Given its importance to the decision-making process, you want to be strategic about whom you select to provide a letter on your behalf.

In a recent video interview for the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), representatives from some of the world’s leading universities gave their quick thoughts on asking for a letter of recommendation for your graduate business school application.

Jon Kaplan, Assistant Dean & Director of the Full-time MBA Program at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business (US), said:

The best people to go to in terms of letters of recommendation are people that you have worked with closely in a business environment – somebody that was directly above you and has worked with you at least a year or two and really understands who you are as an individual in the workplace.

Steven Ji, Assistant Director of MBA Marketing Admissions & Financial Aid at CEIBS (China), also shared an important note:

I would suggest to avoid choosing people just for their high position because if they don’t know you well, there will be a gap in your application.

Virginie Fougea, INSEAD’s (France) Director of MBA Recruitment & Admissions, also reiterated the importance of choosing recommenders who are familiar with your work:

The professional person who knows you in a professional environment might be more helpful in their letters of recommendation.

Highlight your professional accomplishments

Letters of recommendation help graduate business schools develop a consistent overall impression of you, GMAC explains in another article on the topic. When choosing people to ask for letters of recommendation, their advice is to keep these tips in mind:

  • Make sure that you follow school specific directions on who your recommenders should be and how many they want to receive
  • Ask several people for a letter of recommendation, as you’ll never know who will say yes (or have the time to write a letter)
  • Only choose people who know you well and can speak knowledgeably about your relevant skills and accomplishments
  • Provide recommenders with an updated resume to assist in highlighting your accomplishments
  • Be clear about your deadlines and follow up with reminders

Ask letter writers to explain why you will excel in your graduate business program and in your post-degree career. It is best if they are able to confirm or elaborate on your skills, credentials, accomplishments, strengths, and aspirations.

Source: GMAC