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Letter of Recommendation
Your letters of recommendation are among the most important
elements of your application. Strong, personal and well-developed letters
can do wonders to mitigate weaknesses in your profile and/or highlight your
potential for top management. By the same token, weak, "by the numbers"
recommendations add little value to your dossier, and can actually hurt your
chances if it appears the recommender hasn't taken an interest in your case.
So what makes a strong recommendation? The writer should know you
well, be able to give specifics about your abilities and potential, and
ideally have firsthand knowledge of your professional work. Your immediate
boss is a perfect choice (in fact a required choice for some programs). It's
fine to go higher up the corporate ladder so long as the writer is still
someone who knows you well. Letters from professors are generally
discouraged, which underlines how difficult it is to get admitted without
professional experience. Recommendations from family "friends" or
connections are also discouraged, unless the writer happens to be an alumnus
of the program to which you're applying. Finally, if your line of work
permits, satisfied clients are often excellent choices to write
While you can't control the content, try your best to "coach" your
writer on what constitutes a strong recommendation. Specific stories are
great, especially if they provide clear, even quantified, details about how
you added value to your company. The writer should also point to instances
where you displayed those all-important leadership skills, or explain that
even though you haven't had the chance to lead, you still have what it
takes. A strong ending is a statement of unequivocal support in you as a
candidate, and the desire to keep in touch with you as you develop your
career. Get the picture?
As you can now see, your letters of recommendation will require
considerable time and care. They should be requested at least eight weeks
before your target posting date, and you should take care to gently monitor
your writers' progress so that deadlines aren't missed.
Ten Tips for Writing an Outstanding
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
3. Describe your qualifications for comparing the applicant to other
4. Discuss how well you know the applicant.
5. Choose two to three qualities that you observed in the applicant.
6. In discussing those qualities, support your statements with specific
instances in which he or she demonstrated those attributes. Be as concrete
and detailed as possible
7. Try to quantify the student's strengths or rank him or her vis a vis
other applicants that you have observed.
8. Avoid generalities and platitudes.
9. Include some mild criticism, typically the flip-side of a strength.
10. Discuss the applicant's potential in his or her chosen field.