Are you applying to an MBA program and curious to know what a sample MBA recommendation letter looks like? Look no further! Whether you are still working on your , or already planning , you must carefully strategize how you can submit the best MBA recommendation letter as a part of your application. This blog provides a detailed outline of what should be included in any MBA recommendation letter to ensure you stand out as a great candidate for admission, as well as two sample letters you can review or pass along to your recommenders, if necessary.
An MBA recommendation letter is a crucial part of your MBA application, and that’s why it’s important that you have a quality letter prepared. A well-written letter that impresses the admissions committee and highlights your skills and traits (beyond your GPA and other academic accomplishments) can help you stand out above other applicants and determine whether you get invited to interviews.
Your MBA recommendation letter(s) should be detailed, but concise. These letters will serve as a portion of your complete application package, alongside your transcripts, , , and any other documents that are required with your formal MBA application.
Because an MBA recommendation letter is a mandatory component of the MBA application process, and can be a great way to ensure your application stands out, it’s imperative that you select the correct ‘recommenders’ to write for you, and that you submit the appropriate amount of quality letters.
Still working on your resume?
An MBA recommendation letter is a document that is required for most MBA applications. While it may vary by institution, typically, applicants are advised to submit two recommendation letters.
An MBA recommendation letter serves as an objective review, whereby your recommender/writer, will detail your traits, skills, and achievements as well as their experiences working with you. The overall objective of an MBA recommendation letter is to demonstrate why you are the perfect fit for an MBA and why you would be a great addition to the program you are applying to. This is why it is essential that your writers full-heartedly support and encourage you in yours plans—you want only supportive and strong recommendations.
The letters will attest to your character and provide the admissions team with details that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to obtain from reading your transcript, taking note of your GPA, or viewing your list of awards and achievements. While a high GPA is impressive, it isn’t always enough to set an applicant apart, as many applicants have high GPAs. And, for applicants with lower GPA’s, a recommendation letter provides an opportunity to potentially sway the admissions team from a ‘no’ to a ‘maybe’, or even a ‘maybe’ to a ‘yes’. That’s why a strong recommendation letter is important.
Firstly, you should always check out the recommendation letter requirements of each MBA program you apply to. Some may have very specific requests regarding who should be your reference, i.e., professors, managers, volunteer supervisors, etc. But generally speaking, since this is an MBA reference letter, it would be best to provide reference from those who have worked with you in a supervisory role, whether they are university instructors or work managers. These people would be better at commenting on your learning skills, adaptability, attention to detail, etc., than someone who has worked in the same or similar position as you. Read on to learn more!
Ask the right people to recommend you
Not only must your recommenders/writers speak to both your personal strengths, and your potential to be a great MBA candidate, but they must be of specific significance in your life.
Your writer cannot be a personal connect, such as a friend or family member. Admissions teams recommend asking a professional who can speak to your skills, development and progress because they have witnessed you in action.
Your instructor, professor, teaching assistant, or even a workplace supervisor can write your letter of recommendation.
If you’re a student or a recent grad, you may approach a professor, instructor, or a teaching assistant who can attest to your academic strengths and business acumen. Reminder: they need to know you well and speak in detail of examples where you shined. If you were 1 or 300 students in a class and never spoke to your instructor, choose a different writer.
If you’re a working person and haven’t kept in touch with anybody from your academic institution, you can ask a supervisor or work manager. Again, they must know you well and speak to specific accomplishments!
Provide your writers with necessary information
While you cannot tell your writers what to say in your letter, giving them an outline, as well as some additional information, can certainly help them throughout the process!
Providing your writer with some background information is recommended. Provide them with your full name to ensure that they spell it correctly in the letter (this is especially crucial for those with commonly mis-spelt names or nicknames). Let them know what programs you are applying for, and provide them with your letter of intent, even if just a rough draft. This way, they’ll know why you’re applying for your chosen MBA program and get to understand your reasoning in your own words.
Additional documents you could consider including could be your , , or a list of academic accomplishments related to your application, and/or to the writer themselves. For example, if you’re asking one of your instructors to write your MBA recommendation letter, perhaps provide a list of their courses that you’ve taken, your final grade, and any remarkable projects or assignments you completed while you were in their class. This can help jog their memory; post-secondary educators often write several recommendation letters for their students each semester, so you want to make sure they remember your achievements correctly!
If your writer expresses that they’re unsure what to write, this could be a red flag. While you could provide them with an overview of the information that would make a great MBA recommendation letter, apprehension means that quality may be sacrificed, and/or, they may not be able to speak to your strengths.
Give ample time and direction
It’s crucial that you provide your writers with enough notice. Asking your recommenders to prepare a letter at the last minute may result in a poorly written, rushed letter, which could impact the admissions team’s decision. It’s also not regarded as professional or kind to ask somebody to write you a letter that will, in most cases, require a fair amount of time and focus, without giving them ample notice.
It is recommended that for an MBA recommendation letter, you provide your writer with at least eight weeks/two months’ notice. You should let them know what your deadline is right off the bat, so they’ll have several weeks to make notes, draft, and finalize your letter. It is also advised that you check in with your writer 1-2 weeks prior to this date. That way, if your writer hasn’t written your recommendation letter (or has forgotten), they’ll have a gentle reminder.
If you’re somebody who likes to be extremely organized, you may be made aware of your MBA application deadline and requirements several months ahead of time. In this case, there is no harm in organizing your application materials, including your letter of recommendation. While it isn’t recommended that your letter is written and finalized more than a few weeks prior to your application submission (because you’ll want recent accomplishments and current traits included in your letter), you can always give your writers a ‘heads up’ that you’ll be asking them for a letter in the near future, then, assign the task to them formally two months’ before it’s due.
Along with this, if there are specific submission requirements that your writer will need to adhere to, it’s important you provide them with concise instructions. For example, the URL of the submission portal and any additional information they may need to submit your letter directly.
It is crucial that your recommender’s write in a manner that speak to your suitability for your desired MBA program(s), no matter how many you’re planning on applying for.
Every program is unique, so it’s important that you review submission instructions prior to your submission date so that your writer knows exactly how to submit your MBA recommendation letter. In many cases, these are submitted online directly to the institution(s), or, by email. However, some programs still require recommendation letters to be faxed or email. In this case, a professional letterhead may be necessary.
Every MBA program will have a different mission, set of goals, culture, and values. It’s imperitive that you review these for each program you’re applying to, and share this information with your recommenders. That way, they’ll know what the program is looking for in an applicant, and know how to relate your strengths to the program.
In terms of content and information, your MBA recommendation letter should highlight your skills and traits that are directly related to your perceived ability to perform well—if not exceedingly well—in your future MBA program.
Not only should your writer point out what you are capable of, beyond what is on your transcript, but they should provide examples that detail how you’re able to demonstrate your abilities, and how you’ve done so in the past. For example, if one of your instructors talks about your academic prowess and superiority, they should use examples of projects, papers, presentations you gave. If you’re looking to pursue international business, for instance, and your professor from an international law course is writing your MBA recommendation letter and knows how well you understand global affairs, borders and laws, they can draw this kind of information to enhance the letter. Overall, they should specifically detail how exactly you exceeded their expectations.
Altogether, your MBA recommendation letter should be one page in length and include an introduction, a few body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Your letter should include your name, and a brief description of how your recommender/writer knows you (for example, “I was John’s instructor in his second year Organizational Behaviour Commerce course.”). Your writer should state their role/position at their institution as well. At the end of the letter, after they’ve detailed your skills and suitability and given specific examples, they should make a firm statement of recommendation before closing off the letter.
While it’s imperative that your writer provides enough detail about you and what makes you a great potential for an MBA program, it’s just as important that they don’t provide too much information or give irrelevant points. MBA recommendation letters are meant to be concise, detailed, and brief. Sometimes, less is more, and your writer can help you make a lasting impression on the admissions committee if they include only relevant information.
Now that you understand what kind of information needs to be included in your MBA recommendation letter, you can review the format, and pass this information along to your writer’s if they require it!
As noted above, always double check what each institution requires for their applications and recommendation letters. It can vary between schools and you’ll want to ensure your submitted materials meet the standards of your chosen schools!
Now that you understand who should write your MBA recommendation letter(s), what kind of information needs to be included in them, and a general idea of their structure and format, you can review the following sample letters to gain understanding and inspiration for your own! While you cannot write your own letter, you can certainly fill your writers in on the format, and give them a few ideas of what they can mention in their letter.
Here are two samples of what strong MBA recommendation letters may look like.
Sample 1: MBA recommendation letter from an academic instructor
To Whom it may concern,
This letter is intended to recommend Mr. John Doe for admission to your MBA program, as I am most confident that he will thrive as a graduate student, and as a business professional. I have been a tenured professor at XYZ University for the past decade, and while I’ve taught several promising students, John has always stood out as exceptional. John completed my Macroeconomics and Business Financing courses with remarkable test scores and final grades in his second year of undergrad, and he was a fantastic teaching assistant last semester in my Introduction to Microeconomics course as well. His interpersonal skills, and ability to analytically think, often impresses me.
John connects with ideas, proposals, and fellow colleagues/classmates with total ease. I have observed him as he participates in engaging conversations in class as a student, and as a teaching assistant. John enjoys team collaboration, and does well with it, but is just as capable to study and produce brilliant final papers, exams, and projects on his own. He thrived in thrived in his mid-term group project in Business Financing, where he allowed a fellow team mate to take the reigns of leadership, but also excelled in his solo presentation later that semester for the ABC Commerce Conference. He is insightful and respectful, and always has a way of applying his knowledge of business foundations strategically. Specifically, the role he played in his final group project in Business Financing was one of an educated leader; he did not ever silence the ideas of others, but was eager to clarify and help explain concepts to students who weren’t connecting with materials well. That is why I approached John and encouraged him to become a teaching assistant in his fourth year of study.
I am so glad that John was able to have the opportunity to instruct first year students, and I truly believe he flourished in this role as a leader. He carried himself extremely professionally and graded papers both meticulously and fairly. John tends to see the potential of each individual student, and was happy to work with certain students one-on-one on his own initiative in order to help them achieve better understanding, and better grades, during his semester with them. Students raved about John and nominated him for a “Teaching Assistant Excellence Award” that semester.
For these reasons, I would like to express my sincere confidence in John Doe, and highly recommend him for admission to your MBA program. Wherever he should choose to execute the skills he’ll retain as a graduate student, I know he will be an incredible business man and leader. He shows great promise as an analytical thinker who enjoys working with microeconomics and business financing above all else, but with his above-average GPA, it’s clear that he thrived in all areas of XYZ’s prestigious Commerce program.
Dr. Jane Smith
Sample 2: MBA recommendation letter from an employer/supervisor
Dear Admissions Committee,
This letter is to endorse Jane Smith’s application for your MBA program. Jane has been a valued member of her team at my company, XYZ, and has worked in both research and customer relations management over the past three years. Myself, as well as Jane’s other supervisors, can vouch for her capabilities as a business professional with confidence.
Jane started out as a junior research assistant, focusing on financial analytics and loss prevention techniques within our industry, when I launched XYZ three years ago. She was one of the first dozen team members I hired, and although she was still in University at the time, she learned quickly and showed her innate ability to connect with data and business foundations. As a research team member, Jane balanced her workload with ease, and was never hesitant to take on new tasks. When our company hit a hectic period, Jane was able to discover ways to make changes to better our company productivity, manage workloads, and reduce time spent on tedious tasks by 20%. Jane was not asked to bring these ideas forth, but did so on her own regard with the intent of helping her team thrive.
In the past few months, Jane has shown she is capable and malleable, as we’ve moved her between departments. When our customer relations manager unexpectedly left their role, Jane was happy to offer her help until the role was filled. While I was stressed out trying to attract new talent, Jane juggled an array of customer-focused tasks and did so quite well. This was a new area for Jane, but she has fantastic listening skills, as well as an innate ability to multitask and connect with her colleagues and our customers. She demonstrates the ability to not only communicate with our customers, but to understand their mindset, psychology, and trends. Her ability to connect with our target market and increase web engagement by 34% through strategic and persuasive language was impressive. Jane has recommended new approaches and tactics at our weekly group meetings and is always eager to improve any aspect of the business she can. Recently, this has been through using targeted language, and modern social media approaches that Jane feels will resonate with our intended customers. We are always eager for, and open to, her ideas.
For these reasons, I support Jane in her decision to pursue an MBA and I’d like to recommend her strongly. I am confident that she will thrive in your program, and will continue to thrive as a business professional whether she returns to XYZ, or pursues other dreams. Jane is a wonderful addition to any team, and to any academic program; you’d be lucky to have her!
Director and Owner
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If you’re applying to an MBA program, you’ll want to ensure you review the application information and specifications for each institution you’re applying to. With that said, most often, two recommendation letters are necessary for most MBA programs!
Your MBA recommendation letter should be concise, but provide enough detail so that the admissions committee is able to grasp a bit about who you are as a person, and as a future business professional.
Because of this, it’s crucial that you select the right people to write for you—an instructor, a supervisor, or even a teaching assistant. And, it’s also important that you provide them with enough time and notice to write your letter so that it’s of great quality! If your writers require a bit of background information, you are encouraged to provide them with a brief outline of what an MBA recommendation letter should include (as detailed in this blog). You can also provide them with a copy of your resume, and some notes about your accomplishments that are specifically related to their class or workspace.
1. Who should I ask to write my MBA recommendation letter?
Your MBA recommendation letter should be written by a professor, supervisor, instructor, employer, or teaching assistant! Even though you may only require two writers, it’s best to think of 3-5 potential people to recommend you ahead of time in the case somebody you ask is unable to take on the task.
2. How many MBA recommendation letters do I need?
This depends on your program! In general, most MBA programs require two letters. Always check each application and its requirements, but if you’re unsure, plan on having two letters written for you.
3. When should I ask my recommenders to write my letter?
It is best to give your recommenders at least eight weeks to write your letter. Your recommenders are likely busy managers, supervisors, and/or instructors…you don’t want your letter’s quality to be sacrificed if their writing is rushed. If you know who you’d like to ask to write for you several months before your letter is due, you can always opt to give them a ‘heads up’, and assign them the task formally (with a clear due date) eight weeks before your application deadline.
4. Do I have to submit the minimum number of recommendation letters?
It is not recommended to submit more or less than the required number of recommendation letters. Too few means your application may be marked as ‘incomplete’, and too many letters many feel overwhelming to the admissions committee. Plus, they will most likely ignore the additional letters, so all your hard work will be in vain. In both scenarios, it may look as though you aren’t able to follow instructions, and this could harm your application’s progress with admissions.
5. My application is due soon and I don’t have a recommendation letter… am I out of time?
In general, it is advised that you submit your application in its entirety in order to be perceived as a strong candidate by the admissions committee. Your application may be dismissed and marked as incomplete.
It is not ideal to ask for recommendation letters with a tight deadline. Eight weeks notice is recommended, but even four-to-six weeks would be sufficient. If you’re looking at only a few weeks (or days), it is advised you either wait to apply for your MBA in the next application cycle, or take a chance and try to see if your desired writers can take on the task. Keep in mind, though, this may be a bit tedious for them, and you should try to provide them with all the information they need!
6. What happens if I don’t have anyone to write a recommendation letter for me?
If you’re somebody who hopes to pursue graduate school, know that it’s very important that you make strong connections both in academia and in the workplace. There may be more than one occasion where you’ll need somebody to recommend you for consideration or admission to a program!
If you don’t feel you’ve made an adequate connection with an instructor, or employer, consider asking a teaching assistant or a colleague who can speak to your character and potential as a business professional.
You cannot write your own recommendation letter, so if you’re hoping to pursue an MBA, you must find at least two potential writers to recommend you!
7. My GPA isn’t the best, will a good recommendation letter help my application?
If you have a low GPA, it is important to choose writers who can speak to your academic potential and highlight your strengths as a student. Oftentimes, these situations are assessed on a case-by-case basis, however, your writers can still offer their praise and explanation of why they feel you’re a great MBA candidate.
8. How do I approach my writers and ask for a recommendation?
It can be daunting to ask somebody to write an MBA recommendation letter! Don’t worry, though, many professionals are used to being asked to complete this task. If you’ve connected with them on a few occasions (as a student, employee, etc.), you can rest assured, so long as you provide ample notice and ask politely, there is a good chance they will say “yes” to your request! But remember to ask for “strong” letters.
You should ask them in-person (if possible), or, through a formal email or virtual discussion where in-person contact isn’t possible. Let them know that you’re applying to an MBA program and what your future goals are. You can highlight a few accomplishments you had while in their class/working with them and ask that they recommend you for your program in the form of a brief letter.
If your request is denied, simply thank them, and move onto another person.