MBA Letter of Recommendation Question Master List

A lot of my clients are starting to work on LOR now and wondering, as they should, how to make it easy on their recommenders and themselves. So, from the current list of schools on my LOR Questions Databank, I've prepared the following as a sort of master list; if your recommenders complete these questions in one go, they should hopefully have all or close to all of the answers they'll need for any school. I've listed the questions in order of frequency and provided examples of each. I'm also including some outliers and other problem spots. Please see the questions for your individual schools for specific wording and possible areas of overlap among schools (eg., leadership can also be a strength). Also, please see The MBA LOR for more information on choosing recommenders and approaches to developing the LOR. So far, Haas probably has the most demanding LOR, borderline unrealistic for recommenders, in my opinion. MOST COMMON LOR QUESTION TOPICS (loosely in order of frequency)

1) Relationship

Ex. What is your relationship to, and how long have you known the applicant? Is this person still employed by your organization? If not, when did he/she depart? (Columbia)

Ex. Please comment on the context of your interaction with the applicant. How long have you known the applicant and in what connection? If applicable, briefly describe the applicant’s role in your organization. (250-word limit) (HBS)

Ex. Describe your relationship to the applicant. Are you, or have you been, the applicant’s direct supervisor? If not, what is the nature of your relationship? How long have you known the applicant and how frequent is/was your interaction with them? (UC Berkeley Haas)

2) Peer Comparison

Ex. Please compare the applicant’s performance to that of his/her peers. Does the applicant have the potential to become a senior manager? (Columbia)

Ex. Description of applicant’s peer group. (Duke Fuqua)

Ex. How does the applicant stand out from others in a similar capacity? (MIT Sloan)

Ex. How do the applicant’s personal or professional characteristics stand out positively or negatively from others who are in a similar capacity? (Michigan Ross)

3) Interpersonal/Team Skills

Ex. How effective are the applicant’s interpersonal skills? (Stanford GSB)

Ex. Please provide an example of a time when the applicant was particularly successful at interacting with others in a team (employees, peers, managers, etc.); how was the applicant successful? How does the applicant compare to his/her peers in this dimension? (Wharton)

Ex. Please provide a representative example of how the applicant interacts with other people. (MIT)

Ex. Comment on the applicant’s interpersonal skills (effectiveness in establishing and maintaining relationships; working with supervisors, peers, and subordinates; willingness to work in a team environment (Duke Fuqua)

4) Constructive Criticism/Feedback Response

Ex. How does the applicant accept constructive criticism? (Columbia)

Ex. In what areas does the applicant need improvement or growth? If you have had the opportunity to provide the applicant with constructive feedback, please provide specific examples of the feedback and the applicant’s response to it. (Duke Fuqua)

Ex. Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250-word limit) (HBS)

Ex. Describe the most constructive feedback you have given the candidate. Please also detail the circumstances that caused you to give the feedback. (Stanford)

Ex. Provide an example of constructive feedback you have provided to the applicant. How did the applicant receive this feedback and what efforts did the applicant make to address the concern? (Wharton)

5) Weaknesses/Areas for Improvement

Ex. In what areas does the applicant need improvement or growth? If you have had the opportunity to provide the applicant with constructive feedback, please provide specific examples of the feedback and the applicant’s response to it. (Duke Fuqua)

Ex. In what ways could the applicant improve professionally? If you could change one thing about the applicant, what would it be? (Columbia)

Ex. What are the applicant’s most noticeable weaknesses? (1500 characters)

Ex. What do you consider to be the applicant’s major weaknesses or areas for improvement? (LBS)

Ex. Which of the applicant’s personal or professional characteristics would you change? (MIT Sloan)

Ex. What are the applicant’s three greatest weaknesses or areas in need of improvement? Cite specific examples. (UC Berkeley Haas)

6) Strengths

Ex. Please provide a short list of adjectives describing the applicant’s strengths. (Columbia)

Ex. What are the applicant’s most outstanding abilities or characteristics? (1500 characters) (Cornell Johnson)

Ex. What do you consider the applicant’s primary talents or strengths? (Duke Fuqua)

Ex. What do you consider to be the applicant’s major talents and strengths? (LBS)

Ex. What are the applicant’s three greatest strengths? Cite specific examples. (UC Berkeley Haas)

7) Impact/Legacy

Ex. 5. What impact has the applicant had on the organization in which s/he works? (1500 characters) (Cornell Johnson)

Ex. Please provide an example of the applicant’s impact on a person, group, or organization. (MIT Sloan)

Ex. What (if any) legacy has this candidate left on your organization? (Stanford GSB)

Ex. What significant contribution has the applicant made to your organization? (UC Berkeley Haas)

8) Handling Setbacks/Challenges

Ex. Provide an example of a time when the applicant did not meet expectations. What was the outcome? How did s/he handle the setback? (Wharton)

Ex. Describe how the candidate deals with challenges. (UCLA Anderson)

9) Ethics/Integrity

Ex. Comment on your observations of the applicant’s ethical behavior. (Columbia)

Ex. Please comment on the applicant’s personal and professional integrity. (1500 characters) (Cornell Johnson)

10) Leadership/Management Potential

Ex. Please compare the applicant’s performance to that of his/her peers. Does the applicant have the potential to become a senior manager? (Columbia)

Ex. Please comment on the applicant’s potential for leading an organization. (UC Berkeley Haas)

Ex. Comment on the candidate’s aptitude for strategic thinking, leadership, and/or management. (UCLA Anderson)

11) Career Progression/Biggest Developmental Area

Ex. In what developmental areas has the applicant changed most over time? (LBS)

Ex. How has the applicant’s career progressed over the time that you have known him/her? How does this growth compare to his/her peer group? Please describe the peer group that you are comparing this applicant. (Wharton)

Ex. Comment on the candidate’s career progression to date. How would you describe his or her potential for professional growth and development? (UCLA Anderson)

OUTLIERS/PROBLEM SPOTS

Describe how the candidate has generated support from others for an idea or initiative. (Stanford Peer)

What one quality of the applicant do you wish all of your staff possessed? If you could change one thing about the applicant, what would it be? (Michigan Ross)

In the Berkeley MBA program, we develop leaders who have “confidence without attitude” or “confidence with humility”. Please comment and provide examples of how the applicant reflects this Berkeley-Haas value. (UC Berkeley Haas)

Please give examples of the applicant’s performance for any “Top 2%” rating from the table. (Cornell Johnson)

What do you think motivates the candidate’s application to Columbia Business School? (Columbia)

LOR, StrategyBryan