- 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.
- Ask the applicant to supply you with additional
information like a résumé.
- Describe your qualifications for
comparing the applicant to other applicants.
'I have been
teaching for twenty years and have advised approximately 450
students on independent research projects over the last five years.'
'I have personally
supervised ten interns every summer for the last five years plus worked with
over two hundred college graduates in my capacity as trainer for Big Bank
- Discuss how well you know the applicant.
'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 Six Accounting Firm.'
- Choose two to three qualities that you observed
in the applicant.
'Jane has a
rare blend of top writing and interpersonal skills.'
'The combination of
tenacity, analytical abilities, and good communications skills found in Mr.
Doe is truly unique.'
- 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.
'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 in the class to receive an
'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.'
- Try to quantify the student's strengths
or rank him or her vis a vis other applicants that you have observed.
'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.'
- Avoid generalities and platitudes.
- Include some mild criticism,
typically the flip-side of a strength.
fault I have encountered in him is his retiring nature. His modesty
sometimes hides a young man of remarkable strength and broad
fortitude and persistence can turn into stubbornness, but usually her good
nature and level-headedness prevail.'
- Discuss the applicant's potential in his or her
enthusiastically recommend Mr. Doe to your business school. This
well-rounded student will be a fine businessperson.'
exceptional leadership, writing, and quantitative skills, Ms. Smith will be
an outstanding strategic consultant and and a credit to the business school