How To Choose The Best Person To Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

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One of the parts of the application process that candidates often underestimate is the time it takes to write a good letter of recommendation. Trust me, I know, from having had to write rec letters myself. 

How can you determine if someone is the “right” person to ask to write your recommendation? The person should be able to speak to your strengths, leadership qualities, how you’ve overcome obstacles, how you’ve grown in a particular role — all in a professional context. 

Most of the time, the best choice is your current direct supervisor. He or she will be able to detail your accomplishments and provide examples. We recommend giving your recommender six to eight weeks to prepare. 

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Don’t forget to prep your recommender as well. Taking them out for coffee to remind them of your accomplishments and strengths will help them write the strongest possible recommendation for you.

Still have questions? I answer some of the most common letter of recommendation questions we receive below:

Do I need to ask my direct supervisor for a recommendation?

Nope!

You want to select someone who can speak in detail to the strengths you bring to your teams, and how you’ve grown in a particular role. Most of the time, that person is your direct supervisor. But we understand that sometimes that’s just not possible. In those instances, you can ask a previous supervisor or a client with whom you’ve worked closely. 
 

Should I ask the CEO? Her/his title is sure to make me look good!

Asking someone in your company with a fancy title is NOT a surefire way to get you into a top business school. The CEO may know who you are, but if s/he can’t speak directly to your accomplishments and strengths in your particular role, that letter will do your application no favors. In fact, choosing a CEO or VP who can’t write a detailed recommendation will make us wonder about your judgment. It’s better to choose someone who works closely with you vs. someone with an impressive title. 
 

You only require one letter. Will it look better if I submit two? 

No. A few years ago, the admissions committee evaluated the application package and determined that the second letter didn’t provide useful new insights into an applicant. If a candidate chooses wisely (see above), one letter should give us the insights we need. 

We wish you the best of luck and look forward to reading your applications! 

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