professional in nature; re-applicants must submit one. One should “reflect your performance in your most recent professional setting”; the school mentions that your volunteer work or community involvement can be “excellent sources” of recommendations.
What they’ll be asked. Your recommenders will be asked to answer the following questions:
- Relationship to applicant [Please select: Advisor, Board Member, Business Associate, Business Partner, Client, Colleague, Current Immediate Supervisor, Department Head, Employee, Former Colleague, Former Manager, Friend, Manager, Mentor, Professor]
- How long have you known the applicant?
- Are you an alumnus/alumna of Duke University? [Yes, No] If so, please state the year you graduate and the degree received Include name of program, if relevant.
- Do you have an MBA from a school other than The Fuqua School of Business? [Yes, No] If so, from what school?
Leadership behavior grid. Instructions: The grid will facilitate your evaluation of the applicant’s competencies and character traits that contribute to successful leadership and program success. [Multiple-choice assessment based on the following skills/qualities: Results Orientation, Strategic Orientation, Team Leadership, Influence and Collaboration, Communicating, Information Seeking, Developing Others, Change Leadership, Respect for Others, Trustworthiness, Stress Management and Resilience, Global Competence, and English Language Skills (for non-native English speakers).] Each skill/quality has a different description for its 1–5 rating scale. For example, the scale for Results Orientation is as follows: 5) (Low) Fulfills assigned tasks; 4) Overcomes obstacles to achieve goals; 3) Exceeds goals and raises effectiveness of organization; 2) Introduces incremental improvements to enhance business performance using robust analysis; 1) (High) Invents and delivers best in class standards and performance; or, No Basis.
Letter of reference. Instructions: In your letter of reference, please provide insight about the applicant in the areas described below. Help us understand the applicant’s leadership potential and highlight the traits and skills the applicant possesses that will contribute to success. Please be specific and provide concrete examples where possible. We ask that you refrain from using material provided by the applicant so as to present only your unique view of his/her potential. We recognize the time and effort this request constitutes and we are most appreciative of your investment in this process.
- Comment briefly on the context of your interaction with the applicant.
- How do the applicant’s performance, potential, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles?
- What do you perceive as the applicant’s areas for growth? Describe the applicant’s awareness of these areas and his/her response to constructive feedback.
- Please include additional comments you feel will be helpful to the Admissions Committee.
Please limit your letter of reference to two pages, double spaced. Outdated or general letters that do not address the points above do not strengthen the candidate’s application.
Selecting your recommenders. Fuqua explicitly says that “the most valuable recommendations come from people who know your professional skills and abilities.” In other words, don’t ask your company’s CEO, whom you might or might not have met once in the cafeteria. And hopefully you don’t need to be told this, but Fuqua discourages recommendations from friends and relatives. Fuqua allows applicants to submit additional recommendations from current students or alumni; if these are submitted soon enough, you could even get your application fee reduced!
Should I draft it myself? Many applicants to business school are asked by their superiors to draft the recommendation themselves and the recommender will approve it. We strongly recommend that you do not write the recommendation yourself for several reasons. First, your writing style and choice of phrasing are unique, and admissions officers will notice if the recommendations are similar to each other and your essays. If they notice too many similarities, your application could be denied outright. Second, you may tend to be too humble or generic. Your supervisor might use language such as “one of the top analysts I’ve seen in my entire career” that you wouldn’t dare include if writing on his or her behalf. Third, and perhaps most importantly, the admissions officer is looking for a third-party perspective on your candidacy, so writing a recommendation yourself is an unethical breach of trust with the school you are looking to join.
Preparing your recommenders. Instead of writing the recommendation yourself, you should sit down and have candid conversations with your recommenders about the reasons you want to go to business school and why you’ve selected your target schools, your professional goals, and your experience together. Ask them if they would have the time to write a strong recommendation on your behalf. (This also gives them a nice “out” by telling you they are too busy rather than saying they don’t feel comfortable giving you a positive recommendation.) Bring a copy of your resume and a bulleted list of projects that you’ve worked on together and accomplishments they have seen you achieve. Let them know that admissions committees prefer to see specific, detailed examples in recommendations. Then, let them know that you’ll serve as a “project manager” to follow up and ensure that they are able to submit your recommendation ahead of the deadline.