Whom should I ask? Similar to many other top programs, Tuck requires that all applicants submit two letters of recommendation. Although Tuck does not require that one recommender be your current direct supervisor, asking your boss for a recommendation is standard practice for business school applicants. So, if you are able, we recommend reaching out to your current supervisor. As do most schools, Tuck discourages academic recommendations from undergraduate professors.
Does title or status matter? As many top business programs claim, Tuck is more concerned with the content and quality of your recommendations than the reputation or title of your recommenders. Choose individuals who know you well, can speak to your qualifications as an MBA candidate, and can add “valuable insights to your application.” We see candidates try to call in favors to try to get their company’s CEO to write a letter on their behalf. In general, the admissions committee will be far more impressed by a genuine and passionate letter from a middle manager with whom you work every day than a polite letter from a well-known CEO that lacks depth and detailed anecdotes about you. The latter will likely be discounted or completely ignored.
What will they be asked? The actual “letter” of recommendation is submitted through an online form. Once you begin your online application, you will provide the names and e-mail addresses of your recommenders, and they will receive a link to complete the online form. The next few sections describe the questions your recommender will be asked to answer.
Traits assessment. Please compare the applicant on the scale below with others in his/her peer group whom you have known during your professional career. [Effectiveness of leadership; effectiveness of teamwork; effectiveness of communication skills; positive attitude; ethics and integrity; ability to handle conflict; ability to cope with pressure; ability to inspire and motivate others; ability to see opportunity and take initiative; organization and time-management skills; quantitative ability; analytical ability; intellectual curiosity; ability to think creatively; self-confidence; resilience and ability to cope with setbacks; overall drive, motivation, and energy level; professional impression, poise, and presence; cultural sensitivity; comfort with risk-taking; maturity/self-awareness.] For each trait, your recommender is asked to rate you compared to others in your peer group using the following scale: Top 5%, Top 10%, Top 20%, Top 50%, Bottom 50%, Bottom 20%, or N/A.
Characterization of support. How would you categorize your support for this candidate? [Champion, Strongly support, Support, Moderately support, Oppose.]
Questions. In one document, please answer the following questions. To be sure to address all of the questions, you may wish to number your responses (i.e. 1,2,3, and so on).
- How long have you known the applicant and in what context? Have you served as the applicant’s supervisor? If so, please provide approximate dates. Please comment upon the frequency and nature of your interactions with the applicant.
- What are the applicant’s three principal strengths? Please provide an example of each.
- In which three areas can the applicant improve? Please provide an example of each. How has the applicant worked to address these areas?
- How does the applicant respond to constructive criticism?
- Describe the impressions this candidate makes in meetings, presentations, interviews other important interactions.
What should they say? Tuck admissions officers are looking for specific examples of your performance, teamwork, and leadership qualities to shine through in your letters of recommendation. Your recommenders should be up to speed on the overall theme of your application, and should be aware of your reasons for getting an MBA and applying to Tuck to ensure consistency throughout your application. The use of specific examples combined with genuine enthusiasm about your candidacy are keys to a successful letter.
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. Your writing style and choice of phrasing are unique, and admissions officers will notice if the recommendations are similar to each other and to your essays. If they notice too many similarities, your application could be denied outright. 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.
When it comes to Tuck, the answer to this question is an emphatic no. The school specifically states the following:
Letters of recommendation are to be completed by the recommender and no one else. Drafting, writing or translating your own recommendation, even if asked to do so by your recommender, is inappropriate and a violation of the terms of our application process and Tuck’s Academic Honor Principle. Applicants are expected to inform recommenders of this policy.
Preparing your recommenders. 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 that 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.