Each applicant must submit two professional recommendations with the application. The school generally discourages academic recommendations from college professors unless you’ve had significant professional experience working with them. Below, we list the questions your recommender will be asked so that you can select recommenders who know you best and can answer them thoroughly.
First, your recommenders will be asked to fill out basic contact information (pre-populated with information that you provide). Then they will be asked to fill out a “Leadership Behavior Grid.”
Leadership Behavior Grid. Your recommender will be asked to assess you on a multiple-choice scale regarding the following skills/qualities: Results Orientation, Strategic Orientation, Team Leadership, Influence and Collaboration, Communicating, Information Seeking, Developing Others, Change Leadership, Respect for Others, and Trustworthiness.
Each skill/quality has a different description for its 1–5 rating scale. For example, the scale for Results Orientation is as follows: 1) Fulfills assigned tasks, 2) Overcomes obstacles to achieve goals, 3) Exceeds goals and raises effectiveness of organization, 4) Introduces incremental improvements to enhance business performance using robust analysis, 5) Invents and delivers best in class standards and performance.
Note from Veritas Prep: It would be highly unlikely for a genuine recommendation to include a perfect 5 rating on all skills or qualities. In fact, if your recommender simply marks 5s down the page, then the recommendation may be viewed skeptically, as it provides little information about your true strengths and weaknesses.
Peer comparison. Based on your professional experience, how do you rate this candidate compared to her/his peer group? Multiple-choice: Below Average; Average; Very good (well above average); Excellent (top 10%); Outstanding (top 5%); The best encountered in my career.
Overall recommendation. Multiple-choice: Recommend enthusiastically; Recommend; Recommend with reservations; Do not recommend.
Recommendation letter. Please write an assessment of the applicant that addresses the prompts below. We are looking for your candid and accurate assessment of the applicant’s potential to be a successful leader and what specific traits the applicant possesses that evidence this potential. Please be as specific as possible and use concrete examples where applicable. Do not incorporate anything drafted by the candidate in your recommendation or have the candidate submit the recommendation on your behalf.
- Please comment briefly on the context of your interaction with the applicant. If applicable, describe the applicant’s role in your organization.
- How do the candidate’s performance, potential, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.
- Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.
Recommenders are not given any word limits for their letters. Several schools, including Yale, have decided to consolidate their recommendations, asking nearly identical questions to help relieve the burden on supervisors to write several recommendations for each applicant. Some other schools recommend 300 words for the second question and 250 words for the third. These word counts would be perfectly appropriate for Yale’s recommendation as well.
If your recommenders don’t have time to fill out the entire form in one sitting, they may save changes and return to the form later.
Selecting your recommenders. Both recommenders should provide professional references, and at least one must be able to offer an evaluation of your current job (ideally, your current supervisor). Even though they will be asked to list their job title, don’t reach out to distant contacts simply because they happen to have impressive titles or are alumni of the school. It is far more important to find recommenders who know you well and can answer the essay questions with depth and detail.
Should I draft it myself? Many applicants to business school are asked by their superiors to draft the recommendation themselves and the recommender will tweak and 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 to your essay. Second, you will 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 would never 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. Yale expresses very explicitly that you are not to draft any portion of the letter yourself, although having a conversation about the recommendation is perfectly acceptable.
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 to date. 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 the 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.