What should the Letter of Recommendation comprise

ISB applicants are required to provide a Letter of Recommendation (LoR) as part of their application. In the application, the applicants provide the official email-id of the person whom they have chosen to provide the recommendation. The application subsequently triggers an email to the recommender, with a specific set of questions to assess and evaluate recommender’s interaction with the applicant. The recommender responds to those questions., which are a mix of objective and subjective questions.

The LoR is supposed to be a private conversation between ISB and your recommender. However, in many cases, the recommenders do discuss with the applicants, the most relevant content that should be highlighted in the LoR.

This blog post hopes to address the most common questions that applicants and recommenders have, about the LoR.

What is the purpose of LoR?

The intent of LoR is to provide an assessment or endorsement of the applicant’s character, abilities, skills, achievements, and potential, typically in a professional context (for YLP/EEO candidates, this could also be academic context). The LoR provides additional insight and evidence of the applicant’s abilities and potential beyond their own self-assessment and vouches for their suitability and merit for ISB.

Who is an ideal candidate to seek LoR from?

The LoR should be provided by a person who can vouch for professional credentials of the applicant. The ideal person who should provide the LoR, is the applicant’s supervisor in the current organization that the applicant is working in. This is however, not always possible, since the applicants might not want to let their current supervisor know of their MBA aspirations.

Hence, a former supervisor (either in the current company or in the previous one) can also be considered for recommendation. We generally suggest that the recommender should be a person whom you have worked with, in the last 3 years.

It should be noted that your colleagues and friends do not qualify as ideal recommenders.

Does the recommender’s designation matter?

Applicants often wonder whether a recommendation from a CxO (CEO, COO etc.) would be more impactful than a recommendation from their current supervisor who perhaps does not carry a fancy designation.

We suggest that recommendation should be taken from a person whom you have consistently worked with and who can vouch for your credentials first-hand. In most cases, that person would be your immediate supervisor.

What should be emphasized and highlighted in the LoR?

Recommenders should ideally highlight specific instances during their interaction with the applicants., to emphasize the qualities of the applicants. For instance, rather than merely stating that the applicant has shown perseverance, the recommenders should highlight an instance that corroborates the candidate’s perseverance. Such instances bring immense credibility to the recommendation.

What is a good response to “the most important piece of constructive feedback given to the applicant”?

Basically this question is asking for a weakness of the applicant. Let’s start with what is a bad response to this question. Responses such as ‘applicant is a workaholic’ or ‘applicant is a perfectionist and expects perfection from others as well’ do not fly with the admissions committee.

Hence, a genuine weakness should be highlighted. These could be aspects such as inability to say ‘no’, spreading oneself too thin by taking up too many responsibilities, inefficient time management etc. The weakness highlighted as part of this response should be corroborated by an instance.

Ideally this response should end with a statement that mentions that the applicant is aware of this weakness and has taken steps to improve upon it.

How long should the response to each question be?

The subjective questions (generally four in number) normally have a word-limit of 500 words each. Recommenders often wonder whether their responses are supposed to utilize the entire 500 word limit for each response. Well, for 4 questions, 500 word limit for each question translates into a mammoth 2,000 words! That is a massive effort and would hog an enormous bandwidth of the recommenders.

Hence, we suggest that recommenders not worry about the word limit and focus on providing the most relevant response to each question. If this relevant content consumes only 100-200 words, it’s completely fine. In other words, quality matters more than quantity.

Can there be an overlap between the LoR and the essays?

Certainly! After all, you are likely to highlight instances of accomplishments in your essays. Some of those instances might have captured your recommender’s attention as well and your recommender might also choose to highlight those instances.

Obviously the recommendation cannot be an exact replica of your essays.

Does the language of the LoR need to be immaculate and sophisticated?

No. After all, the recommendation is a private conversation between your recommender and ISB. As an applicant, you obviously have no control over the language proficiency of the recommender. Hence, the quality of the language of the LoR is not as important as the quality of the content.

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