5 steps to requesting a Letter of Recommendation

By Brittany Voris

Whether you're considering applying to an MBA program or looking to switch careers, letters of recommendation are often necessary. Asking someone else to write a letter speaking to your character and outlining your strengths can be difficult—or even a little awkward—but if you follow these tips, the process is sure to be a lot smoother.

Try not to stress out. Remember that people in positions of authority see these requests often, and they are likely used to writing letters of recommendation. That said, it does take some time and energy, so make sure you're appreciative. Follow these steps to make it easy for them to provide you with impactful, effective letters.

1. Decide whom to ask

Your letters of recommendation should come from people who have had significant professional interaction with you—ideally one from your current direct supervisor. Choose those who can speak to your character and have a sincere enthusiasm for your long-term success. Their title or status is not important. What does matter is that they can provide anecdotes to describe your work ethic, leadership style, and what you can contribute to your MBA class.

2. Ask early

The timing of your request will depend on when you plan to submit your application. It's best to ask at least four to eight weeks ahead of the deadline, but you may begin conversations about a recommendation as soon as you're thinking of applying. Whatever you do, don't wait too long. Remember that anyone who writes a letter for you is doing you a favor.

3. Plan a time to discuss in person

Asking in person is more personal and gives you all the advantages of a face-to-face meeting, including the benefit of speaking about your letters right away. It also enables you to share your motivations for seeking an MBA and the reasons you're a good fit for Berkeley Haas. These discussions will likely enhance the quality and effectiveness of your letters.

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4. Provide the right information

Your recommendation is only as good as the information you give your references. You want individuals who can share detailed examples of your growth and measurable impact over a period of time or through a project. Check out our list of suggested discussion points (below) to help guide conversations with your recommenders. Consider jotting down answers to these questions before meeting with your recommenders to help guide the conversation. These talking points will help them assemble compelling LORs in a timely fashion.

Discussion points:

  • Why do I want my MBA? What am I missing in my professional career at this point that makes me consider an MBA seriously? Why now and not a year or two from now?
  • What do I want to do with my MBA? How do I want to advance or change my career? How will my MBA help me do that? What specific skills or experiences do I want to get out of the MBA that I can't get now?
  • Why Berkeley Haas? Are there programs that suit me at Haas? What are those programs? How am I a culture fit? Which of the four defining leadership principles do I showcase most, and how? Where do I hope to be after the MBA, in terms of location and/or company?
  • How have I demonstrated leadership in this job, whether that is leading a person, a team, a project, or even a difficult thought process?
  • What are my key achievements or major areas of impact at my current job? (Specific examples) What are the areas of growth that I've worked on at my current job? (Specific examples)
  • If I decide to enroll in a part-time MBA program, how would I manage my work responsibilities with the added commitment to my coursework? What immediate benefits could an MBA bring to my current job?

5. Follow up

Start by thanking them for taking the time to write a letter on your behalf. Once you find out where you're accepted, it's common courtesy to follow up with an update. Let them know that their efforts played a part in shaping your future.

Reach out

Gearing up for your MBA program is an exciting time. Remember your MBA application is holistic, and your letters of recommendation are just part of the story you're trying to tell. For more tips on how to prepare for your MBA application, or what to do when you’re ready to apply, contact one of our admissions offices today:

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Topics: Application Tips  |   Consider
Brittany Voris
Brittany is the Content Marketing Manager for UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business. She hopes these blog posts provide you with useful insights into the Berkeley MBA experience.