A friend of mine who graduated from Tuck a few years ago is now writing a business school recommendation for one of his associates. He asked me how to really convey his genuine support for the candidate, which is an excellent question. Here are my suggestions, which may help you figure out what to tell your MBA recommenders:
Be Super Enthusiastic.
The strongest recommendations are truly glowing – the differentiator is often whether or not the recommender raves. You don’t have to say that he is outstanding in all respects, but it’s helpful if you can flag a few areas where he stands out. Take any opportunity to say that he is the best, technically or interpersonally.
It’s very beneficial if you can really advocate on a personal level. To demonstrate that you know him well, talk about his reasons for applying to business school, his goals, and anything that you know about his background that reflects well on his character and potential.
Cite specific examples, so that your illustrations resonate with the committee. Your goal is to share additional insight into what makes the applicant special, and relevant anecdotes paint the most vivid and memorable pictures.
Reinforce Strengths and Mitigate Weaknesses.
Also, ask if there are areas that he wants you to reinforce or mitigate. For instance, if the quant portion of his GMAT is low and you can speak to his analytical ability I would do so.
Be Careful With The Grid.
Most recommendation forms have some narrative prompts and also a grid that asks you to rank the candidate relative to his peers. Tepid rankings can raise a flag for the committee, so please keep this in mind even if you tend to be a critical evaluator.