MIT EMBA Letter of Recommendation Tips!

1. How long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?

They are trying to understand how well the recommender knows you, measured by both years and the level of engagement. When they say capacity – sure, articulate their role and yours, but really, they are trying to find out if you have worked closely with this person. Has this person observed you from a distance or have you been in the thick of it together, partnering on high-stress projects together? Ideal if you can show you have worked closely on complex and/or high priority initiatives.


2. How do they stand out from others who have held a similar role?

MIT EMBA is super competitive and has the lowest acceptance rate among EMBA programs – the brand name is sexy, and the GMAT-optional factor drives up application volumes. So, this is a comparative game, which is a little confusing because 90% of admitted students are director-level so the recommender might not have observed the predecessor. Applicants think of themselves in the absolute, but admissions officers think about the class in the aggregate and the overall dynamic. The cast of characters.

MIT wants to know what you would add to the classroom that is distinct – so they can sift and sort through applicants. This speaks largely to personal characteristics that can be backed up with clear examples, show don’t tell.

One way to know what MIT EMBA values is to glance at their assessment grid criteria: Leadership, Energy and Initiative, Ability to Develop Others, Ability to Work on a Team, Broad Perspective and Intellectual Curiosity, Creativity and Resourcefulness, Analytical Thinking and Reasoning, Oral and Written Communication Skills.

Although not part of these rankings, versatility is highly valued as well. If you are an analytical person in a creative field or a creative person in a technical field, this is well regarded. If the applicant is established in a particular area of expertise that would add value to the experience of their colleagues, include that.


3. How does the applicant interact with others, can you provide examples of when they’ve had an impact on a person, group, or organization?

This is basically about leadership – does this person have the interpersonal skills to get people on board in a way that feels good, and get projects over the line with a good result?

Also keep in mind they are looking for evidence on how you will navigate the classroom and learning team (for example, capable of both leading and following, handling conflict) Because each EMBA student/learning team member is on the same level, its ideal to choose an example that where everyone is on the same level, a cross-functional team or operating committee example, possibly.


4. How does the applicant defend their ideas? Can you provide an example?

They want to make sure the applicant has the capacity to reason, question their assumptions when appropriate, navigate conflict in a non-reactive way. Someone who is willing to take a stand and present a point of view, but also remains curious and coachable. More interested in “the truth” (as best we can empirically understand it) than seeking validation of their hypothesis. In sum, the scientific method, unsurprisingly.


5. Describe an area where the applicant has the potential room for professional growth?

What area for growth needs to be developed to take your leadership abilities and effectiveness to the next level? Also, its ideal if you identify an area for growth that you could develop in the program. This could be a source of inspiration for the SOP.

Other notes - don’t encourage your recommender to pick something fluffy here; a forthright answer gives more credibility to the recommender/recommendation. An honest answer also shows the recommender knows you, and they are taking this seriously rather than it being some quid pro quo arrangement.

Also, consistency is important. If there are conflicting statements between the recommendation and other areas of the application it’s detrimental to your odds, because at that point, why would adcom keep reading. So be in sync with your recommender.


6. How will the EMBA contribute to that growth?

See, this is why I mention its best for your recommender to identify a goal you can work on in the program – and syncs up with your motivations for doing an EMBA ideally. You will want to identify aspects of the program that your recommender can speak to. For example, maybe you have experience managing direct reports but need more experience working with C-level peers to prepare you for a C-level role, where you need to use influence more than direct authority. Then you can speak to the learning team. Or you need experience being a change agent in an organization with a poor culture. You can speak to O-Lab, coupled with MIT focus on organizational dynamics/systems approach. Just try to provide substance here – avoid the rah rah MIT drivel like “hey, I’m sure going to MIT will help my guy/gal be better than they already are because its such a hotshot school.”


7. For current employers, what is their next likely role?

They just want to make sure there is a solid ROI here – will this be worth the applicant’s time and money? As much talk as there is about EMBA programs being a cash grab they adcom does in fact want to make sure there is a good outcome for the applicant on the other end of this, they want you to have a clear goal that can be achieved through this program. They want positive juju out there. If you are being groomed to go from Director to VP this is a solid answer.


Leave a comment

MBA Prep Coach · Working with global seasoned professionals

seeking an MBA or EMBA from a top business program

Open 1pm to 10pm ET · 

Copyright © 2024 · Powered by LOCALiQ