IESE BUSINESS SCHOOL - MBA RECOMMENDATION QUESTIONS

IESE BUSINESS SCHOOL - MBA RECOMMENDATION QUESTIONS

The IESE Business School at the University of Navarra MBA application requires one recommendation, but up to three may be submitted. The applicant’s recommendation should be from a current employer. The letter should reflect your capacities in the work environment. If candidates are unable to provide a letter from a current direct supervisor, an alternative source for a recommendation such as a previous supervisor, an indirect manager, a client, a member of the board of directors, or any other individual who supervises your work is acceptable.

 Choose individuals who know you well through significant, direct involvement with you within the last three years, will provide detailed anecdotes and examples to support their assertions, and are sufficiently enthused to spend time writing a thoughtful letter. Recommendation from a former employer, client, or extra-curricular activity such as volunteer organizations can also be considered. 

Section 1: Recommender Information

After some personal identifying information, the form proceeds to inquire about the recommender’s relationship to the applicant.

First Name :

Last Name :

Position or Title :

School, Institution, or Company :

Relationship to applicant :

Recommenders should briefly describe their form of interaction with you and your role in the organization or team. 

Section 2: Written Responses

 1. 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. (300 words)

As you write your IESE recommendation, keep in mind that your job as a recommender is not to “sell” the candidate to the admissions committee but rather to present the candidate’s true actions and use facts to substantiate your claims, thereby letting the applicant’s accomplishments speak for themselves. Real-life examples add weight and credibility to your statements and attest to your ability to comment on the candidate’s achievements.

Superlatives and generalities like “Mahdi is a wonderful employee and a great guy!” are actually not helpful, primarily because they are too vague to be useful in making the candidate stand out. However, if you pair any superlatives you use with context and “proof” (via examples/experiences), you get a statement with tremendous value:

Mehdi’s analytical skills are second to none. As a junior associate, he prepared an insightful and original research note on inflation in Itran that caught the attention of our research director. Soon, as a second-year employee, Mehdi was de facto promoted to work among a group of our senior economists, many of whom had more than a decade of experience.

Stating that Mehdi’s skills are second to none is a positive start, but on its own, this assertion would not be enough. By following this claim with hard evidence of his superior skills (“insightful and original research,” “de facto promoted”), you reinforce and validate the declaration. This is not selling—this is persuasion. In general, pinpointing two or three of the candidate’s strongest attributes and illustrating them with clear and detailed examples should be sufficient.

2. Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words)

Critical feedback—not negative, but critical—shows that you are being honest and forthcoming in your recommendation and thereby lends credibility to your statements. You may be reluctant to write anything critical about the candidate, but as long as your comments are constructive (and limited), they can actually add value to your recommendation. However, do not try to portray one of your candidate’s strengths as a weakness in an effort to incorporate criticism. This is a peeve of admissions officials. The IESE admissions committee will immediately interpret a statement like “Hitika often works too hard. I have pushed her to take more breaks and vacations, but she is just too dedicated” as disingenuous and discount not just it, but possibly your entire recommendation. 

Still, too much honesty can be equally unhelpful. A statement like “Hitika is horribly lazy,” for example, would be quite detrimental. If you sincerely feel that your comments about a candidate would be primarily negative or unhelpful to him/ her in gaining admission to IESE, you should advise the applicant to look elsewhere for a recommendation.

 Try to strike a balance between being honest and not being hurtful. Highlight the candidate’s strengths, but be forthcoming about any areas of possible improvement that come readily to mind, and, where possible, show that the individual is seeking to improve or develop these skills. Consider the following example:

Hitika is strong as a motivator and can always rouse our team. Still, I think she needs one more “arrow in her quiver.” I would like to see her exhibit more sensitivity to our employees’ needs in one-on-one situations. I noted this in her review, and we have been working to adapt her style to different individuals. Recently, she…

IESE will help individuals who have existing professional competencies and potential learn the skills necessary to become effective leaders in the business world after graduation. This means that all incoming students have areas for growth and improvement. By demonstrating for the admissions committee that the applicant possesses valuable strengths as well as ways they can grow from the IESE MBA experience, you will ultimately help bolster their candidacy.

The recommender must be complete and submit the online form, no opportunity to upload a letter is available. There are only two IESE recommendation questions; both are short answer. If the recommender is unable to use the online submission form, the applicant must contact MBA admissions via email.