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The Tuesday Q&A: LORs From Outside the Business World

September 04, 2012 :: Admissionado Team

MBA FAQ, MBA frequently asked questions, bschool questions, mba questionsQuestion:

I’m making a career switch and my recommendation letters are coming from non-business people. Is there any advice I can give them about writing MBA LORs?


This is a great question, especially around this time of year. The case for career switchers is always a harder one to make, and part of making that case comes from SOLID letters of recommendation.

Now, ready for a shocker? These awesome LORs that you need to wow the adcom? They don’t have to come from business people, and don’t actually need to talk about “business.”

How can that be? Well, let’s look at this reasonably, shall we? If you don’t have “business” experience, a letter of recommendation isn’t going to fix that, whether it’s from a CEO or a country doctor. So, what DOES an good LOR give you? Credibility, insight, enthusiasm, and corroboration. You don’t need a guy with an MBA to write something like that for you.

So, what kind of LOR has all of these things? Here’s a sample of what the adcom is looking for:

I can’t recommend Harvey enough for your MBA program. He is the most intelligent and creative junior technician I’ve ever worked with in my twenty years as a senior technician. I once locked him in a closet with a candy bar and a toothpick, and an hour later he walked out with a solar-powered iPad that could fly.

It never mentions “business” stuff, but it’s a STELLAR recommendation. What does this recommendation have that makes it top-notch?

  1. Glowing, almost hyperbolic enthusiasm.
  2. The idea that you are the BEST at whatever you do.
  3. A CONCRETE story with an impressive achievement.
  4. A demonstration of MBA-related skills (creativity, intelligence, problem solving, inititative).

So, if your recommender says, “But I’m not a businessman,” just tell him or her, “It’s okay, you don’t have to be.”