Julian Trigo, director of admissions at IE, was recently interviewed by Spanish business magazine America Economía for an article titled “Tips for getting good MBA recommendation letters.”

Trigo says that recommendations play a more important role in the admission process than you might think. While the letters are just one component of the admission process, hearing someone who has worked with you closely rave about your strengths can put your application over-the-top.  While the article is in Spanish,  here is a recap of the answers to some key questions answered in the article.

Who should you select as a recommender?

Trigo said it should be someone who knows you really well, who can describe your strengths and weaknesses, how you work in a team, and what entrepreneurial skills you may have.  A strong letter from a direct supervisor is much more valuable than a letter from the CEO that lacks depth.

What if my recommender asks you to write the letter?

You should be careful of this situation. Trigo says it can “often lead to the opposite of what you might expect.”  These letters often lack the personality and authenticity of a true letter of recommendation.  

Plus, “a recommendation letter that only points out the positives, without highlighting any points of improvement could cause suspicion,” he said.  At IE, it´s also customary for the admissions department to contact recommenders, and if they cannot confirm and expand on the information in the letter, the candidate would be out of the process.

Instead, have a face-to-face meeting with the recommender to remind them of your strengths, and be clear about what should be included in the final letter, per the requirements of IE. Also be sure to  give the recommender plenty of advance notice so they can write a fabulous letter on their own.

What  should the letter include?

 Here are some recommendations from  Stephen Buchanan of Educonsul, an MBA consulting firm, who was also interviewed in the article:

*The letter should clearly establish how your recommender knows you and in what context you worked together

*The recommender should use descriptive anecdotes as evidence to point out three or four of your skills or qualities.

*If you are applying to an English language program and English is not your native language, your recommender should point out any knowledge he has of your professional experience using English

*For the most descriptive letter, it could be beneficial for the recommender to write in his native language.  Then, have the letter professionally translated and submit both versions of the letter to the school.

For more information for what IE looks for in candidates, watch the above video from Julián Trigo (in Spanish), or the below podcast(in English):

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