Posts Tagged 'Recommendation letter'

Who should be my reference? What should they say about me?

Very common question we get –> “Who would be a good reference for me if I’m applying to the Fisher MHRM program? What should a good letter of reference include?”

The primary criterion you should use when determining who you should approach to be your reference is “someone who knows me WELL enough to write a STRONG letter of reference.” A strong letter of reference is the sort of recommendation that introduces relevant information about the subject (e.g. you) that we would not be aware of if we had not read the letter. For example, a letter that regurgitates and summarizes easy-to-obtain information is NOT a strong letter of reference. If a recommender references your GPA, for example, this is not unique information – we’ll see your GPA on your transcripts. If a recommender states simply that “(you) are an active member of the XYZ Community Service Organization,” this is not valuable information, especially if your involvement with that organization is listed on your resume.

A more valuable recommendation will provide the admissions committee with information about you that the committee could not obtain elsewhere. For example, if your reference is a professor for which you had a class, him or her saying that “you’re a good writer” is interesting. It becomes very useful for the admissions committee if that recommender states why s/he believes you are a good writer. In other words, s/he provides proof to support his/her opinion of you. This is much more effective that simply saying “(you) got an A in my class – s/he is a very good student.” Or if your recommender wants to comment on your involvement in the XYZ Community Service Organization, this is effective if s/he discusses what you accomplished in the organization, any positive results that occurred as a result of your involvement, and why s/he believes your involvement is indicative of your potential for success in this program. In summary, the best letters of reference do not simply tell us “what” –> the best letters explain whyand in detail. The best letters talk about those characteristics about you that, in their opinions, indicate your potential for success in the program if you were to be admitted and enroll.

Who should you approach for your recommendations? If you’re still in school or you’re a recent graduate, academic/faculty references carry the most weight with the admissions committee. If you have been out of school for a few years or more, it’s likely that professional references may be most appropriate in your situation. Do not get letters of reference from family, friends, and/or friends of your family <– these type of letters are judged negatively by the admissions committee.

Although your friends may be super, do not approach them to be your references for your graduate application

We look forward to reviewing your applications!

Is one of your references MIA?

Is a missing reference the last piece of your application puzzle?

We have received a few inquiries from applicants who have submitted their applications and one or more of their listed references have not completed the online recommendation form.  We generally get a question like this:  “I listed a professor/former supervisor as a reference in my application and it appears his/her reference is the only one missing. I am unable to get in touch with him/her, as s/he no longer works at my company (or is at the university) and I am afraid s/he may have forgotten about my reference for my application. Can I select another person in his/her place in order to complete my application?”

You have two options.

Option 1 – replacing reference with an electronic reference

If you wish to replace the missing reference with an electronic reference, send an email to Include your full name and email address – specifically, the name and email address you used when you submitted your application. Also include your applicant ID number if available. In your email, include the follwing information:

  • First Name of your recommender
  • Last Name of your recommender
  • Email address for your recommender
  • Relationship to your recommender (e.g. supervisor, professor, etc.)
  • Your recommender’s job title
  • Your recommender’s place of employment (e.g. company, university name, etc.)
  • The number of years and months your recommender has known you

Option 2 – replacing reference with a paper reference

If you wish to replace the missing reference with an paper reference, you do not need to change anything on your submitted application. Simply download and print the paper reference form, complete/sign/date page 1 of the form and provide both page 1 and 2 to your reference with a stamped, addressed envelope. (For the mailing address, it is critical you use the following address: MLHR ADMISSIONS; 100 Gerlach Hall; 2108 Neil Ave; Columbus OH 43210-1144.)

If this situation applies to you, I hope this information helps! Let us know if you have any questions. We’re here to help!

What’s a good reference for your application?

Do not overlook the importance of references in your overall application

The Fisher Master of Labor & Human Resources program requires you submit at least three references for your complete application application. There is some good advice out there on what is an effective reference as part of a graduate business program application. Here’s our take:

Who should write your reference letters?

1) The admissions committee wants to see references from people who know you well and can comment and provide evidence to support their opinions about you on your potential for success in a rigorous graduate business program.

2) Because most students applying to this program are undergraduate seniors at time of application, references from academic sources (professors, specifically) carry the most weight. References from non academic sources (e.g. internship supervisors, etc.) are good – but we would not classify them as “primary” references. Because the application requires three references, we expect to see at least three academic references.

3) Personal references do not carry much, if any weight, in an admission decision. If you want to be viewed as a serious applicant, references from family friends and/or roommates are not a good idea. (And, yes, we have seen references from family friends and roommates before!)

4) Teaching assistants do not carry much weight in the admissions process. Reason – they have not been in academia for a long time and their frames of reference are relatively small and narrow. Academic instructors who teach as their full time “jobs” (e.g. tenured professors, etc.) who have been doing this for some time will be your most effective academic references.

5) Academic advisers are a mixed bag … sometimes they’re effective, sometimes they’re not effective. Remember that an ineffective reference is one that that simply summarizes information from your resume and/or your essays. Academic advisers are sometime prone to doing this “summary” type of reference. If your academic adviser is also someone you have had as an instructor in one or more of your classes, s/he is more likely to be a relatively more effective reference.

Strong references should be able to discuss:

  • The validity of your claims of academic excellence, professional success and personal values
  • Your specific qualifications, including the depth of your academic and professional experiences
  • Your unique traits that are not covered anywhere else in the application

In summary, a strong letter of reference stands on its own. If it provides new information on you that is not found elsewhere in your application, this is a sign of a good reference. If it simply summarizes information found elsewhere in your application, this is a sign of a weak reference.

How many references should you get?

The MLHR program application requires three references to be submitted as part of a complete application. (Only complete applications are reviewed for admission decisions.) Sometimes, an applicant will ask us, “I can get four or five very good references. How do I choose the ‘best’ three to submit?” Our response always is “If you can get four or five very good references, then get all four or five. As long as the four or five fit the criteria of being a *strong* reference, then get all four or five.” You will never be penalized for submitting “too many” strong references!

How should you approach your (potential) references?

How you approach your references sends a clear signal to your potential references as to how serious of a candidate you really are. Additionally, by doing some additional prep work up front, you will be doing a favor to your references by giving them clear direction on how they should approach your recommendations.

Never simply give the reference form to your references. You should always make an appointment to meet with each of your potential references. Be prepared to discuss with each of them the following information:

  • Briefly summarize the reasons why you are applying to this program
  • Let him/her know why you believe s/he would be a good reference for your application for admission.
  • Be prepared to discuss any issues or concerns your potential reference may have with respect to your candidacy for this program

If you get the sense that your potential reference may be giving you a lukewarm or perfunctory letter of recommendation, you should politely withdraw your request. It is better to spend time to get strong letters of reference than simply ask the first three people that come to mind. In the long run, your application will be stronger for your extra effort.

Although an applicant’s application will not be accepted or denied based on a single letter of reference, your references taken together are a very critical part of your application. Good references make your application stronger – weak/lukewarm references weaken your application.

I hope this helps give you some additional guidance on who and how you should approach for your references to the program. If you have any questions, please contact us.