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  • Malvika Patil

Berkeley Haas MBA Recommendation Questions 2023 - 2024

Updated: Apr 5

Berkeley Haas firmly believes in four defining principles of leadership: Question the Status Quo, Confidence Without Attitude, Student Always and, Beyond Yourself. 

With these pillars defining the school’s culture, it aims to build a cohort of leaders from diverse backgrounds who think outside the box, show humility, are open to learning, and who create positive impact for others. In fact, you’ll have to demonstrate how you align with these values in your Haas application essays. 

But that’s the only place where you’ll need to show your fit with the school. Your recommenders are asked to comment on your performance, strengths, and weaknesses to help the school get an outsider’s objective perspective on how you fit in. Here’s what the Haas MBA recommendation questions look like.

How Many Letters of Recommendation Does Berkeley Haas Require?

Berkeley Haas requires two letters of recommendations, preferably one from your current supervisor or manager. For Haas, the title or the status of your recommender is not the focal point. They want people who can comment on the value you bring to your firm or organization. Ideally, choose someone with whom you've interacted with at length so that they can make an informed assessment of your skills, accomplishments, and personal qualities. 

However, Haas strongly discourages applicants to submit recommendations from professors, co-workers, someone you’ve supervised, or personal connections. In case you are unable to obtain one from your current manager, you are asked to explain this in your application material. 

Like most schools, Berkeley Haas uses the GMAC Common Letter of Recommendation format to frame its recommendation questions.

Berkeley Haas MBA Recommendation Questions

Section 1: Recommender Information

  • If you are a Berkeley-Haas alum, please let us know from which program and year you graduated.

Section 2: Leadership Assessment

In this section, you will find 12 competencies and character traits that contribute to successful leadership. The competencies and character traits are grouped into five categories:

  • Achievement

  • Influence

  • People

  • Personal Qualities

  • Cognitive Abilities

For each competency, please select the one button that corresponds to the behavior that you have seen the applicant most consistently exhibit. We acknowledge that all applicants have both areas of strength and areas of development. Your candid and honest appraisal will assist in evaluation of the applicant.  Please assume that each level builds upon behaviors of the previous level.



  • No basis for judgment

  • Reluctant to take on new tasks; waits to be told what to do; defers to others

  • Willing to step in and take charge when required to do so

  • Takes charge spontaneously when problem needs attention

  • Volunteers for new work challenges; proactively puts in extra effort to accomplish critical or difficult tasks

  • Proactively seeks high-impact projects; steps up to challenges even when things are not going well

Results Orientation:

  • No basis for judgment

  • Focuses on fulfilling activities at hand; unsure how work relates to goals

  • Takes actions to overcome obstacles to achieve goals

  • Independently acts to exceed goals and plans for contingencies

  • Documents activities and outcomes to learn from past; introduces incremental improvements to raise the effectiveness of team

  • Invents new approaches with measurably better results; works to deliver best-in-class performance improvements


Communication, Professional Impression, Poise & Presence:

  • No basis for judgment

  • Struggles to get point across; neglects to understand audience’s input or perspective; lacks confidence and gets flustered under pressure

  • Works to get point across; acknowledges feedback; reframes statements when necessary to make them clearer; speaks politely; remains composed in known circumstances

  • Present views clearly and logically structures content for a road audience; listens and responds to feedback; prepares in advance to appear confident; leaves a positive and professional impression; responds confidently in unfamiliar situations

  • Uses tailored language that appeals to specific groups; restates what others have said to check for understanding; comes across as confident; responds rapidly and strongly to crisis; looked to for advice and guidance

  • Structures content for senior-level meetings; maintains composure when challenged; solicits opinions and concerns, discusses them openly and adjusts communication; when in strong conflict or crisis, remains cool under pressure; channels strong emotion into positive action

Influence and Collaboration:

  • No basis for judgment

  • Does not seek input and perspective of others

  • Accepts input from others and engages them in problem solving

  • Seeks first to understand perspectives of others; takes actions to gain their support for ideas and initiatives

  • Uses tailored approaches to connect with others, influence, and achieve results

  • Uses tailored influence approaches to create and leverage a network of strategically chosen individuals to improve collective outcomes


Respect for Others:

  • No basis for judgment

  • Unwilling to acknowledge others’ points of view

  • Open to considering others’ views when confronted or offered

  • Invites input from others because of expressed respect for them and their views

  • Praises people publicly for their good actions; ensures that others’ opinions are heard before their own

  • Uses empathy and personal experience to resolve conflicts and foster mutual respect; reinforces respect with public praise when individuals solicit and use input from others

Team Leadership:

  • No basis for judgment

  • Struggles to delegate effectively (e.g. micromanages); does not organize activities or provide appropriate information to complete tasks

  • Assigns tasks and tells people what to do; checks when they are done

  • Solicits ideas and perspectives from the team; structures activities; holds members accountable

  • Actively engages the team to develop plans and resolve issues through collaboration; shows the impact of individual/team contributions

  • Recruits others into duties or roles based on insight into individual abilities; rewards those who exceed expectations; provides strong organizational support

Developing Others:

  • No basis for judgment

  • Focuses only on one’s own growth; critical of others’ efforts to develop

  • Encourages people to develop; points out mistakes to help people develop and praises them for improvements

  • Gives specific positive and negative behavioral feedback to support the development of others

  • Provides overarching practical guiding principles and recommendations that are applicable in multiple situations to direct or focus efforts on specific areas of development

  • Identifies potential in others; inspires others to develop by providing feedback, mentoring/coaching, and identifying new growth opportunities as well as supporting their effort to change

Personal Qualities

Trustworthiness/ Integrity:

  • No basis for judgment

  • Follows the crowd; takes path of least resistance; gives in under pressure

  • Acts consistently with stated intentions, values, or beliefs when it is easy to do so

  • Acts spontaneously and consistently with stated intentions, values, or beliefs despite opposition

  • Initiates actions based on values or beliefs even though the actions may come with reputational risk; demonstrates the values of the team or organization publicly

  • Demonstrates high personal integrity even at personal cost; holds people accountable to the team or organizational values

Adaptability/ Resilience:

  • No basis for judgment

  • Prefers existing ways of doing things; fears failure; becomes anxious under challenging situations

  • Adapts to new methods and procedures when required to do so; remains calm in unfamiliar situations until confronted with obstacle

  • Champions adoption of new initiatives and processes; exhibits level-headedness in most environments including challenging ones; persists until obstacle is overcome

  • Seeks out disruptions as an opportunity for improvement; remains optimistic and forward-looking in difficult situations that may result in failure

  • Energized by projects with high uncertainty but potential for high reward; seeks to be the first into unknown or unfamiliar situations; welcomes learning opportunities created by failure; learns from mistakes and rebounds quickly from setbacks

Self Awareness:

  • No basis for judgment

  • Lacks awareness of how he/she is perceived; denies or offers excuses when confronted

  • Acknowledges fault or performance problem when confronted with concrete example or data

  • Describes own key strengths and weaknesses accurately; welcomes feedback from others and discusses opportunities to change with select individuals

  • Actively seeks out feedback to explicitly address desired improvement areas or build on strengths; explores reasons for problems openly, including own faults

  • Seeks out challenging and potentially risky experiences to improve; identifies and engages with resources—people, processes, or content—to maximize strengths or mitigate weaknesses


Strategic Orientation:

  • No basis for judgment

  • Focuses on completing work without understanding implications

  • Understands immediate issues or implications of work or analysis

  • Develops insights or recommendations within area of responsibility that have improved near-term business performance

  • Develops insights or recommendations within area of responsibility that have shaped team/organization strategy and will have impact on long-term business performance

  • Develops insights or recommendations beyond area of responsibility with impact on long-term business strategy and performance

Problem Solving:

  • No basis for judgment

  • Avoids problems; when faced with problems, sticks to what worked before, or chooses an obvious path

  • Offers solutions when the risk is low; focuses on immediate, short-term implications instead of the big picture

  • Looks beyond the obvious; identifies and focuses on the critical information needed to understand a problem, identifies root cause(s), and comes up with reasonable solutions

  • Gathers and analyzes key information using complex methods or several layers deep; integrates perspectives from a variety of sources to arrive at unexpected but practical and effective solutions

  • Applies logic to break complex problems down into manageable parts or sub-problems; solves tough and interconnected problems and can explain how the pieces are connected

Optional Question: Is there anything about your competency ratings on which you’d like to comment?

Based on your professional experience, how do you rate this applicant compared to her/ his peer group?

  • Unable to assess

  • Below average

  • Average

  • Very good (well above average)

  • Excellent (top 10%)

  • Outstanding (top 5%)

  • The best encountered in my career

Overall, I…

  • Do not recommend this applicant

  • Recommend this applicant, with reservations

  • Recommend this applicant

  • Enthusiastically recommend this applicant

Section 3: Recommendation Questions 

  • Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization. (Up to 50 words)

  • How does the applicant’s performance compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (e.g. what are the applicant’s principal strengths?) (Up to 500 words)

  • Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (Up to 500 words)

  • (Optional) Is there anything else we should know?


Leadership Assessment 

Here’s what Haas’s Leadership Assessment rating scale looks like:

Haas’s leadership assessment comprises a leadership assessment grid with 12 competencies and character traits divided into five categories. For each of these competencies and traits, your recommender will rate you on a unique rating scale.

We advise against selecting the highest ratings for all 12 questions. Doing so may suggest a lack of sincere engagement with the recommendation form by your. Encourage your recommender to carefully consider the options for each prompt, selecting 9-10 characteristics where they believe you excel the most and give you the best ratings, 2-3 where you perform well and command the second best ratings, and 1 where they can give you the middle rating (only if major improvement is needed!). This balanced approach will provide a more accurate and nuanced assessment of your strengths and areas for growth. 

The optional question provides your recommender with the opportunity to comment on their ratings. In case they’ve given you the middle rating in one of the character traits,  they can use this space to explain why. Overall, your recommender should select “Recommend this applicant to Berkeley Haas.” 

Recommendation Questions

The recommender will have to answer 3 mandatory questions. They may also answer the optional question, only if required. 

  1. Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization. (Up to 50 words)

In this answer, your recommender needs to state their position in the firm, discuss the context of your relationship, and the frequency of your interaction. Additionally, they should briefly discuss the role you play in the firm. 

  1. How does the applicant’s performance compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (e.g. what are the applicant’s principal strengths?) (Up to 500 words)

Here, your recommender will assess your performance at work, strengths, and personal qualities relative to their interactions with your peers. 

Typically, recommenders offer 2-3 anecdotes, each highlighting a distinct strength or quality. It's best if these strengths align with Haas's values:

  • Championing bold ideas and taking intelligent risks 

  • Empathy, Inclusion and Trust 

  • Data driven decision making 

  • Curiosity to seek out learning opportunities  

  • Ethical and responsible leadership 

  • Ability to put collective good above self-interest 

Lastly, we advise using the SCAR method (Situation, Challenge, Action and Results) to structure your anecdotes and make them clear for the AdCom member reading your recommendation. 

  1. Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (Up to 500 words)

In this answer, your recommender is expected to discuss a professional or a personal weakness they’ve identified and offered you feedback on. The best way to share this weakness is in the form of a story structured using the SCAR format. Advise them to dive into the details - when they noticed this weakness, how it impacted your work or your team members, the specifics of the feedback they offered, and the steps you took to address it. 

Note: Make sure that they’re providing a genuine evaluation here. A fake weakness or a strength masked as a weakness will be obvious for the AdCom and hurt your application. 

  1. (Optional) Is there anything else we should know?

Key word: optional. Ask your recommender to use this space only if they haven’t had the opportunity to discuss something important about your candidacy in the other questions. This could include a clarification or special circumstance they’d like to point out. In our experience, the majority of recommenders leave this prompt blank. 

Our complete Recommender Guide course on has all the advice (and sample letters based on real applicants) you need to create a compelling letter of recommendation.


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