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  • Malvika Patil

Northwestern Kellogg MBA Recommendation Questions 2023 - 2024

Northwestern Kellogg looks for leaders who can influence and collaborate with people to discover innovative opportunities. This collaborative spirit is the cornerstone of Kellogg’s culture, and the stories are true: Kellogg students are known for their willingness to mentor each other, develop lasting bonds, and pay it forward. 

Kellogg’s supportive network is also equally diverse and inclusive - a key value that the AdCom looks for in MBA applicants, both through the application essays and the letters of recommendation.

How Many Letters of Recommendation Does Northwestern Kellogg Require?

Kellogg requires two letters of recommendations in your MBA application. Your first preference recommender should be a current supervisor or manager. The second should also come from someone in a professional capacity, ideally someone who can assess your work performance and leadership promise, like a former supervisor or manager, a client, or a previous employer.

In addition to the GMAC Common letter of Recommendation questions, Kellogg has one additional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion recommendation question that recommenders need to submit for the application to be considered complete.

Northwestern Kellogg MBA Recommendation Questions

Recommender Information

  • Context of Relationship

  • Highest Degree Earned

  • Are you a Kellogg Alumnus?

  • Have known candidate since:

  • Please comment briefly on the context of your interaction with the applicant and his/her role in your organization. (250 characters)

  • What has been the candidate’s most significant contribution to your organization? Provide measurable impact if applicable. (250 characters)

Leadership Assessment

Listed below you will find a section listing some competencies and character traits that contribute to successful leadership. For each item, please select the response corresponding to the behavior that the candidate most typically exhibits. Your candid, honest appraisal of the candidate will be helpful to the Admissions Committee.

Please assess the candidate on the following skills/qualities.

Results Orientation

  • Invents and delivers best-in-class standards and performance

  • Introduces incremental improvements to enhance business performance using robust analysis

  • Exceeds goals and raises effectiveness of organization

  • Overcomes obstacles to achieve goals

  • Fulfills assigned tasks

  • No Basis

Strategic Orientation

  • Implements a successful strategy that challenges other parts of the company or other players in the industry

  • Develops insights or recommendations that have shaped team or department strategy

  • Develops insights or recommendations that have improved business performance

  • Identifies opportunities for improvement within area of responsibility

  • Understands immediate issues of work or analysis

  • No Basis

Team Leadership

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

  • Actively engages the team to develop plans and resolve issues through collaboration; shows how work fits in with what others are doing

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

  • Assigns tasks to team members

  • Avoids leadership responsibilities; does not provide direction to team

  • No Basis

Influence and Collaboration

  • Builds enduring partnerships within and outside of organization to improve effectiveness, even at short-term personal cost

  • Brings others together across boundaries to achieve results and share best practices

  • Generates support from others for ideas and initiatives

  • Engages others in problem solving

  • Accepts input from others

  • No Basis


  • Presents views clearly; solicits opinions and concerns; discusses them openly

  • Presents views clearly and demonstrates understanding of the response of others

  • Presents views clearly and in a well-structured manner

  • Is generally to the point and organized

  • Sometimes rambles or is occasionally unfocused

  • No Basis

Information Seeking

  • Involves others who would not normally be involved including experts or outside organizations; may get them to seek out information

  • Does research by making a systematic effort over a limited period of time to obtain needed data or feedback

  • Asks a series of probing questions to get at the root of a situation or problem

  • Personally investigates problems by going directly to sources of information

  • Asks direct questions about problem at hand to those individuals immediately available

  • No Basis

Developing Others

  • Inspires and motivates others to develop by providing feedback and identifying new growth opportunities as well as supporting their efforts to change

  • Gives specific positive and negative behavioral feedback and provides unfailing support

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

  • Points out mistakes to support the development of others

  • Focuses primarily on own abilities

  • No Basis

Change Leadership

  • Builds coalition of supports and coordinates change across multiple individuals; may create champions who will mobilize others to change

  • Promotes change and mobilizes individuals to change behavior

  • Defines positive direction for change and persuades others to support it

  • Challenges status quo and identifies what needs to change

  • Accepts status quo; does not see the need for change

  • No Basis

Respect for Others

  • Uses understanding of others and self to resolve conflicts and foster mutual respect

  • Is respectful to all and generous with praise; ensures other opinions are heard

  • Is humble and respectful to all

  • Generally treats others with respect; usually shares praise and credit

  • Is sometimes self-absorbed or overly self-interested

  • No Basis


  • Is reliable and authentic even at some personal cost; works to ensure all members of the organization operate with integrity

  • Is reliable and authentic even at some personal cost; acts as a role model for the values of the organization

  • Acts consistently with stated intentions even in difficult circumstances

  • Generally acts consistently with stated intentions

  • Shows occasional lapses in trustworthy behavior

  • No Basis

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

  • The best I’ve encountered in my career

  • Outstanding (Top 5%)

  • Excellent (Top 10%)

  • Very good (well above average)

  • Average

  • Below Average

  • No Basis

If needed, please explain any rankings above. (250 characters; optional)

Do you recommend this candidate for Kellogg?

  • Recommend the candidate

  • Recommend the candidate with reservations

  • Do not recommend the candidate

Are you willing to speak with an admissions officer about this candidate?

Recommendation Questions 

  • Kellogg has a diverse student body and values students who are inclusive and encouraging of others with differing perspectives and backgrounds. Please tell us about a time when you witnessed the candidate living these values. (300 words)

  • How does the candidate’s performance compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (300 words)

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

  • (Optional) Is there anything else you would like us to know?


Leadership Assessment

Here’s what Kellogg's Leadership Assessment rating scale looks like:

Kellogg's leadership assessment consists of 10 broad skills/qualities. For each of these skills, your recommender will rate you on a unique 0-5 rating scale, with 0 being 'No Basis', and 5 being the highest.

Your recommender should read the scale for each skill/quality carefully. Guide them to rate you according to your strengths and weaknesses. That means that they shouldn't simply give you the highest rating for each skill/quality, but aim to provide a balanced view. It's best to select 7-8 skills/qualities where you get the '5' rating, 2-3 where you get the '4' rating, and 1 where you can be marked '3'. If they mark you '3' in any skill, it should be explained in the 250 character optional essay below.

Overall, they should select ‘Recommend this candidate’. 

Recommendation Questions

1. Kellogg has a diverse student body and values students who are inclusive and encouraging of others with differing perspectives and backgrounds. Please tell us about a time when you witnessed the candidate living these values. (300 words)

This question is unique to Kellogg. Your recommender is asked to provide a specific example of a time when you demonstrated your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Like the EQ question in NYU Stern, think of this as a team/community story. The example that your recommender provides should demonstrate how you identified the need for a more inclusive space, action, or policy and how you worked to make it happen. Your recommender should include how your actions impacted others positively and helped you grow personally.  

2. How does the candidate’s performance compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (300 words)

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

Given the word limit, your recommender can discuss 2-3 brief anecdotes, each highlighting a distinct strength or quality. It's best if these strengths align with Kellogg's values:

  • A high-impact, low-ego perspective

  • Creativity and innovation

  • Collaboration with empathy

  • Intentionality and purpose

  • Empowered network of support

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

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

For this answer, your recommender should select a personal or professional weakness that you have worked to overcome. This should be demonstrated in the form of an anecdote (again, in the SCAR format) where your weakness presented a challenge, how you received feedback from your recommender, and what actions you took to improve in this area. Ensure that this weakness isn’t too generic or ‘fake’, like “being too attentive to a project”. Your weakness should show self-awareness, your ability to learn from a situation, and your receptiveness to constructive criticism. 

Kellogg looks for candidates who can learn from their colleagues and managers, and in turn mentor others. Guide your recommender to show your fit with these values. 

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

Don’t ask your recommender to fill this field out just because they can! Reserve the Optional Answer for any important information that isn’t covered in the above questions, or to further explain a point made previously. Recommenders typically leave this 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.


Want personalized support for your letters of recommendation? Book a chat with us today!


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