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  • Malvika Patil

Yale SOM MBA Recommendation Questions 2023 - 2024

Yale School of Management firmly believes that businesses have the potential to change the world. The school wants to build a diverse cohort that is aligned on a common goal - to create real-world impact while launching a rewarding career. This focus on social enterprise is what makes Yale SOM’s MBA program stand out. 

So, as an applicant, it’s important to clearly show what difference you want to make in the world - whether it’s in your industry, community, or otherwise. In addition to your essays, your letters of recommendation should indicate your potential to create big-picture impact.

How Many Letters of Recommendation Does Yale SOM Require?

As a Yale SOM applicant, you are expected to submit two letters of recommendations in your MBA application, preferably from people who work with you currently, or who have worked with you in the past. Yale is interested in a third person perspective of your leadership and team attitude in an organizational setting. 

That’s why the school strongly urges applicants to get at least one of the two recommendations from their current manager. In case you cannot submit a recommendation from your current manager, there’s space for you to explain this in the application. 

For the second recommendation, Yale SOM prefers recommendations from a senior colleague at work instead of peers or subordinates. However, the title they hold in the organization is not as valuable as the depth and quality of your work relationship. 

If you are a family business applicant, the school recommends that you ask for a recommendation from your vendors or suppliers. For entrepreneurs, you can request a recommendation from a board member or Venture Capital Fund manager who has closely worked with you. 

Like most other business schools, Yale frames its Letter of Recommendation questions using the GMAC Common letter of Recommendation format. 

Yale SOM MBA Recommendation Questions

Recommender Information

  • Did you graduate from the Yale School of Management?

  • Context of Relationship

  • Nature of relationship

Leadership Assessment Grid

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

Recommendation Questions 

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

  • How does the performance of the applicant compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? (E.g. what are the applicant’s principal strengths?) (Recommended word count: 500 words)

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

  • Are you in a position to know whether the applicant is sponsored for the MBA by his or her current employer? If so, please comment.

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


Leadership Assessment Grid

Here’s what Yale SOM's Leadership Assessment Grid looks like:

Yale SOM’s leadership assessment grid includes 12 competencies grouped under 5 broad categories. For each competency, there is a unique rating scale wherein the recommenders are expected to rate the applicant’s skills using 5 options. 

As MBA Admissions Consultants, we recommend that your recommender avoids giving the highest ratings for all of them. Doing so would appear to be insincere and demonstrate a lack of engagement and authenticity. So, please request your recommenders to genuinely engage with the leadership assessment and choose the best ratings for 9-10 questions, second best ratings for 2-3 and the middle rating for 1 question which they believe to be your weakness. This will enable the AdCom to really understand the strengths and areas of improvement in your profile. Overall, your recommender should select 'Enthusiastically recommend this applicant'.

Recommendation Questions

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

This answer requires your recommender to share the context of your relationship, the frequency of contact they’ve had with you, a brief synopsis of your role and interactions with them.

2. How does the applicant’s performance compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? (E.g. what are the applicant’s principal strengths?) (Recommended word count: 500 words)

Here, your recommender should assess your strengths, professional skills, and personal qualities by benchmarking them against their interactions with your peers at work. 

Ideally, your recommender should write 2-3 anecdotes highlighting each distinct quality or strength. It’s important to show your alignment with Yale SOM’s values, given that this is a key evaluation metric for the AdCom. These values are:

  • Demonstrated purpose and care for others

  • Measuring success through impact 

  • Academic rigor

  • Collaboration with the Yale community 

Since your recommender will be using stories to communicate your strengths, we’d advise that they use the SCAR method (Situation, Challenge, Action and Results) to structure the anecdotes clearly and concisely.

3. Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (Recommended word count: 500 words)

This answer requires your recommender to share a personal or a professional weakness that they have observed during their interactions with you. Ask them to share an anecdote where this weakness presented itself, how it impacted your performance at work, and what feedback they shared with you. Conclude with specific steps you took to address this weakness and improve yourself. 

Similar to the previous answer, your recommender should use the SCAR format to structure the weakness anecdote. Generally, recommenders tend to find it difficult to identify a weakness that’s genuine and yet does not impact your chances of candidacy. So, set up a brainstorming conversation with your recommender to help them ideate; the AdCom can easily tell when your weakness is inauthentic or contrived! 

4. Are you in a position to know whether the applicant is sponsored for the MBA by his or her current employer? If so, please comment.

If you are being sponsored by your current firm, advise your recommender to share this information. If your firm does not offer any sponsorships, or if you’ve chosen not to disclose your MBA plans with your current firm, it will not be viewed negatively. Your recommender can choose to add a brief note on why you are not being sponsored by the firm. Short and succinct answers are appreciated.

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

Optional answers are exactly what they say they are: optional. Most recommenders leave this one blank. So, if you’re wondering whether you should dig deeper to fill this space up, please don’t! Encourage your recommender to use this space only if there are extenuating circumstances that need to be clarified. 

I am submitting my recommendation letter in this language:




Yale SOM accepts recommendations in three languages. Out of the dropdown, please choose the language you’ve chosen to submit the recommendation in. 

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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