Most business schools will ask your recommenders to describe a weakness of yours, or a time when they offered you constructive feedback. You may face great temptation to ask your recommenders to avoid writing anything critical or to present a “disguised strength” as a weakness. So, your recommender might write something like one of the entirely disingenuous statements that follow, believing that he/she is helping you, when, in fact, he/she is not:
“John needs to learn to balance his work and home life better – he is always at work making sure that he stays on top of every detail.”
“Mary is a perfectionist, and holds others, who just may not be capable, to the same high standard that she holds herself.”
Alternatively, a recommender who is afraid of hurting you may write about a “professional development” weakness, focusing on a business skill you have yet to have the opportunity to pick up, rather than an area that you need to improve upon:
“Rodney is an excellent communicator in small group settings; he has not, however, yet had the opportunity to give presentations to large groups and I think doing so is the next important step in his career path.”
“To move to the next level, David needs to start sourcing his own deals, rather than just working on deals that others have found.”
It may be surprising, but admissions officers understand that there is no such thing as a perfect employee/MBA candidate and are skeptical of the sincerity of any recommender that will present you as such. Such comments will do nothing to help the admissions committee get to know you better, but will undermine the integrity of the letter itself. We recognize that you do not want your recommenders to be brutal or describe unprofessional traits, (e.g. “Denise is lazy”), but your recommendation letters should be honest and provide detailed reflection from a critical (not negative) eye. Remember, when it comes to praise, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
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