Harvard Letter of Recommendation Questions: 2023-2024
- How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (300 words)
- Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words)
Harvard Letter of Recommendation Example-1
1)How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (300 words)
I have worked with many talented young individuals throughout my professional career, but I found Devina’s performance highly outstanding.
Devina is a highly dependable person who played a vital role in the success of our company’s $30 million Series A funding round. After fundraising, she actively contributes to multiple efforts to shape our long-term strategy and improve the overall company’s performance. Through her efforts, below are her distinctive qualities that I have observed:
Structured thinking and highly analytical – Devina knows how data should be structured and analyzed to deliver powerful insights, helping us earn credibility during the fundraising due diligence process. She went the extra mile to collaborate with our Head of Business Intelligence and provide inputs to redefine critical metrics to monitor, add depth into detailed analysis, and even perfect the data visualization. I noticed that her action has stimulated the Business Intelligence team intellectually and improved the team’s performance in many aspects, for instance, in ensuring better data integrity.
Principled leadership – Devina has the moral compass to do right amidst challenging situations. Once, we trusted her to lead the due diligence process of an acquisition initiative. After an initial round of analysis, she managed to identify major red flags in the target company’s finances. Under pressure to grow fast, however, the project sponsor quickly decided to trade the liabilities with the potential to scale the business. Devina acknowledged that the short-term gain would not offset the long-term liabilities and was not afraid to stand up for her belief. She presented supplemental analyses, such as Pro-forma P&L post-acquisition. She also painted a clear picture of the pros & cons of the deal, which influenced the project sponsor to reconsider his decision. Her action has saved us $5 million and helped us nourish the openness & proactivity culture in the company.
2)Please describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words)
We were in a meeting to review the company’s performance, and the room was full of a team of juniors from various departments. Devina suggested that we assess customers’ stickiness with cohort analysis and propose that the team provide the in-depth study within an allotted time frame. I noticed that some people looked concerned as they were unsure how to start but were reluctant to clarify. She had seemingly set the expectation that everybody would understand her proposal.
I set aside time to give her detailed feedback: to sharpen her intuition in identifying the needs of young talents. As she ascends towards executive function, she will lead people of diverse skill sets and backgrounds. The key to thriving is fully apprehending each member’s strengths and weaknesses.
Devina was very receptive to this piece of feedback, and with her high adaptability, I saw her striving to refine her communication method:
When giving the assignment, she explains what to do and provides the whole picture of its purpose to make people feel engaged and developed.
She gives more detailed directions to junior members and shifts to high-level rules once the member has attained a certain level of mastery.
She continued to hone her intuition by actively participating in people development efforts within the company. For instance, she volunteers to mentor new joiners to accelerate their adaptation and transfer knowledge process.
3)(Optional) Is there anything else we should know? Please be concise.
Other than those as mentioned earlier, I believe that I have to highlight other positive qualities of Devina which truly set her apart from her outstanding peers:
- Her ability to empathize – Devina is currently spearheading a business incubation initiative she has been involved in since ideation. The incubation will see a change in how the company operates (i.e., from retail customer-based selling to an as-a-service model). Change bred insecurity within the team, and she noticed the discomfort. She spent time talking to each sales member, who aired their doubt about the viability of the business model that they had not seen work. With this revelation, Devina facilitated a workshop to discuss the mechanics of the new model and engaged the team to think through the solutions process with sample cases. She eventually convinced them that understanding the client’s business process and challenges is paramount to delivering value-adding solutions that differentiate us from the competition.
- Her desire to make significant impacts – Devina sources her energy from passion and intentions to make substantial impacts. She was already a top performer in her previous career, acing double promotions with the highest rating (Exceptional Performance), and was a few months away from solidifying her third promotion to a Manager role. However, she decided to make a bold transition to OY! because our mission struck a chord with her mission of creating long-lasting influences in the fintech space. I have worked with “just” outstanding talents and “mission-driven” outstanding talents, and the latter proved to be better at maintaining consistency in delivering high-quality performance.
Devina has grown a lot despite her short tenure, and with her willingness to listen and understand her audience, she can provide on-point and sharp inputs, earning her the trust of peers and team members beyond her age. I believe that Devina will continue to exhibit the same quality to enrich HBS’s classroom discussions and beyond.
I hope this brief gives you a feel for who Devina is as a person. I strongly encourage you to meet her and get to know her; in the meantime, please do not hesitate to call me on my cell phone at +62 813-1813-9814 if you have any questions or need further clarification.
Harvard Letter of Recommendation Example-2
1)Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization. (50 words)
I have known Ali for the last 5 years and I was his direct supervisor for his first year in Schlumberger. I was the field supervisor for the artificial lift segment in Midland Texas and Ali was a Field engineer in my team directly reporting to me.
2)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?) (500 words)
When compared to other individuals in similar roles, I believe, Ali’s principal strengths were his strategic thinking skills and his willingness to take initiative. When he was in my team, he consistently clearly outperformed his peers and exceeded expectations.
One one the first instance where I heard really good feedback about Ali’s work was in 2016. On one of his field assignments, Ali noticed there was a lack of tangible data being presented to the clients. When the field work was done, the client simply asked him if the well was producing oil or not, Ali responded and the client just took his word for it. This raised a red flag in his mind, as he thought there must be better systems monitoring this thing.
When he found out that unfortunately out in the field there is no such system in place. He then proposed the idea to me to make a dashboard collecting all this data and presenting it in a user-friendly way. It was clear that if he could show the clients this data in a user-friendly way, we could differentiate Schlumberger compared to the many other service companies in West Texas. With my approval, he created a nice dashboard showing actual production rates week over week which were then translated into easy to read graphs in a presentation template. This template was then tried and tested by my team and clients loved it.
This resulted in great client satisfaction reports which generated more returning customers, and in fact we have clients like XTO who would specifically request for Ali’s supervision on specific jobs in the New Mexico area.
Another situation where Ali showed great initiative was when we had a huge organizational issue in our yard. It would take our team on average 30-45 mins to locate a piece of equipment that needed to go out to the field. This was getting out of hand as time is money in the oilfield. Ali heard me complaining about this situation to our field service manager and requested me to give him details on the issue. To be completely honest I was impressed with how he dealt with the client presentations previously, so I just told him to go ahead and do whatever he could to fix it.
Few days later, he created a grid system for our yard. He wanted to paint the floor and organize our yard into grids. It was a nice idea and I gave him a team of 2 field engineer trainees, and they got it done in a couple days. This helped us sort out the equipment placement and catalogued everything and everyone in the yard loved it.
These 2 small instances proved to me that Ali was willing to go out of his way and take initiatives that fix problems and help make the work much better for clients and our own team members and that’s why he was rated among the best during his stay in my team.
3)Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (500 words)
When it comes to feedback, one thing that I clearly remember advising him on was when Ali seemed a little overwhelmed with the workload. It goes without saying that Schlumberger is very demanding and we purposefully tend to push our young field engineers to see how they deal with stress. This helps us weed out the people who are not cut out for the field experience. Ali was going through the same cycle and he would quickly get stressed out and feel like we were asking too much of him.
As he was only 20 years old at the time and me being his mentor, I decided to invite him to lunch to take a break from his busy schedule and give him some advice. I let him know that we were all once in that same position, and if he felt like we were being too hard on him that only meant that we thought he could handle the pressure. I told him that’s the kind of person we want in the company, someone who can show up to work, take on whatever comes his way and get it done. I told him clearly that no one was not out to get him, it is just our way of testing exceptional people. Ali took that to heart and since that day I noticed that Ali started to thrive under the pressure.
Another area where I have given him feedback over the years, is that he had a purely technical background with limited exposure to the business aspect of projects. One significant area where I feel he needed to improve is his overall understanding of the business structures and workflow processes. In one instance, our team was having a mid-year review, and normally we expect our young engineers to take the lead, I noticed Ali was not his normal confident self. The topic of the presentation was about budgeting and forecasting our inventory consumption.
Afterwards I pulled him to the side and spoke to him, my suspicion was right he was not conformable with presenting something he was not strong in. I let him know that this is something he needs to work on in order to develop his career in the oil industry. We look for leaders who know both the technical and business aspects of the industry. He took this constructive feedback very well and agreed with me. In august of 2017 before he left, he asked if he could present our Q3 performance reports to the team.
I have not worked directly with Ali for the last 4 years, but I have kept tabs on his career and I am excited to see him pursue an MBA from a top business school as he excels in the real world.
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