McCombs Letter of Recommendation Questions
- 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)
- The college 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)
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McCombs Letter of Recommendation Example – 1
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)
I have known Basith for two years. Since 2019, I have been in charge of commissioning the new MS Block project which comprises three production plants. Basith joined my team in 2020 as lead engineer for commissioning one of the major plants.
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?) (Up to 500 words)
Basith is one of the youngest engineers in the company to be put in charge of commissioning an entire plant. This responsibility was handed over based on his past performance and shows senior management’s confidence in his abilities to lead a big team on big projects.
As his direct supervisor, qualities that stood out for me were down to earth humble attitude and the courage to take calculated risks while leading a team.
From my previous experience in project management, one key factor that I found missing in most team leads is the ability to seamlessly interact with the blue colored workmen who do the hard labor that makes any project a success. I have seen a lot of engineers with a bossy attitude when dealing with juniors and the blue colored workforce. But with Basith, I have seen him show his respect to the team, be it workmen or Engineers. I remember many occasions when he discussed the overall strategy and brainstormed ideas with the workmen and showed due respect to their opinions. This bridged the gap between the visions of the top management and the actual implementation at the site. He cared for even their personal problems. He collaborated with the team and blended well with the members, making them feel like he was one among them.
Initially, in the project, as a company standard we don’t give leadership roles to workmen. They are restricted to qualified engineers only. But Basith understood from his interactions with the workmen how much they wanted these leadership roles, which are rare in their careers. He insisted on giving such roles to them, and this approach bore its fruits when we saw the productivity of the people increase through this. Once the project was completed, I saw him taking the initiative to train them in other aspects, which relieved me of my earlier fears. Seeing him treat day labourers with respect definitely left a good impression on me and my entire senior leadership.
Another important trait of Basith is the courage he shows when faced with difficulties. For instance, to meet the target completion date, he suggested implementing an unconventional approach to the project execution. He proposed to commission a part of the plant, which was already constructed, and not to wait for the entire plant to be ready. This was contrary to the usual approach, and never had such an endeavor been taken up in the refinery due to the safety threats it had. He put in place all the safety measures and even got approval for this approach from the General Manager. The general Manager was initially opposed to this, but by showing that his team is well prepared for mitigating any risks Basith was able to convince the General manager. He built confidence in the team to take up this risk by constantly guiding them on the necessary precautions they should take.
Frankly, I felt that the target was not achievable, but Basith did not give up on it. His belief in the team and his passion for the mission made him stand out when we completed the project ahead of schedule.
3. 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)
n terms of constructive feedback, I think 1 thing we have often discussed was his negotiation skills and setting realistic targets.
While Basith possessed leadership capabilities and practical knowledge, I found him lacking skills in negotiating with senior management when it came to setting expectations and target dates for completing his projects. He was sometimes pressured to take up unrealistic targets, which later became a burden and forced him to work overtime to meet.
Once in a review meeting, the Executive Director gave him a target to complete a part of the work that required the involvement of a technology consultant at site. The target was highly ambitious and both of us understood that it would be impossible to achieve. But he could not negotiate with the higher-ups, and he made himself believe that putting in some extra effort could get the work done. But, given the circumstances of Covid, the consultant arrived late, and even though he tried alternative approaches, the work got delayed.
I advised him of the necessity to negotiate by showing proper analysis of the situation at hand. I urged him not to yield to the demands of the top management under pressure and showed him real-time how to negotiate in a subsequent meeting to make things clearer. My point was that he might be able to manage such situations in the short run by putting in extra hours. But in the long run, however, a practical approach would be through negotiations.
He took the feedback positively and made a conscious effort to prepare for the best and worst-case scenarios that would arise from any critical meeting. He started asking deep questions to the top management, which helped him explore new possibilities and gave him time before making the next move.
I have found the negotiation strategies that I learned during my MBA really helpful in such scenarios, and I am sure that Basith will be able to sharpen his negotiation skills much more through the global exposure he will gain from the MBA at McCombs.
McCombs Letter of Recommendation Example – 2
1. How does the candidate’s performance compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples. (300 words)
Archana and I have worked together for almost 3 years, from early 2018 until now. I am the Director of Engineering at Cummins Inc, and I have supervised Archana while she led multi-discipline groups to execute several critical cost saving projects for the North American markets. I believe I am well-positioned to offer feedback on her professional skills and potential.
Three characteristics that set Archana apart from her peers are her ability to take on diverse challenging assignments, quickly learn new skills, and her willingness to help her teammates to complete their projects, often going well beyond her assigned work.
Archana does not shy away from challenges and willingly takes on complex and diverse projects which have a major impact on our organization. Throughout her career she has had to work on projects that range well outside her knowledge base. Her work has directly impacted Cummins’ bottom line, and in just two short years, she delivered $7 million in annual savings to the company. Because of her excellent leadership and wide-ranging problem-solving skills, she was recently promoted to lead the global cost reduction team. Archana, to no surprise, has progressed rapidly in her career compared to her peers.
Archana is a quick learner. When she started in the cost reduction role, she had little experience with the business and finance tools used in the industry, but she quickly developed the ability to assemble and interpret NPV calculations and understand how to perform thorough risk analysis. During the Covid-19 crisis, she worked on supply chain continuity projects to ensure production was not impacted due to part shortages. This work was unlike anything she had led before. Despite this, Archana did an excellent job by quickly understanding and overcoming supply chain challenges. Her work and leadership were directly responsible for preventing our global manufacturing facilities from shutting down.
Another quality that impressed me was her willingness to go above and beyond to help achieve not just individual but team success. In early 2019, two team members left the organization. Archana willingly stepped up to lead their projects. She “hit the ground running” and led these projects with minimal impact to the original timeline. This helped the cost reduction team in successfully achieving the yearly business targets.
Beyond her work responsibilities, she has also led the Corporate Responsibility Education team. Her strong work ethic and leadership ability has made non-profit education programs and ‘Women in STEM’ initiatives very successful. She was awarded the prestigious Cummins Social Impact Award for her community initiatives. In addition, she was also nominated and sponsored for the County Leadership program.
To summarize, Archana is a very skilled and driven individual. I have no doubt that she will go far in her career and make a major impact on her company and community. If accepted to your program, I have the utmost confidence that Archana will not only succeed but will add immense value to the classroom and her fellow classmates. If you have any additional questions or would like further details on my experience with Archana, please do not hesitate to contact me.
2. Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the candidate. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response. (250 words)
When Archana began working for me, she often shared more than the required details during her meetings, especially during leadership updates. While engineers are often known for their ability to go deep into details, she needed to change her approach as the new role was more business oriented and messages needed to be curated based on the audience.
I discussed with Archana the need to manage her information sharing process in order to improve meeting efficiency and clarity. She very quickly took this advice to heart. First, she asked for examples of teammates who had mastered this skill and sought their feedback. In addition, she took a self-study course to learn industry best practices around leadership conversations. Within weeks, she began to change her behavior. Her meetings became more structured, and every meeting agenda and presentation was carefully designed to suit the audience. She was disciplined about what detail to share, offering to go into further detail but only diving deep in response to a direct query. This was a huge accomplishment as it helped in drastically improving leadership meeting efficiency.
Throughout this process I was extremely impressed by Archana’s willingness to seek feedback, but more importantly her proactive role in developing her own skill set. Her action to take a self-study course is unusual and highly valued. Archana still requests feedback on her information delivery, acknowledging that she wants to continue to develop this skill.
By the end of her time in that role, she was very effectively leading and coordinating multi-discipline personnel and was extremely efficient with information and resource management. Her willingness to seek feedback, take initiative in improving her skill set and adapt her behavior in response to feedback are excellent qualities that will prove extremely useful to her in the long run.
3. The college 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)
In 2017, Archana met the members of the LCNFC non-profit organization and very eagerly joined them in improving the lives of the low-income groups in the community (In our organization Archana organizes events for LCNFC- I got involved in one of the event and got to know about her work). (When I talked to her about this initiative, she shared that …) To better understand the challenges faced by the poor, she participated in the United Way Poverty Simulation Workshop where she experienced the desperate situations faced by the community members and learnt ways in which she could effectively help. (That’s when I got to know about her drive to be a socially responsible leader..her passion to support the underprivileged people…) I was impressed by her willingness to gain first-hand experience, empathize and directly work with the low-income groups to find feasible solutions to their problems.
Recognizing the need within the community, over the last four years Archana has led multiple events and fundraisers for the LCNFC group. For example, after visiting a low-income neighborhood, she recognized that most households did not have the funds to buy basic hygiene products such as body wash and detergent. So, she worked on securing funds and volunteers to buy and distribute hygiene kits to the needy. She also worked with Cummins leadership and the non-profit leadership board to make the program sustainable by securing event funding support for the next five years. Additionally, at the end of every year, Archana also helps in organizing the ‘Angles of Love’ event through which Christmas Gifts are provided to kids from low-income families.This is her way of driving inclusion in the society and community.
Her ability to successfully organize events for the low-income groups by bringing people from diverse backgrounds, including executive leadership from within Cummins, together is commendable. I am confident that her collaborative nature and her ability to unite diverse groups toward a common greater goal will help immensely in driving positive changes even in the most challenging environments.
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