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CMU Tepper Recommendation Questions

The Carnegie Mellon University Tepper MBA application requires a single professional recommendation. A current or former supervisor is preferred, however, any individual who can speak to the applicant’s strengths at work is acceptable. CMU Tepper uses the Common Letter of Recommendation from GMAC. The CMU Tepper MBA recommendation questions for the current admissions season are as follows.

2020-2021 CMU Tepper Recommendation Questions

Section 1: Recommender Information

Context of Relationship

  • Current Employer
  • Previous Employer
  • University/Academic
  • Extra-Curricular/Community
  • Other

Nature of relationship

  • Direct Supervisor
  • Other Supervisor
  • Advisor/Mentor
  • Colleague/Peer
  • Direct Report
  • Indirect Report
  • Client/Customer
  • Business Partner/Investor
  • Vendor
  • Professor/Instructor
  • Other

How long have you known the applicant?

During which period of time have you had the most frequent contact with the applicant?

If you are affiliated with the Tepper School of Business or Carnegie Mellon University, please select the option that most closely matches.

  • Not Affiliated
  • Alumni – Carnegie Mellon University
  • Alumni – Tepper School of Business
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Other

tepper mba recommendation questions

Section 2: 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.


1. Initiative: Acts ahead of need/anticipates problems

  • 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

2. Results Orientation: Focuses on and drives toward delivering on goals, objectives, and performance improvement

  • 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 toraise the effectiveness of team
  • Invents new approaches with measurably better results; works to deliver best-in-class
  • performance improvements


3. Communication, Professional Impression & Poise: Delivers messages and ideas in a way that engages an audience and achieves buy-in; uses listening and other attending behaviors to reach shared understanding; remains calm and measured even in time of crisis or conflict

  • 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 broad 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; remains cool under pressure during conflict or crisis; channels emotion into positive action

4. Influence and Collaboration: Engages and works with people over whom one has no direct control

  • 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


5. Respect for Others: Acknowledges the value of others’ views and actions

  • 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

6. Team Leadership: Manages and empowers a team of formal or informal direct reports, including virtual teams

  • 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

7. Developing Others: Helps people develop their performance and ability over time

  • 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

8. Trustworthiness/ Integrity: Acts consistently in line with or follows explicit values, beliefs or intentions

  • 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

9. Adaptability/ Resilience: Adapts to changing demands and circumstances without difficulty. Maintains calm optimism in the face of challenge, problems, or apparent failure

  • 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

10. Self Awareness: Aware of and seeks out additional input on own strengths and weaknesses

  • 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


11. Problem Solving: Frames problems, analyzes situations, identifies key issues, conducts analysis on the issues, and produces acceptable solution

  • 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

12. Strategic Orientation: Thinks beyond one’s span of control and into the future to reshape the approach or scope of work

  • 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

(Optional) Is there anything about your competency ratings on which you’d like to comment?

Based on your professional experience, how do you rate this candidate 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

Section 3: Recommendation Questions

Please answer the following questions and provide specific examples where possible.

  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)
  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?) (Recommended word count: 500 words)
  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)
  4. (Optional) Is there anything else we should know?