If you’ve ever been in the position of assessing candidates for your employer (or, if you are an employer yourself), you know how impressed you are by stellar recommendations, whether on the candidates’ personal marketing documents (resume, bio, etc.) or LinkedIn profile.
Why are LinkedIn Recommendations So Important?
Executive recruiters and hiring professionals routinely source talent through LinkedIn. Along with a branded, well-written LinkedIn summary section (and other sections) that resonate, they’re attracted to candidates who have persuasive testimonials on their profiles.
If you have no recommendations, or anemic ones, they may question your viability . . . or simply not be impressed enough to contact you.
Good recommendations support your personal brand and ROI to the employers you’re targeting. The true measure of your brand to future employers is reflected in what those who know your work the best have to say about you – co-workers, peers, top management, team members, Boards of Directors, vendors, customers, etc.
Best tip to get the best recommendations
Write good recommendations to get good recommendations. Two bonuses when you use this strategy:
1. Your recommendations of others include a link to your profile. Every time someone views that person’s profile, they’re teased to click on your link. You can bet that plenty of people will hop over to see what you’re all about.
2. Recommendations that you write and the ones written for you show up in network updates for you and for the people you recommended, keeping your brand top of mind with both networks.
A few cautions about LinkedIn recommendations
Only ask for recommendations from people who will give you a good one. Don’t strive for quantity over quality.
Only give recommendations to people you can honestly praise. Don’t do it if you can’t really vouch for their work. If you’re making things up or stretching the truth to make them look good, eventually it will catch up with you and jeopardize your reputation.
Contrived recommendations – ones written just for the sake of reciprocating (“I’ll write one for you, if you write one for me.”) – will probably backfire. Recruiters and hiring professionals are good at sniffing these out, and they can harm you and tarnish your brand.
Of course, there will be times when reciprocal LinkedIn recommendations are in order, because you both know each other’s work and value well.
Don’t demand a reciprocal recommendation. They may not know enough about you to provide a strong (and honest) assessment. Or, for whatever reason, they may not be in a position to write one for you at this time.
What are the best LinkedIn recommendations?
Strong recommendations validate and support what you say about yourself on your profile. They provide social proof for the claims you’ve made and, if they also contain your important relevant keywords, they can help boost your search ranking on LinkedIn, making you more visible and find-able.
All too often I see this kind of testimonial on LinkedIn:
“I worked with Steve for 10 years at [name of company]. I recommend him without reservation for any organization that needs a top-performing leader”.
Such a non-specific blurb isn’t likely to have much impact. It doesn’t provide useful information. Strive to write better ones for others, and receive better ones from others.
Here’s the first part of a well-written LinkedIn recommendation a client of mine wrote for me:
“Are you job hunting? Ask Meg!
Meg Guiseppi is a skilled artisan when you are seeking advice for your executive job hunt. The 21st-century career market can be a black hole. Candidates seem to be more alike, everyone is capable of the same key topics and to stand out seems to be impossible. Meg’s process is structured and virtuoso and will help you to land an executive job quicker and with a lot less agony.”
When asking others to write you a LinkedIn recommendation
Assuming you have clarity on what jobs, industry, and audience you’re targeting, and your LinkedIn profile reflects this, you should seek recommendations that will hit home with your target audience and align with the qualifications and qualities they’re seeking.
Try to get at least one recommendation for each job you’ve listed in the Experience section of your profile. Try for more than one in the most recent jobs or, say, the most recent 7-10 years.
Personalize your request for a LinkedIn recommendation
It’s okay to help people write your recommendation. In fact, it will probably be a welcome relief to them.
Before you ask for a recommendation, compose a personalized note to accompany your request. You’ll see below where this comes into the request for a recommendation process. This is where you’ll place any of my suggestions noted below to help them write the recommendation.
If you intend to reciprocate with a recommendation for them, because you know it will be a good one, you may want to note that in your personalized message, too.
Let them know what kinds of information you’re looking for. Asking them questions such as these should help:
1. What do you feel are my top strengths and skills that have most benefitted the company?
2. In what ways did I add value to the team and to the company?
3. What things did you know you could always rely on me to deliver?
4. In what ways did I help you do your job?
Or, you can make it super easy for them. Write a recommendation draft yourself. This gives them a foundation to work from and improve upon. Or you could provide them some of the good things you recall them saying about you, for them to work from.
Executing the request for a LinkedIn recommendation
In “View profile” mode, scroll down your own LinkedIn profile to the “Recommendations” section. Click on the little blue pencil next to “Ask for a recommendation”, and follow the prompts for:
- Who you want a recommendation from
- How you know that person
- Personalizing your request for a recommendation in the block provided. DO NOT let the default message, “Hi, [their name], can you write me a recommendation?” go out to people. Instead, insert the message you’ve composed in advance, as noted in my suggestions above.
[Please note: Because LinkedIn constantly changes the way the site functions, the instructions above may no longer apply. If so, look around on your profile for how to request a recommendation, or check out LinkedIn Help.]
When someone writes you a recommendation, you’ll receive an email notification. You’ll have the opportunity to accept their recommendation as is or request changes, before you actually post it to your profile.
Be sure to write them a heartfelt thank you for taking the time to write such a great recommendation.
When you write a LinkedIn recommendation for someone
- Use the 4 questions above as prompts for yourself.
- Make it the well-written, vibrant accolade you’d want to receive.
- Take the same kind of care, being mindful of what specific information will best support them.
- Ask them what kinds of things to include.
- Lead with the best that person has to offer in an attention-grabbing first sentence.
Surprise someone with a LinkedIn recommendation
Several times in the past I’ve opened my email to find an unexpected LinkedIn recommendation from a colleague or client. Did that ever make my day!
The surprise factor and doing something nice for someone you admire without being asked make this a best practice to integrate into your networking activities.
More Information About LinkedIn and Executive Job Search