The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
If You Don’t Ask, They Won’t Recommend
In previous articles, I wrote about the Most Useful Feature on LinkedIn and the Most Useless Feature on LinkedIn, coming to the conclusion that Recommendations made LinkedIn a powerful tool. A LinkedIn recommendation is like getting an award or being recognized for your performance in a particular area, specifically your workplace, school, or other field that you have added to LinkedIn. No where else can someone give you positive feedback where it actually means something, except, maybe in real life, where it too, is not permanent, or may lose meaning over time. Of all the social media networks, LinkedIn is by far the best at preserving your accomplishments in your career lifetime.
Unfortunately, LinkedIn endorsements are the equivalent to those stickers your kindergarten teacher used to give you on her wall, while LinkedIn recommendations are the equivalent to a really good reference. LinkedIn endorsements are far easier to come by than LinkedIn recommendations. I have had several people who have networked with me through LinkedIn and have only asked me for endorsements, as if that is going to help assist them in their career. A single recommendation will go a lot further than a thousand endorsements.
LinkedIn recommendations are not always easy to come by and most people hardly ever take the time to write one for you. It is even worse when you write one for others and they do not return the favor in writing one for you, but it usually comes right down to the main point, which is always communication. The reason a LinkedIn recommendation is harder to come by is because it requires you to actually know the person and have some form of contact or experience with them. Surely, you could write something nice about anyone just by talking to them for a few minutes, but honestly, your mom and any job that looks at that specific recommendations is going to call bullshit.
It is easy to put a few abstract keywords and make that about any person. “Nice”, “Professional”, “Smart”, “Intelligent”, “Helpful” are just some keywords that can describe just about anyone you meet, but to write about them personally, as if you had their boss come up to you and ask you, “Hey, you know [so and so], how are they, really?”
How exactly would you answer that? Depending on your experience with them, your past, your knowledge of the type of person they are, or the work they do, it does require you to really think about a paragraph or two that you could write about them that captures what you observed and admired about that person.
That is what a LinkedIn recommendation is supposed to be about: Your admiration for the person you are recommending and your experiences with them. You could go through hundreds of LinkedIn profiles, as I went through my own connections, just to confirm, and maybe it is just the people I am connected to, but grabbing that small survey, I believe the conclusion is that you will notice something that many of those LinkedIn connections have in common, including your own connections, and probably yourself: They all lack LinkedIn recommendations.
You might find a profile with one or two, but it seems that the majority of people have failed to ask for a recommendation or do not know anyone personally enough to ask for one or receive one. This brings up the question about LinkedIn’s real purpose: Is it really doing any good for networking?
LinkedIn recommendations are more important than people realize, as a recommendation can say a lot about the type of person and worker you are, from how you carry yourself, to how you treat others.
The lack of LinkedIn recommendations is not just on the receiving end, but on the giving end too. The majority of people seem to have a problem taking a few minutes out of their day to write someone a recommendation, and ask for the favor in return. The importance of a LinkedIn recommendation is severely misunderstood and underutilized.
Why Should You Ask For A Recommendation
There are plenty of reasons to ask for a LinkedIn recommendation including personal self-worth and well-being, displaying to your potential employers and clients what other people think of you and have experienced within your presence. LinkedIn states the reason why you should ask for a recommendation:
- Recruiters are more likely to notice you
- Build a more credible profile
- Be recognized by your peers
Whether you ask for recommendation and make them public or private, it is really up to you. It is best to display them to the public, so not only can you see them and potential employers can see them, but friends, family, and those who wrote them can see it. Recommendations can most likely be the determining factor on whether a potential employer may hire you or not.
Why You Should Give Recommendations
If you notice that someone is doing an extraordinary job, why wouldn’t you pay them a compliment? If someone is going above and beyond the call of action or helps you out personally, why wouldn’t you do something nice for them? Writing a recommendation for them on LinkedIn is doing that something nice.
If someone happens takes the time to write you a recommendation, you should definitely be appreciative and take the time to return the favor and write them a recommendation. If you want recommendations, you should be willing to write them. It only takes a few minutes to think about that person, what they have done for you or the company, who they are as a person, and write something personal and nice about them, a reflection of their prior work with you, maybe it was something they taught you that stuck with you for years to come and something you live by everyday, or how they made you feel during an interaction that made an impression on you.
Those are the people that should truly make you want to write a LinkedIn recommendation.
How To Ask For A Recommendation
If you have recently connected with a supervisor, manager, or co-worker and you are on pretty good terms with them, you will want to get a recommendation from them as soon as possible. The reason you need to act swiftly is because people quickly forget about your actions and who you are, especially if you leave the job, and you have been out of sight and out of mind for a long time. With each passing day, month, or year, asking for a recommendation gets somewhat harder to do, not in asking, but in trying to refresh the person about who you are and what you have done.
Ask your professors, managers, supervisors, clients, and co-workers, acquaintances, and friends who you have had positive experiences with if they could write you a recommendation, and as always, you should return the favor. Most people do have a general idea of who you are and what you have done, especially if you have worked with them or been in their lives for a few days or months, but it is generally better to get the LinkedIn recommendation soon after networking and making a connection with them. People have a better understanding of who you are and what to write about you because it is fresh in their minds while they are actively in your life.
If it has been a few months or years, or if you are no longer employed at the place where you met your connection, you can still ask for a recommendation. The worst that anyone can do is ignore you or tell you that they are not willing to write you a recommendation and after that, you can just move on with your life. For those that are willing to write a LinkedIn recommendation, you may just find out that they have nothing but nice things to say about you. After all, you most likely would not ask someone who you did not have a positive experience with for a recommendation.
You will probably find that if you ask, most people are more than willing to write you a recommendation. In your message to them, you should state who you are, where you have worked with this person, about what you did during your time at the job, and what you are currently doing with your time. People you have worked with and networked with will have an understanding of your personality, but it is always good to let them know you are still that same individual, so they can write their recommendation as close as possible to reflect what they know about you.
How To Give A Recommendation
When you give a recommendation, your feedback should remain positive. Avoid negative adjectives and nouns. If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. If you have networked with the person, but do not know them well enough to write the a recommendation, either kindly tell them that you cannot write them a recommendation or request more information about them and get to know them for few days. You might make a stronger connection in the process and possibly a new friend.
The more you know about someone and the more experience you have with them, especially positive experiences, the easier it will be to write the recommendation. Your recommendation should be personal and detailed. Write as if someone asked you the type of person they are or if you would personally recommend them to the potential opportunity. Think about how they would write about you as a professional in the workplace, and apply those same measures to them. While you could certainly get personal, you may want to mention whether you have worked together, what you have done together, and your experiences with the individual.
A paragraph or two is recommended to keep it short and sweet. Remember, you can say a lot without saying anything at all, so avoid empty statements and get to the main point about the person in question. The things you will want to talk about in your recommendation is what you did together at your job and the specifics about the personality of that person or their work that really stood out to you, such as hard-working, dedicated, passionate, strong-willed, creative, ability to multitask, loyalty, fairness, likeness, genuineness, and anything else that might resemble and portray their personality.
Recommendations Are Free To Give and Free to Receive
Recommendations are the most important feature on LinkedIn that someone else can give and that you can give. Aside from showing off your portfolio, awards, job experience, etc, it is the one thing that represents who you are, in the eyes of others.
Get your recommendations as soon as possible and start by asking the people who know you the best without question. Never forget to return the favor. Someone taking the time out of their schedule to write you a recommendation is something you should be appreciate very much. Recommendations do require a bit of thought to be written.
As far as getting a recommendation first or writing one first, it is probably better to ask first for a recommendation beforehand and inform the person that you will return the favor. As soon as you receive your recommendation, immediately begin writing their recommendation so you do not forget and it is refresh in your mind. It is not courteous of you to ask for a recommendation and not give one in return. It is okay that you might get busy, or expect a person to take a few days to get back to you on a recommendation, but be patient and remind them once or twice, possibly a third time if necessary, but do not annoy people with writing one for you.
After asking two or three times for a recommendation over the course of a few months, and not receiving one, let it go and realize that the person you are asking may just have nothing to say about you. That is okay too. Accept it. Move on and ask others for recommendations. Work on building a portfolio of recommendations, which can only help you when potential recruiters and employers are curious to find out more about you.