So a friend, colleague, team member, manager, vendor, etc. has asked you for a recommendation on LinkedIn.  How hard could this be, really?  Harder than you think – people not only judge them by your recommendation, but they also judge you.  I won’t go into the technical details on LinkedIn recommendations here (yet) but having spent the last month working on my profile and both requesting and giving recommendations I figured it would be appropriate to share what I’ve learned.  A few quick tips:

  1. If you don’t think giving a recommendation is a good idea, don’t – and tell them why.  You will know immediately upon trying to think what you will say whether this is a good idea – you haven’t worked directly with them enough to give specific examples, you don’t know them in a work or volunteer context or even, for one reason or another, you can’t be enthusiastic or genuine about what you are going to say.
    Example:  Suzie from your childhood, Fred from the express train or Mike from the water cooler ask you for a recommendation.  There really isn’t much to say about them professionally and this isn’t a forum for character witnesses where “They love their dog.” or “They are a really sharp dresser.” is going to do anything for either of you.
  2. Get the important points in place in the span of a sentence (or two if they are short).  LinkedIn only shows a very small section of your recommendation on the update feed – don’t waste it by stating the obvious “I worked with Snerdly on blah blah” unless that is truly significant and draws the reader to click through.  You are trying to be helpful here – Snerdly has (hopefully) included his achievements in his experience, so talk about who they are rather than what they did in the first sentence.
    Snerdly is the game changer that everyone wants on their team.
    In the midst of chaos and crisis, Snerdly has the ability to stay calm, step forward and lead.
  3. Make sure you select the correct position – some people always choose the most recent experience when they request recommendations, but you want to make sure yours aligns with the position to which you are speaking.  If you haven’t worked with them in their current or new job but worked extensively on the previous one, choose the previous one.  This is helpful to them as well – a good profile shows recommendations across all experience.
  4. Avoid buzzwords and industry specific phrases or acronyms.  Speak to recruiters, hiring managers, future colleagues and head hunters.  Tell a story if you can.
    When a customer called at midnight, Agnes was always the one who cheerfully took the call, assessed the situation and pulled the right people together.  Even more significantly, she never threw a problem over the wall but stayed with both the team and the customer until everyone was satisfied with the outcome.
  5. Make sure you include enough details to be genuine and never give the same recommendation twice.  No templates here, even if you have to tell the person that it will take you a week or so to get it right.
  6. Corollary to #5 – never give a lackluster recommendation.
  7. Use good words – “Drove the project to completion” beats “Worked on the team” every time (if it is true).  Mentor, leader, go-to guy, catalyst, innovative – you get the idea.
  8. Ask them what is important to include.  If they are balancing their profile or going for a type of position, they asked you for the recommendation for a reason – find out what it is and make sure you speak to it in your comments.
  9. This should go without saying but – check your spelling, check your grammar, read the recommendation out loud.  Again, this says as much about you as about them – make sure people come away thinking as highly of you as the person you are recommending.  It will add to the credibility for both of you.

Finally, be careful about reciprocal recommendations – yes, you just did some work for this person, you want them to be equally enthusiastic about you but if you aren’t careful it will look like trading favors.  Ask away, but be prepared to “hold” the recommendation for a few weeks instead of immediately accepting it (making it visible).  This works to your advantage both in your activity showing up twice and not looking like you are just profile buffing with a buddy.