The Secret to Great LinkedIn Recommendations

There’s a reason executives with recommendations get three times more inquiries. Follow these steps to get meaningful testimonials.

With more than 50 million members (about one new member per second), it’s no wonder LinkedIn has gained a reputation as crucial to the modern networking toolkit. Be forewarned, however: Establishing a profile on LinkedIn will do you little good unless you augment it with personal testimonials, known as ” recommendations,” from other users.

Recommendations are displayed on your profile for employers, recruiters, colleagues and clients to see. LinkedIn reports that people with recommendations are “three times as likely to get inquiries through LinkedIn searches.”

By providing independent support for your talents and highlighting qualities that may not automatically shine through in your job history, recommendations help to emphasize the traits that set you apart from the crowd.

Requesting recommendations is easy. LinkedIn breaks it down into three steps:

1. Choose what you want to be recommended for.

You can request recommendations for each job listed on your profile. As a best practice, start with your most recently held positions. First impressions are everything. Since LinkedIn organizes your career history into reverse-chronological order, recommendations for the most recent jobs aren’t just the best representation of your current talents – they are also going to be the first thing that people will see when viewing your profile.

At this point, you should also consider the special qualities, skills or accomplishments to which you want to call attention. This leads us to Step Two.

2. Decide who you’ll ask.

You can request testimonials for each position from up to 200 recipients at a time. While sending your requests in one big batch may seem like a quick way to get this task out over with, you are likely to get back the same effort from recipients that you put in.

As LinkedIn likes to remind us, “Relationships matter.” A few well-crafted testimonials from authoritative sources will say volumes more about your talents than a dozen blurbs from people who are just being nice and not taking the time to write a meaningful statement about their experience working with you.

Take your time and send your requests one by one.

When choosing which people you want to ask, think about the perspective each person offers and the type of audience to which their perspective will appeal. Your managers, business partners, coworkers and clients will all have different outlooks on your performance.

Here’s an example of two different strategies:

Goal A: Connect with recruiters

  • Request recommendations from your colleagues.

Goal B: Network with potential investors for your new venture

  • Focus on gaining recommendations from clients and partners.

Once you have narrowed the field, review each person’s profile to see the recommendations they have provided other people. Are the recommendations personalized, or is it a one-size-fits-all approach? Are they grounded with specific statements about a person’s accomplishments, or are they filled with over-exaggerated praise? In most cases this won’t be a big issue, but it is something to consider before clicking the Send button.

3. Provide specific details to your references.

LinkedIn provides a brief sample message that can be used to request endorsements. While it is okay to use this as a template, be sure to personalize each message to its recipient. Since you are contacting people with whom you presumably have a good relationship, this shouldn’t be too difficult.

Make the task easier for the other person by offering specific details about what you would like her to vouch for and why. Offer to answer any questions and let the person know that you would be happy to reciprocate by writing a recommendation on her behalf.

After you receive a recommendation from another LinkedIn user, send a thank-you note! Even though LinkedIn recommendations are not as formal as traditional letters of recommendation or reference requests, they still take time and effort to write. And if someone declines your request, don’t be offended. LinkedIn is a public forum, so many users choose not to provide recommendations to certain people or groups of people for personal or ethical reasons. For example, your last boss may not feel comfortable providing a recommendation for you if she is still employed by the company at which you last worked.

Finally, don’t just ask for LinkedIn recommendations. Give them.

If you get in the habit of providing unsolicited recommendations to people you feel have done quality work, the goodwill you spread will return to you in the form of new endorsements. Remember, the recommendations you make for others are also a part of your profile and showcase other aspects of your business acumen than the recommendations you receive.