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How to Write a LinkedIn Recommendation

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Posted by steve on January 9, 2012 at 8:28 pm

The common currency of all social networking sites is the personal connection, but one of the things that makes LinkedIn different is the professional focus. The intention is that the folks you are linked to should be able to say something about your work — and vice versa. So get to it!

1. Proactively write recommendations. If you plan ahead, then your connection won’t get caught in the situation where they need your reference immediately for a prospective job offer. Also, being proactive encourages him or her to return the favor by writing a recommendation for you.

 

2.  Log in to LinkedIn, click on ‘contacts’, go through your list and starting with the people you can most enthusiastically recommend, click on ‘recommend.

3. Focus your recommendation on qualities all employers seek. You don’t know exactly what this reference will be used for, whether your friend or colleague may one day change careers. A reference that focuses on industry-specific skills would then be useless. These professional behaviors are valued by all employers.

  • Honesty
  • Integrity and Trustworthiness
  • Pride and Attention to Detail
  • Dedication and Goal Orientation
  • Analytical and Strategic Thinking Skills
  • Efficiency, Organization, and Time Management Skills
  • Economic and Budgeting Skills
  • Team Player

4. Give a very brief background of how you know the person, perhaps only one sentence. There is usually no need to be verbose because a reader can check your profile to see more details about you.

5. Tell a story, that is, when writing about a professional behavior try to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. Stories make your recommendation memorable, much more so than a laundry list declaration like ‘Joe is a honest, dedicated team player’. Anyone can give a list, but only you can tell that story. Besides, it’s easy to tell a story so why do it the hard way when when the easy way is better?

6. Proofread your recommendation, but don’t worry about perfection as you can edit it later.

7. Click the ‘view/edit’ link (the link is beside ‘A message will be sent to XXX with your recommendation’). LinkedIn allows you to include a personal message that rides along with the notification email. In the message just say you were following the suggestions of your networking site and proactively writing recommendations. Be sure to say that it is a rough draft and encourage suggestions for improvement. Belabor this point! No one wants to have to tell you something like, “Would you please edit your recommendation — it sounds kind of stupid.” You should invite criticism with something like, “Jenny, I whipped this off without proofreading it. Sorry, but I was in a time crunch. Would you please proofread? I welcome editing suggestions as my writing is lousy and I probably wrote something inappropriate.” You must open the door to criticism. If you don’t, then your friend will never say a word to you about it because they will be embarrassed to do so and they’ll feel like an ingrate. Click ‘submit’. The person you recommend will get a pleasant email saying that someone recommended him or her.

8. If, after a week or so, your friend doesn’t say anything then you have to put them on the spot. Ask them directly about your recommendation and see how they react. If they haven’t communicated with you about it, it’s often because they didn’t like it. At that point you amicably say, “Well, were you just going to say nothing? Let me edit it and we’ll get it right.” After a few rounds of editing, you will have written a great recommendation and will likely get one in return.

Other Tips

  • Remember, if your friend asks you to lie — don’t do it. Wiggle your way out of it because, as mentioned above, the lie hyperlinks back to you.
  • Accentuate the positive, but don’t fib. Remember, your recommendation links back to you! Ifyou are career hunting a prospective employer will likely find the recommendations that you’ve written for someone and will judge you based upon the content therein: the company you keep, how well you write, and most importantly, your authenticity. In other words, did you lie for a friend? If the answer is ‘yes’ then it won’t reflect well on you. Even if you write a believable piece of fiction for one person, can you do it for two, three, or more? The answer is ‘no’ and employers will read all your recommendations and serial charlatanism is not an admirable quality. Additionally, your prospective employer might make light conversation regarding someone you know in common. How would you like to be in a situation where your prospective employers is chatting about the recommendation you wrote for so-and-so, but you can’t recall the details of that recommendations because it was entirely fabricated?
  • Today’s references are much shorter than they used to be, but length is replaced by quantity — a person has many more references than was the case in the twentieth century. However, don’t make your letter so short that it appears you didn’t care. A story (see above) helps you do this because it’s easy to remember and it’s an informal narrative. In other words, you don’t have to worry about style, just tell the story. One good story can take hundreds or thousands of words to tell, but even a short one is OK as long as you’ve highlighted one of the professional behaviors above. Other references will highlight other areas or support the behavior you highlighted.
  • Don’t skip your friends and family. Personal references matter, too; in fact, they may matter more because the impressions of someone who has known the candidate for a decade may carry more weight than someone who knew them for only the length of a business project. However, you’ll still need to tailor your recommendations to the purpose, i.e., you must focus on the professional qualities that all employers seek.
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