How To Ask For LinkedIn Recommendations

How To Ask For LinkedIn Recommendations

In the past I've written about how to optimize your LinkedIn profile (and in fact you can even find a little YouTube video on the subject here), and one area that I look at is the power of the LinkedIn recommendation.

When recruiting for roles I like to be as proactive as I can be, as it saves so much time and puts me in control of the process, and one way for me to filter out the many potential candidates is to take a scroll through their recommendations.

For those that don't know, a LinkedIn recommendation is effectively a reference that is associated with your LinkedIn profile, and which are provided by 1st level connections of the person whose profile you are reviewing.

It's a short paragraph that allows for a former colleague, client, or collaborator to provide a summary of their connections skills and abilities.

For me as a recruiter they can provide real insight into the person who is the subject of the recommendation. Firstly, will a colleague be willing to take the time to write a short paragraph about this person they've worked with. If there are no recommendations then either:

  • no one was willing to put their name to a recommendation for this person which is a warning sign, or
  • this person hasn’t been proactive and sought out recommendations.

The second thing when looking at recommendations is what will this colleague focus on in their recommendation? Does it sound warm and genuine, or is it more formal and distant? Being able to get on with others is a huge part of any job, so you want to know that the person you’re reading about was liked by their work mates.

So how do you go about getting recommendations?

Who should you ask for a recommendation?

LinkedIn allows you to request recommendations from any first degree connection, so if you've collected a few connections along the way then you can choose from any of them.

What you're looking for when it comes to choosing who to obtain recommendations from is:

  • Is their role and relationship one that would indicate good working relationships?
  • Is it someone you can trust to give you a good recommendation?
  • Do they have particular insight into you and the way that you work?

There's limited value in you seeking out a recommendation from your cousin, just because you're connections on LinkedIn. Although they might say nice things, they won't be able to offer any insight into your skills and they're role won't appear relevant to the work that you do.

You're looking for someone who fills one of these roles:

  • Was your boss
  • Was in your direct team
  • Was a stakeholder in your product
  • Was your client

Every one of these roles will be able to offer something about the way that you work, which can put across a positive to any viewing recruiter. Try to get recommendations from different categories of recommender so that the recruiter gets a rounded view of you.

Remember, you need to trust that the person you ask will give you a good recommendation and will focus on the right attributes to shine the best light on your skills.

If you haven't got many connections on LinkedIn yet, then start now and pick out the people you've worked with in the past and whose potential recommendation would be valuable.

What should you ask them to say?

Recommendations should be written by the person you're asking, but there's nothing wrong with you encouraging them to focus their comments in a particular area and highlight your skills there.

For example, if you're trying to get hired for a role that involves managing others, then you may well ask people to focus on your man-management, motivation, and leadership skills.

Your request could then look something like:

Hi Jane, I hope you're well. I'm looking to optimize my LinkedIn profile and one thing that's missing are some recommendations. It would be great if you could find a minute to provide me with a recommendation that I could include. The kind of things I'm keen to highlight are my team management and leadership skills.

By doing this you're looking to receive the recommendation that you need to round out your profile, and you're also making it easier for the person you're asking as you're directing them into the area they need to focus, rather than making them try and decide on what to say.

When should you ask for a recommendation?

From my perspective, there are a few key times when asking for recommendations seems most natural, and therefore is most likely to lead to success. These are:

  • When you have completed a project
  • When you are about to leave one role and take another one
  • When your recommender is about to leave their role working with you

If you can time your request around these activities then everything will be fresh in people's minds, there is a natural review point, and it will be completed before your lives continue down different paths.

Give as well as receive

One thing you can do in order to improve your chances of receiving a recommendation is to provide one yourself. This way it seems like a reciprocal arrangement.

You can offer to write a recommendation for your contacts by going to their profile, selecting ‘Recommend’ and following the instructions. It doesn't take long, and the rewards can be good.

When it comes to giving a recommendation, I tend to favour starting with a strong statement about your colleague that describes your relationship, and then follow this up with some information on what the individual’s standout trait is. 

I worked with Neha at Company X, where she helped me recruit for the product team, and her organised and approachable manner made life easier for me when the recruitment side could have got in the way of 'my day job' . She was always focused on getting the business the best candidates, in terms of skills and business fit. Added to this is the fact that Neha is a lovely, friendly person to have around the office.

Carolyn is an immensely valuable member of the Company Y team, whether it be as our JIRA guru, Agile story writer, ScrumMaster, or life coach. Her positive approach to getting the work done and achieving great results, and supporting others to do the same, has been core to the success of the business and has resulted in her progression to the leadership team.