As an experiment, I recently asked 20 friends to write me a recommendation on LinkedIn. About 25% of the people I asked actually completed a recommendation. Even then, I didn't really like everything that everyone said. I chose not to show all of them on my profile.
As a job hunter, having recommendations available online is a really valuable thing. Most employers do some level of online background checking. It usually amounts to a quick look at your Facebook page and LinkedIn profile. Having several recommendations visible when they look will instantly add to your credibility.
Here's how to ask for and get the recommendations you want:
- Always ask people who know you well enough to write a glowing recommendation. You'll know who these folks are. Time on LinkedIn or some other social network is not good enough. Ask people who have worked with you and are familiar with you as a whole person.
- The best way to get a nicely done recommendation is to write one first. This exchange happens routinely. Take a look at the recommendations on a few pages and compare those to the recommendations on the recommender's page. This reciprocal back scratching is how recommendations have always worked.
- If you're asking someone who is busy, you might offer a sample of the kind of recommendation you'd like. Early in my career, I was surprised to discover that this was how the writing of recommendations worked. If someone really valued my contribution, they'd ask me for a sample that I liked and then edit it to their needs. Offer to write a suggested version.
- LinkedIn has a great recommendation system. If you ask for help using the system, your reference will be able to add the task into regular workflow.
- Expect that some (in my case, it was most) people are going to be too busy to help you out. As is the case in most aspects of job hunting, don't take it personally. Just ask the next person.
- If you don't like the recommendation you get, ask for a rewrite. Really. Give the author suggestions. "When you call me a cowboy, I know what you mean, but I think others might not understand your humor. Could you say 'independent thinker' instead?"
- Just because you get a recommendation doesn't mean you have to publish it. Carefully consider the impact your recommendation will have on a prospective employer’s view of you.
- Really work to personalize the note you send asking for the recommendation:
I hope you're doing well. I'll never forget the amazing time we had when we were working on the Acme proposal in Boston. I'm in the process of gathering references for my next job transition. I'm hoping that you'll be willing to write one for me on LinkedIn. I'd be happy to offer suggested language, if you'd like.
- Search for LinkedIn recommendation samples. If you can’t figure out what to say or what you want said about you, there is a treasure trove of useful boilerplate online. For a good giggle, visit the Endorser. It will automatically generate a reference letter for you.
- Finally, the essence of a great recommendation is one sentence telling how you know the person followed by at least two or three sentences that tell a story. Stories make your recommendation memorable.
Your online profiles are the basis for managing your reputation. Carefully building a bank of references is the key to presenting a solid professional face to the job market.