Why LinkedIn Recommendations Matter (& How to Score Great Ones)

I get asked at least a few times a week: "What should I be doing about LinkedIn recommendations?" Or, "Do I even need LinkedIn recommendations?" Or, "How do I ask?"

LinkedIn recommendations, when they're great, can be a powerful tool for attracting recruiters and affirming your specific talents. It's one thing for you to say you're great at this, that or the other thing (and, it's important that you do). But it takes on a new level of power when someone else is also giving you a glowing review specific to those very same things.

How do you go about asking for -- and landing -- killer LinkedIn recommendations?

Let's break it down:

1. Thoughtfully Choose the Person or People You'll Approach

This is an important first step for two important reasons. Number one, you want the recommendation to pack as much punch as possible. Number two (and this is especially true if you're a covert job seeker), you don't want to raise eyebrows by asking a gazillion people at once (we'll cover this in a sec) or tip off the wrong person of your intentions. 

Make a quick list of the people you'd most value a recommendation from, and make sure you're connected on LinkedIn (or, if you're not, connect with them -- you can't ask a non-connection for a LinkedIn recommendation through the platform).

2. Make the Request (Here's How)

It's not blaringly obvious how to actually get to the "Request a Recommendation" screen on LinkedIn. The easiest way to get there is to simply go to the person from whom you'd like a recommendation's profile.  You'll see a box under his or her name and headline that says, "More..." 

Click that and, from the dropdown menu, select "Request a Recommendation."

You'll then be walked through a couple of screens that lead you to where you can leave a personalized message. (Note the word: "personalized" -- Don't even think about calling it a day with LinkedIn's canned request.)

3. Be Specific With Your Request

You've got an important opportunity with your personalized request here. Don't mess it up. You're going to get the most bang for your buck  if you guide your connection. In short, the recommendation will be most valuable if it directly supports the most important aspects of you as a professional.

So, maybe you're looking at new opportunities and notice that many of the job descriptions call for someone who is great at seeing patterns in data, and then strategizing based on this info. Well then, wouldn't it be nice if one of your people vouched for your talents in that exact thing? Why yes, yes it would be.

Consider, then, approaching like this:

Hi Mary,

I hope you're having a great start to your year! It was nice running into you last month at TechCon. I'm reaching out to see if you might be willing to share a recommendation here on LinkedIn. What I'm really hoping to do is highlight my ability to look at data sets, quickly analyze the numbers and then present strategies and recommendations.

Since you and I worked so closely on the <IMPORTANT PROJECT>, I thought you might be a great person to ask. Thanks so much if you're willing, and absolutely let me know if I may return the favor!

This is so much better than a generic request. You're not only making it easier for your contact to construct the recommendation, you're also dramatically increasing the odds that you'll receive kudos back that are directly aligned with your background and goals.

4. Space Out Your Requests

You don't want to ask 11 people at once. Why not? They come back date stamped. Thus, if you have had zero or just a couple of recommendations forever and a day -- and then all of the sudden have 14 --- you're going to look like you're out shaking down your pals to say nice things.

You want these to appear as if they're coming in organically. (You also don't want to tip off your employer with sudden ramp-up in LinkedIn activity.) 

Ask a couple of people at a time, and then wait for a bit. Rome does not need to be build in one day.

5. Be Generous in Recommending Others

Ever hear of the law of reciprocity? That's the deep rooted psychological urge we all have to do nice things for others when they do nice things for us. 

When you are generous about recommending others (you can do this right through that same dropdown menu above), you'll not only make someone's day -- you'll also increase the odds that that person will turn around and recommend you right back.

This is a great strategy to deploy when you'd love love love a recommendation from someone, but feel a little weird about asking directly. Just proactively recommend that person. You may be pleasantly surprised to see the kindness reciprocated.

It's important (of course) to present your professional brand in a strong, compelling manner on LinkedIn. Your words matter.

But having people in your network -- who have seen you in action -- applauding the great things you bring to your work?

That, friends, can be gold.

Need LinkedIn Help?

If you want to be sure you’re showing up strong on LinkedIn -- and using this powerful tool to your massive advantage --  check out our Ridiculously Awesome LinkedIn Kit.  Better still, if you use promo code LINKEDIN15 at checkout, you'll score a $15 discount.


Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons (Emily Tan)