The Definitive Guide to LinkedIn Recommendations

LinkedIn is the biggest business social network in the world. It allows you to post up a snapshot of your career and connect with relevant professionals plus a whole bunch of other cool stuff. If you don’t have an account, you should get one today.

There are many different ways LinkedIn can be used to further your business or career. This post focuses on recommendations.

What are LinkedIn Recommendations?

LinkedIn has a recommendation system that allows someone to send you a recommendation and have it displayed on your profile to the public world. This system is great and can be used in the same manner as either a reference check or a testimonial only better.

The reason this system is better than traditional testimonials plastered over your website or a letter from a former boss is the reference is connected to that person’s profile. So whoever is interested in your recommendations can track them back instantly and see who recommended you and how respectable they are.

Another great thing about LinkedIn recommendations (as with other benefits of LinkedIn) is that they will last your whole life. A little work now will go a long way later.

What about Fake Recommendations?

When I talk to people about LinkedIn recommendations, a constant response I get is “don’t people just make them up or get their buddies to recommend them? How valuable are they really?”. To this I answer, “yes, they probably do”.

Here’s the catch. The recommendation system of LinkedIn reconciles itself. If I recommend you, it is displayed on my profile that I recommended you. If I’m trying to build my personal brand and you’re a total douche bag, I’m not going to recommend you.  Yes, some people may get recommendations that are illegitimate, but you can usually sus them out. Here are some situations that may raise suspicion:

– 5 people in similar positions, all recommended by the other 4.

– Recommendations from people with inactive or incomplete profiles.

– All recommendations on the same or close dates

If you have recommendations from over 20 people, most who work in respectable jobs and who have something to loose from a negative personal brand, chances are they are going to be legitimate recommendations. Even if all those 20 people are your friends, you still must be a decent person to have 20 respectable people like you enough as friends to recommend you. And in that alone I believe there is merit.

Now if you can get recommendations from super valuable people, even better. How do you think traceable recommendations from Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and Donald Trump would look?

P.S. If anybody knows them, tell them to hit me up!

How do I Get People to Recommend Me?

There are two key ways I have gotten recommendations.

The first, is basically working with the buddy system I talked about above. These are people I had a good working relationship with at some point and asked them if we could swap recommendations. I knew I was good at my job, I also knew they were good at theirs so it was mutually beneficial to swap recommendations.  A cheeky message of “write me a recommendation and ill write you one back” is easy to do and is win-win. But remember, you’re putting your personal brand on the line, so don’t ask people who you genuinely don’t think are good at whatever they do.

The second way, and the more effective way is to ask someone for a recommendation as soon as you deliver some sort of value to them. For example, if you are a designer or freelancer and you deliver a good project to a client and they are happy with it, ask them for a recommendation. Make sure you do this straight after you deliver the work as it will still be fresh in their mind.

For me, I was a head-hunter, so every time I placed someone in a job or found a client their perfect candidate, I would ask for a recommendation. You won’t get them every time you ask, but if you have done a good job, and they are happy, it’s not a big favour to ask.

Here is the structure I use to build my connections and ask for recommendations.

When I first interacted with someone new for work, whether on the phone, in person or via email I would send them an invitation to connect on LinkedIn.

(Quick tip: you can send a message to someone with a free account by sending them an invitation with a short note attached. This saves you from having to pay to upgrade your account to send ‘inmails’ to people who you are not connected with)

“Hi xxx

It was great meeting you / speaking with you today.

I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

Look forward to working with you in the future.

Regards,

Vinay”

Keep it simple, and non-specific. But making sure you have everyone you’re working with on your network, the ones you do add value to are already there so asking for the recommendation down the line easier.

Once you have delivered value of some sort, bring up a recommendation in a meeting. Here is an example of a conversation I’ve had after delivering value:

XYZ: Vinay, I just want to say thanks for finding me this job. It’s working out really well.

Me: No problems, XYZ, glad to hear you’re happy there. I want you to make sure you call me if there are any problems or if there is anything I can do to help.

XYZ: Ok no problems, I will talk to you soon.

Me: Oh, XYZ, there is one thing I thought of just before you go

XYZ: Oh what’s that?

Me: Well… I’ve done a pretty good job helping you out right?

XYZ: Yes of course!

Me: Well I was wondering if you could do me a small favour. It will only take a few minutes.

XYZ: Sure

Me: I was wondering if you could write me a recommendation on LinkedIn. We are already connected and it would really mean a lot.

XYZ: Sure Vinay, no problems. Give me a few days and I will send one out.

Give them 1-2 days to write the recommendation. If they haven’t done it after 2 days, go into your LinkedIn account, into recommendations and send them a “request for recommendation” message. A default template will come up, just use that. If they still don’t do it after a few days, you will need to use your judgement to decide how much you will chase them. If they are a super busy important high value person, probably best to give them a significant amount of time. Like I said, use your judgement.

The “request for recommendation” message will stay highlighted in their account until they action it. I have had recommendations come through months after I sent the message, so it really is a case by case basis.

So I have recommendations, now what?

Recommendations are the most powerful tool LinkedIn has to offer if you chose to use your profile for sales pitches or as your central web profile. One you have obtained recommendations from respectable people, your profile becomes a powerful tool to give people a positive first impression of you. This is useful for job interviews, sales pitches basically any-time you meet a stranger you want to get something out of.

As an example, I recently applied and was accepted to attend TEDxBKK. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend due to a last minute schedule change, but in the application process they asked for an online profile that would teach them something more about me. This was before I had my blog up and running so I used my LinkedIn profile. I’m almost certain this is what got me the invite to the oversubscribed event.

So what are you waiting for? Recommend me for my recommendation to get recommendations!