[09.27.10]
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10 Tips: Asking For Recommendations On LinkedIn

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LinkedIn, recommendations, connections, making

So I’ve decided to spend a good portion of the week writing about getting and using job references.  For a few reasons.

  • A loyal reader in Newport Beach has been extremely patient.  Asking some great questions.  He deserves some answers!
  • The question about job references came up last week at my presentation to Experience Unlimited in Irvine.  And it took up half the Q&A portion of the morning.
  • Surprisingly, in two years of writing I’ve never covered the subject.  Funny.

Today the focus is on LinkedIn – the social networking site that many job seekers now call home.  They view it as an essential tool.  And rightly so.  Whereas Twitter and Facebook still receive lower marks from many job seekers.  For the quality of engagement you can achieve.  And the perception that you do career networking with a purpose on LinkedIn.  But that will change.

Before I get to the tips, know that LinkedIn recommendations are suspect.  They are short, often without specifics and often written without a tremendous amount of thought (based on the hundreds that I’ve read).  Just like a traditional letter of recommendation, they lose their value as they age.  And can lose their relevance when tossed in a pile with others.

I never put much stock in letters of recommendation as a hiring manager.  I always wanted to talk with someone.  To put the reference in context.

And I think a lot of hiring managers and recruiters are like me.  If someone walks in with a binder full of recommendation letters, I usually won’t read them.  And if I do, it is to scan for specifics.  Or to see who they are from.

Same with LinkedIn.

But, good or bad,  I like knowing that they are there.  That a job seeker has taken the time to get them.  Because getting recommendations is not easy.  And if you put the time in to get them, that tells me something.  And the fact that people took the time to write them for you (assuming they did), that tells me something too.

So you should have job recommendations on LinkedIn.  Even if they are not widely read.

Here are my 10 tips on getting them:

1.  Have a goal to get at least 10 people to recommend you on LinkedIn

And if you only have 10 job recommendations, here’s how they should break down: 3 supervisors, 3 peers (people working at your same level), 3 direct reports, 1 superior that worked in another department.  If you’ve never been a boss, replace “3 direct reports” with people that took direction from you or worked on a cross-functional team with you.

2.  Ask for recommendations as soon as possible after leaving a company

That way your experience with that person is fresh.  And they can remember specifics about the role you played.

3.  Request specifics

I made this mistake early on.  If you don’t ask for specifics, you will get a vague and generalized recommendation that no one will want to read.  Like “Tim played a key role and helped drive the company to new heights . . .”.  Here’s an idea.  What if each of your recommendations for a position reflected back on a key accomplishment statement on your resume?  That way you can integrate your messaging . . .

4.  Ask for a re-write

If you don’t like the recommendation you get, ask for a re-write or a tweak. Someone asked me a few weeks ago to update my recommendation for them.  To make it more about their work vs. their work at XYZ company.  It took me two seconds and I did it gladly.

5.  You don’t have to publish every recommendation

If you get one out of the blue and don’t want others to see it, don’t publish it.  You can either leave it hidden on your profile or ask for some adjustments to make it worth a public spot.

6.  Offer to swap recommendations

We all need them, right?  As you leave a company, pick two or three people and offer to write them a recommendation.  As a favor in return, ask that they write one for you.  This betters the odds that someone will deliver. (Note, not everyone agrees with this idea)

7.  Share them via e-mail first

This allows a more open discussion about the actual content before you actually involve LinkedIn.  Sometimes people get nervous or anxious writing in an online form.  This allows a more well-thought out approach.

8.  Your recommendations should ideally reinforce your personal brand

If you are a strategic salesperson, a tactical marketer or a customer service focused HR manager, your recommendations should support your own content (positioning statement, work philosophy, etc).  Again, more integration.

9.  Offer to write it yourself or suggest a theme

Of course, this is somewhat relationship dependent.  Some will love that you write it and they just have to approve, cut and paste.  Others will see it differently.  I think that as long as it is accurate, it is OK.

10.  Be persistent

Not everyone checks LinkedIn everyday.  Many who are employed check it “occasionally” at best.  So if you haven’t heard back from a contact, try them again via LinkedIn.  If that doesn’t work, try to reach them outside of LinkedIn by phone or traditional e-mail.  And if they don’t respond, you need to move on.  Not everyone likes to help.  And some just don’t make the time for it.

Just like when you personalize a LinkedIn Invite, do the same with a recommendation request.  Don’t use LinkedIn’s generic copy.  Here’s sample copy for a LinkedIn recommendation request that I would feel good about receiving:

Subject:  A Quick Favor

“Hi (former boss) – it’s been a few weeks since I left (XYZ Company).  Hope you are doing well!  As you know, I am looking for my next role and would really appreciate your help in writing a recommendation for me on LinkedIn.  I’d be happy to offer a few ideas on what to write about (e.g. my work on our successful market launch in 2009).  Please let me know if you have any questions.  It will only take a few minutes and I’d be happy to write one for you as well!

Thank you!  Tim

So what are your ideas for LinkedIn recommendations?  Do you read them as a hiring manager, recruiter or potential connection?  Share your thoughts!

Be sure to check back this week for more on this subject.  Including how to prep references for an upcoming call, how to maintain a strong relationship with your references and how to avoid burning out your references during a long job search.

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Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
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