How To Ask For High-Quality Recommendations On LinkedIn
Revisiting classic films that I’ve seen at least a dozen times is a guilty pleasure of mine. If the script is good enough, I never cease to discover something new about the characters.
Like old friends, they fascinate me more the better I get to know them. In the final scene of Tennessee Williams’ Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche Dubois has at last succumbed to a full-blown nervous breakdown.
As she takes the arm of the man who’s there to escort her to the asylum, she drawls:
“Whoever you are, I have always relied upon the kindness of strangers.”
Blanche’s networking strategy is, unfortunately, how many people go about collecting recommendations and endorsements on LinkedIn.
So, before the pursuit drives you mad, let’s talk it out.
When LinkedIn first added Endorsements back in 2012, it was the hot new thing. I recall being flooded with requests from former colleagues to endorse them for a certain skill or skills.
Hooray, We All Thought.
It’s so much quicker and easier than writing a recommendation. That, after all, takes time and thought. Then I noticed something odd happening.
People I barely knew were endorsing me for skills that weren’t really ones I wanted to promote.
And on the flip side, I was being asked to endorse people for skills that I wasn’t entirely sure they possessed. Which led me to wonder – what intrinsic value do these Endorsements hold, anyway?
Think about it. I could endorse you for “Team Building”.
But an endorsement for such a soft skill may be an indication that I don’t know you all that well. Which could be a red flag for a recruiter.
Now, if I were to endorse you for SCCM of HP Proliant, you’ll likely get a lot more bang for your buck.
Otherwise, there are likely to be scads of other candidates who are endorsed for the same skills as you.
Which won’t exactly give you the standout power you’re seeking. This begs the question—When should you endorse a connection?
Don’t Be Needy.
If you feel they really excel at a certain skill and you’re not expecting anything in return, endorse them. If, however, you’re endorsing them to start a conversation about a need you have, don’t do it.
Your connection will sniff out your self-interest and neediness across the ether. At best, you risk annoying them. At worst, alienating them.
Before you endorse someone, ask yourself: am I simply adding to the plethora of online chatter, or am I adding value? While we’re on the topic of chatter versus value, don’t go around badgering your connections for Endorsements.
Yes, they only take a second. But come back to your intention. Why are you asking to be endorsed? If it’s because they know you have that skill in spades, go for it.
But if it’s because you need something from them, skip it. Again, are you adding to the noise or adding value? Now, I don’t want you thinking that all the news about Endorsements is bad.
There Is A Distinct Benefit.
Each skill on your profile increases its number of relevant keywords, thus pushing your profile higher in LinkedIn search results.
For example, if you’re endorsed for “financial accounting” and someone is searching for a CFO, your profile stands a better chance of making the cut.
It’s worth spending 15 minutes to refine and sort your skills on your profile. This small time investment will increase your chances of being seen and will ensure that people endorse you for the skills you care about.
To manage your skills on LinkedIn, go to “Profile”, then click on “Edit Profile”. Under “Skills & Endorsements” (scroll way down) you’ll see your list of currently displayed skills and how many endorsements you have for each.
You have the option to “hide” any that aren’t relevant to you, to rearrange the existing list and to add others that might be missing.
What About Recommendations?
We mentioned earlier that giving one takes time and thought. Which is why they’re much more meaningful to recruiters than Endorsements.
A heartfelt recommendation from a former leader or colleague who clearly knows your work and where you shine can add immense credibility to your profile.
But they’re not easy to come by. They have to be earned.
When I was starting Arielle some years back, my LinkedIn Recommendations were like gold to me. The sincere appreciation my clients expressed about my worked really helped me cut through the clutter. During that time, though, I learned the hard way some basic tenets of managing this great tool.
First, don’t assume that recommendations are one-for-one.
Just because you recommended someone doesn’t mean they have to, or should, recommend you. But if a connection you recommended is inclined to share a genuine testament to your abilities, accept it graciously.
Say Thank You.
A little old-fashioned gratitude goes a long way and is usually remembered. Second, only ask for recommendations from connections that really know you well.
From those who will have something real and powerful to say about your strengths, accomplishment and talents. This will ensure you avoid receiving generic recommendations like: “Lucy is the kind of professional you want on your team”.
Similar to the “Team Player” Endorsement, this smacks of insincerity and can raise suspicions in the mind of a recruiter. So, you really want a recommendation. ‘
How To Get It?
Email them directly, or send them a note through LinkedIn’s “Ask To Be Recommended” Feature (which you’ll find under the Recommendations section).
Caveat: People are busy. Really busy. Just like you.
So even if you know them well, you may slip their mind. If you know them very well, it’s okay to remind them once.
But here’s the deal.
If you don’t get every recommendation you ask for, it’s okay. A good goal is to have at least one recommendation per role listed on your profile.
Steer clear of the quick win mentality that the ease of Internet communication has inspired. Instead, try the road less travelled.
With each connection, seek to build authentic, lasting relationships with like-minded people. It’s a much longer-term game, but it’s oh-so-worth it.
And the best part is, we’re just getting started. More help is on the way with my upcoming LinkedIn course. As Humphrey Bogart says to Claude Rains at the end of Casablanca:
Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.