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Nov 02 2012

In all of the conversations I’ve had with recruiters and hiring managers, I’ve never once heard that a weak recommendation cost a candidate consideration for an opening. It’s not likely that a silly recommendation on your profile will damage you. However, when considering candidates, recruiters do say that they notice these three things about recommendations on LinkedIn:

  1. They count to make sure there is a strong ratio between the number of connections and the number or recommendations. A large network with few recommendations is a red flag.
  2. An equal number of recommendations received to recommendations given is a red flag. It makes it look like the recommendations were mere reciprocity.
  3. Recruiters look for quality (meaty) recommendations, and disregard flakey or fluffy ones as not credible.

So, how can you increase your number of meaty recommendations?

How to Ask for LinkedIn Recommendations

In years past, you didn’t really ask for recommendations, you wrote your own letter, presented it to your boss or mentor and asked them to make any changes to it and sign it. Back then, you needed only about three of these. So it wasn’t always obvious that you actually wrote all of them yourself!

But with LinkedIn, you may end up with over 20 of these, and if you wrote all of them, it would be obvious. So here is a way to ask for a freshly written rec without burdening your manager or mentor.

  • Remind them that a LinkedIn rec isn’t a full letter; it takes only about 10 minutes and doesn’t need to be longer than three short paragraphs.
  • Give them something specific to recommend about you. For example, “Would you mind talking about the ATT project we did together and the role I played?”
  • Suggest three specific personality or professional traits you want them to mention. For example, “Would you mind mentioning my work ethic, ability to work in teams, and depth of experience working with large enterprise accounts?”

The Anatomy of a Good LinkedIn Recommendation

Being specific in your request will help you avoid the “She’s a good person” type of recommendation. But you might also suggest the following format to help them whip something up even faster.

Qualify your relationship with the person

“I’ve known Jane for 5 years, and during this time, we’ve worked on countless projects together.”

Show that you’ve already taken action to vouch for them

“When I became a manager in the department, I specifically requested that she join my new team.”

Describe a project they worked on that exemplifies a professional quality such as leadership or initiative

“On a project with ATT, we were in danger of delivering late. Jane stepped up and found three additional resources to share the work. Through her leadership, we saved the project and … ”

Close the recommendation with a call to action by re-emphasizing those professional qualities

“If you are looking for a super organized, easy to get along with and tenacious project manager, Jane would be my first choice.”

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