How to Give — and Get — LinkedIn Recommendations

With LinkedIn becoming increasingly important in the recruiting and hiring process, having Recommendations on your profile is important. Great Recommendations can be the difference in getting the job offer.

LinkedIn Recommendations are a natural evolution of references and letters of recommendation. However, they often are more credible than these traditional documents, because it is harder to fake a Recommendation on LinkedIn than it is to forge a letter. Since many companies are restricting reference checks to verification of title and dates of employment, a LinkedIn Recommendation from a supervisor — and/or coworkers — carries weight.

LinkedIn has been described as a “reputation engine.” That’s an apt description, because your reputation does precede you online — not just in your work history, but also in your LinkedIn Recommendations.

Someone looking at your Recommendations wants to know two things:

  • What are you like?
  • Are you good at what you do?

 

Recommendations are also vital in increasing your visibility on LinkedIn. In order for your profile to be considered “complete,” LinkedIn also requires you to receive a minimum of three Recommendations. According to LinkedIn, “Users with Recommendations in their profiles are three times more likely to receive relevant offers and inquiries through searches on LinkedIn.”

In addition, you can enhance your own reputation by providing Recommendations, because people viewing your profile can see (and read) the Recommendations you make. (Go to the person’s profile on LinkedIn, and on the right-hand side of the page, you’ll see a box for “(Name) Recommends.”) You can see excerpts of their Recommendations, or click the link for “See all Recommendations.”

Recommendations can also provide Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results — meaning, they will help you get found — both on LinkedIn as well as on search engines. Use industry-specific terminology in your Recommendations. Keywords included in LinkedIn Recommendations also receive emphasis in search engine results — especially searches within LinkedIn. When conducting a keyword search, all the keywords in a profile are indexed, and profiles with a high match of relevant keywords come up higher in the results listings. Although LinkedIn’s specific algorithms are secret, some experts suggest that keywords in Recommendations receive double the rankings of keywords provided in the profile itself.

How many Recommendations you have on your profile depends on how many contacts you have. A good guideline is 1-2 Recommendations for every 50 connections. Ideally, these will be a variety of individuals — not just supervisors, but co-workers, people you supervise, and clients/customers. Choose quality over quantity.

Recommendations should be built up over time. Because Recommendations have a date attached to them, don’t try to solicit all of your Recommendations at once. Don’t write and send your Recommendations all at once either. Recommendations are date-stamped, so the reader will be able to see when they were added to your page. It’s best if they are added gradually, over time.

In this guide, we’ll start with what to write in the Recommendation, and then show you how to actually make a Recommendation on LinkedIn. Finally, you’ll learn how to request your own Recommendations on LinkedIn.

Formula for a LinkedIn Recommendation

Before you write anything, take a look at your contact’s LinkedIn profile. Align your Recommendation with the individual’s LinkedIn profile. Tie in what you write with their headline, summary, and/or experience — reinforce the qualities they want to emphasize in the Recommendation you write. Look at the existing Recommendations they’ve received too.

Some things to consider include:

  • What are they good at?
  • What did they do better than anyone else?
  • What impact did they have on me? (How did they make my life better/easier?)
  • What made them stand out?
  • Is there a specific result they delivered in this position?
  • What surprised you about the individual?

 

Choose the qualities you want to emphasize in the person you are recommending. You may choose to use what author and speaker Lisa B. Marshall calls “The Rule of Threes.” Simply stated, concepts or ideas presented in groups of three are more interesting, more enjoyable, and more memorable.

In general, you will want to showcase transferable skills, because these will be the most relevant for your contacts when they are using LinkedIn for a job search or business development.

The top 10 skills employers are looking for in employees are:

  • Communication Skills (verbal and written)
  • Integrity and Honesty
  • Teamwork Skills (works well with others)
  • Interpersonal Skills (relates well to others)
  • Motivation/Initiative
  • Strong Work Ethic
  • Analytical Skills
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Computer Skills
  • Organizational Skills

 

These are the types of attributes you can focus on in your Recommendation. Use the following formula for a LinkedIn Recommendation to write a great Recommendation.

Here is a simple formula for a LinkedIn Recommendation:

  • Start with how you know the person (1 sentence). Give context for the relationship beyond just the job title and organization/company/school, although that can be a good way to start your Recommendation. (“I’ve known Amy for 10 years, ever since I joined XYZ Company. She was my lead project manager when I was an analyst.”)
  • Be specific about why you are recommending the individual (1 sentence). What qualities make him or her most valuable? Emphasize what the person did that set him or her apart. What is his work style? Does she have a defining characteristic? To be effective, Recommendations should focus on specific qualifications.
  • Tell a story (3-5 sentences). Back up your Recommendation with a specific example. Your Recommendation should demonstrate that you know the person well — so tell a story that only you could tell. And provide “social proof” in the story — give scope and scale for the accomplishments. Don’t just say the individual you’re recommending led the team — say he led a 5-person team, or a 22-person team. Supporting evidence — numbers, percentages, and dollar figures — lends detail and credibility to your story.
  • End with a “call to action” (1 sentence). Finish with the statement “I recommend (name)” and the reason why you would recommend him or her.

 

In the first sentence, you describe how you know the individual and give context about why you are qualified to recommend him or her.

  • (Name) and I have worked together…
  • I’ve known (name) for (how long)…

 

For the second bullet point, you can set up the description of his or her qualities by providing an overview sentence. Here are some examples:

  • Able to delegate…
  • Able to implement…
  • Able to plan…
  • Able to train…
  • Consistent record of …
  • Customer-centered leader…
  • Effective in _________
  • Experienced professional in the _____ industry
  • Held key role in ________________
  • Highly organized and effective…
  • High-tech achiever recognized for…
  • Proficient in managing multiple priorities and projects…
  • Recognized and appreciated by…
  • Served as a liaison between _________
  • Strong project manager with…
  • Subject-matter expert in _____
  • Team player with…
  • Technically proficient in _________
  • Thrived in an…
  • Valued by clients and colleagues for…
  • Well-versed in the…

 

For example:

Mike had a consistent record of delivering year-over-year sales revenue increases while also ensuring top-notch customer service, working effectively with the entire 7-member sales team to make sure the client’s needs were met.

Jill is a subject-matter expert in logistics, warehouse planning, and team leadership. Her ability to take the initiative to ensure the thousands of items in each shipment were prioritized for same-day processing made her an indispensable member of the management team.

For the storytelling section, you can choose a “Challenge-Action-Result” format to describe the project:

  • Challenge: What was the context for the work situation on the project? What was the problem that the project was designed to tackle?
  • Action: What did the person you’re recommending do? What was their specific contribution?
  • Result: What was the outcome of the project — and can you quantify it?

 

Choose descriptive adjectives to include in your Recommendations. Instead of describing someone as “innovative,” choose a word like “forward-thinking” or “pioneering.”

Here are some other descriptions:

Accessible
Accomplished
Accurate
Ace
Achievement-oriented
Action-driven
Active
Adaptable
Adept
Adventurous
Aggressive
Ambitious
Analytical
Articulate
Assertive
Authentic
Authoritative
Award-winning
Bilingual
Bold
Bright
Budget-driven
Calm
Capable
Caring
Charming
Cheerful
Collaborative
Colorful
Committed
Communicative
Community-oriented
Competitive
Computer-savvy
Confident
Congenial
Connected
Conscientious
Conservative
Convincing
Cooperative
Courageous
Creative
Credible
Culturally-sensitive
Curious
Customer-focused
Customer-oriented
Daring
Deadline-oriented
Decisive
Dependable
Detail-minded
Detail-oriented
Determined
Devoted
Diligent
Diplomatic
Directed
Discreet
Dramatic
Driven
Dynamic
Eager
Earnest
Easygoing
Effective
Efficient
Eloquent
Employee-focused
Empowered
Encouraging
Energetic
Enterprising
Entertaining
Enthusiastic
Entrepreneurial
Ethical
Exceptional
Experienced
Expert
Expressive
Extroverted
Fair
Flexible
Forceful
Formal
Forward-thinking
Friendly
Fun-loving
Funny
Future-oriented
Generous
Genuine
Gifted
Global
Goal-oriented
Happy-go-lucky
Hardworking
Health-conscious
Healthy
Helpful
Heroic
High-energy
High-impact
High-potential
Honest
Humorous
Imaginative
Impressive
Incomparable
Independent
Industrious
Influential
Ingenious
Innovative
Insightful
Inspiring
Intelligent
Intense
Intuitive
Inventive
Judicious
Kind
Knowledgeable
Likable
Logical
Loyal
Market-driven
Masterful
Mature
Methodical
Meticulous
Modern
Moral
Motivated
Multilingual
Multitalented
Notable
Noteworthy
Objective
Observant
Open-minded
Optimistic
Orderly
Organized
Original
Outgoing
Outstanding
Passionate
Patient
People-oriented
Perceptive
Perfectionist
Performance-driven
Persevering
Persistent
Personable
Persuasive
Philanthropic
Pioneering
Poised
Polished
Popular
Positive
Practical
Pragmatic
Precise
Principled
Proactive
Problem-solver
Productive
Professional
Proficient
Progressive
Prolific
Prominent
Prompt
Proven
Prudent
Punctual
Quality-driven
Quick-thinking
Quirky
Reactive
Refined
Reliable
Reputable
Resilient
Resourceful
Respected
Responsible
Results-driven
Results-oriented
Rigorous
Risk-taking
Safety-conscious
Savvy
Seasoned
Self-accountable
Self-confident
Self-directed
Self-driven
Self-managing
Self-motivated
Self-starting
Sensible
Sensitive
Service-oriented
Sharp
Sincere
Skilled
Skillful
Sophisticated
Spirited
Spiritual
Steady
Strategic
Strong
Successful
Supportive
Tactful
Talented
Task-driven
Team player
Team-oriented
Technical
Tenacious
Thorough
Tolerant
Top producing
Top-performer
Top-performing
Tough
Tough-minded
Traditional
Trained
Trend-setting
Troubleshooter
Trusted
Trustworthy
Undaunted
Understanding
Unrelenting
Upbeat
Valiant
Valuable
Vaunted
Versatile
Veteran
Visionary
Vital
Warm
Well-organized
Well-versed
Willing
Winning
Wise
Witty
Worldly
Youthful
Zealous

Make sure the Recommendation you write is clearly about the person you’re recommending. That sounds like common sense, but many Recommendations are too vague or too general — they could be about anyone, not this specific individual. To be effective, the Recommendation you write should not be applicable to anyone else.

Recommendations that you write should be:

  • Genuine
  • Specific
  • Descriptive (with detailed characteristics)
  • Powerful (including specific achievements, when possible)
  • Memorable
  • Honest/Truthful (credibility is important; avoid puffery or exaggeration)

 

Length is an important consideration when writing LinkedIn Recommendations. Keep your Recommendations under 200 words whenever possible. Some of the most effective LinkedIn Recommendations are only 50-100 words.

You may find it useful to look at other Recommendations before writing yours. You can do a search on LinkedIn for others with that job title and check out the Recommendations on their profiles.

You can use LinkedIn’s “Advanced People Search” function to conduct a search. At the top right-hand side of the page, click the “Advanced” link next to the People search box.

You can enter in keywords or job titles to find profiles related to the type of Recommendation you are writing.

You can then browse the listings that come up as matches and check out the Recommendations on those profiles.

Consider drafting your Recommendation in Microsoft Word or a text editor. Because LinkedIn does not have a built-in spell check function, this will help ensure your text does not contain spelling errors. You can also check your grammar in Microsoft Word, and use the “Word Count” feature to determine the length of your Recommendation.

Now you’re ready to actually create the Recommendation in LinkedIn.

How to Make a Recommendation

Under the Profile menu, choose “Recommendations.”

This will take you to a separate screen where you can manage the Recommendations you’ve received and make a Recommendation. You will also see tabs on this page where you can view your Sent Recommendations and Request Recommendations.

You must either be connected to the individual you wish to Recommend or know his or her email address. Also, the individual must have a valid LinkedIn account. You may find it easiest to use the “select from your connections list” in the “Make a Recommendation” section. You can also make a Recommendation from the individual’s profile page directly.

 

The “Recommend” feature may appear under the “Suggest connections” button. Or, like on this profile, the “Recommend” might be in the dropdown menu under “Send a Message.”

You’ll be asked to recommend the person as a:

  • Colleague (someone you’ve worked with at the same company)
  • Service Provider (someone you’ve hired to provide a service for you or your company)
  • Business Partner (someone you’ve worked with, but not as a client or colleague)
  • Student (they were at the school when you were there, either as a fellow student or as a teacher).

 

Once you’ve selected an option, choose “Go.” You’ll be taken to a page where you can create the Recommendation.

You’ll be asked how you know you know the person and can select the job or school you were at during that time.

Paste in the Recommendation text you created in the first section of this report.

In some instances (mainly when selecting Service Provider as the way to recommend the individual), you may be asked to select “Top Attributes” of the person you’re Recommending. LinkedIn will supply some suggested qualities for you to choose from. When you are given this option on the Recommendation page, you must choose three (“no more, no less”!) — but because it autofills the attributes, they may not be as relevant as ones you would choose yourself.

When you are finished, click on the [ view / edit ] link at the bottom of the “Create your Recommendation” page — this link allows you to include a personal message with the notification email. Let the person you’re recommending know this is a rough draft and encourage suggestions for improvement.

The person you recommend will get your email notifying him or her that you’ve made a Recommendation.

If you don’t receive a reply from the individual you’ve recommended within a week, follow up and make sure they received it.

Keep in mind that you can change (or remove) Recommendations you’ve given.

Under the Profile menu, choose “Recommendations.”

Click on the “Sent Recommendations” tab. This will take you to a page where you can see the Recommendations you’ve written. You can also edit Recommendations from this page, and choose who can see the Recommendations you’ve written. (Options for “Display on my profile to:” include “Everyone,” “Connections only,” and “No one.”)

If you want to edit or remove a Recommendation you’ve written, click on the [Edit] button next to the person’s name.

This will pull up an “Edit your Recommendation” page:

You can click on the blue “Withdraw this Recommendation” link to remove the Recommendation. You will be asked to confirm this change:

Any Recommendation you write may show up in your Activity feed on LinkedIn — even before it’s approved by the individual you’ve recommended — so keep that in mind.

How to Request Recommendations on LinkedIn

Only ask for Recommendations from people who are relevant to your goals — powerful Recommendations come from people who know you and your work. It’s better to have a strong Recommendation from a boss than a half-hearted one from someone with a well-recognized name. Don’t ask people to recommend you who don’t know you well.

Before you ask for a Recommendation, check the individual’s profile and see if he or she has written any other Recommendations. Do the other Recommendations they’ve written show unique detail? See how many they’ve given — and see if each one says basically the same thing. If they aren’t very strong, you may want to consider providing the person with a rough draft of a Recommendation you’ve written about yourself on their behalf.

To ask for a Recommendation, LinkedIn has a Recommendation request form.

Go to the Profile tab and select “Recommendations.”

Click on the “Request Recommendations” tab. You will be taken to a page that says “Ask the people who know you best to endorse you on LinkedIn.”

Under “Create your message,” you will want to customize your request. Replace the existing text with a personalized message. Although LinkedIn gives you the option of sending “bulk” Recommendation requests, don’t do it. Each request should be personalized to the individual you are asking for a Recommendation.

When asking for a Recommendation, ask for one related to a specific project. For example:

“Could you provide me with a Recommendation based on our work together on [X Project]?”

Your sample request might look like this:

An even better idea is to ask for the Recommendation through more personal means — for example, in person, on the telephone, or via email.

In fact, one of the best ways to get a LinkedIn Recommendation is to ask after they’ve given you a compliment “in real life.” If they praise you via email, for example, you could respond with a message that thanks them and says: “Are you on LinkedIn? Would you mind if I sent you a LinkedIn request for a Recommendation? It would mean a lot to me to have you say that in a Recommendation on there.”

Reciprocation is also a powerful motivation for Recommendations. Generally, if you ask for someone to provide you with a Recommendation, they will expect you to write one for them. (So it’s a good idea to only ask for Recommendations from someone you’d be willing to recommend back!) The reverse is also true — sometimes, if you provide an unsolicited Recommendation, the person you recommend will go ahead and write one for you as well.

However, reciprocal Recommendations (I gave you one, so can you give me one?) are less powerful than Recommendations that are freely given. Remember, visitors to your LinkedIn profile can see who you have recommended as well as who has recommended you. It’s easy to spot one-to-one (reciprocal) Recommendations.

If you don’t receive a response back from someone after requesting a Recommendation — or, if you don’t feel comfortable following up, consider whether you should be asking for a Recommendation from that person in the first place.

One of the most effective ways to get a great LinkedIn Recommendation is to write it yourself. This makes it easier on the person who you want to recommend you — and ensures your Recommendation is specific and detailed.

In this case, your request for a Recommendation might follow this format:

Dear (Name):

I’m writing to request a Recommendation of our work together at (company name) that I can include on my LinkedIn profile. To make this easy for you, here’s a draft Recommendation. Feel free to edit this or create your own.

Thank you.

(Your Name)

When possible, give the person you’re asking for a Recommendation some context for your request:

“I’m writing to request a Recommendation on LinkedIn. As you know, I’m looking to make a career change, and I believe a Recommendation from you based on our work together on [X Project] would be useful in highlighting my transferable skills.”

If You’re Asked to Make a Recommendation

Don’t ignore requests for Recommendations. But don’t feel like you have to accept all requests to make a Recommendation, either. You can respond back that you don’t feel you know him or her well enough to write a Recommendation (or that you don’t know them well enough in their work life to recommend them, if you only know them socially). Or you can put them off — saying something like, “Once we’ve worked together for a while, I’d be happy to write a Recommendation for you.”

So-called “character references” (also called “personal references”) don’t have much of a place on LinkedIn, where the emphasis is on Recommendations from people you have worked with (“professional references”). You can say something like, “Although we know each other socially, because LinkedIn attaches Recommendations to specific jobs, I don’t feel I’m a good fit to write a Recommendation for you.”

You will rarely see a negative Recommendation on LinkedIn. Because the content of Recommendations is public, it’s likely to be positive. Also, because recipients can choose whether or not to display Recommendations, they are not likely to approve negative comments for public display.

And your mom was right: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

However, if you do decide to write a Recommendation, the first question you should ask is: “What is the goal?” Does the individual want a new job? A promotion? Make a career change? Land a client? Knowing what their goal is in soliciting a Recommendation will help you tailor it to meet their needs.

Look at the individual’s LinkedIn profile — especially the job description of the position when you worked together.

If you are asked to provide a Recommendation, it’s fine to ask the person to draft their Recommendation for you to work from.

Remember, Recommendations you write show up on your profile too, so someone looking at your profile can see the Recommendations you’ve made for others.

When Someone Recommends You…

You’ll receive a notification when someone Recommends you. The notification will be emailed to the email address you have on file with LinkedIn:

When you click on the link at the bottom of the email, you will be taken to the same message in your LinkedIn account (you may need to sign into your LinkedIn account, if you are not already). It will ask you if you want to “Show this Recommendation on my profile” or “Hide this Recommendation on my profile.” Choose one option and then click “Accept Recommendation.”

After you click “Accept Recommendation,” you’ll receive a “Recommendation Confirmation.” This screen will also give you the opportunity to write a reciprocal Recommendation.

If you find an error in your Recommendation, or it’s not specific enough, you can click the “Request Replacement” link and it will automatically generate a request for a change with an email to the individual who wrote the Recommendation.

The best way to handle a Recommendation that you don’t like is simply to ask for it to be changed. But instead of asking them to change the whole thing, address specific issues in the Recommendation that you would like changed.

“I like what you’ve written, but I was wondering if you would correct the statement where you said I brought in $200,000 in revenue; my records from that time show that the figure was closer to $375,000.”

Replace the standard text in the message with your custom message.

What If You Change Your Mind About Displaying a Recommendation?

You can also choose to remove Recommendations from your profile, even after they’ve been published.

Here is how to manage the Recommendations already on your LinkedIn profile. Choose “Recommendations” from the Profile menu.

The default tab on the Recommendations page is “Received Recommendations.”

At the top of the page, it will show you any Recommendations you’ve received that have not yet been added to your profile. The second section is “Manage Recommendations You’ve Received.”

In the section below that heading, you’ll see a list of your current positions and any Recommendations you’ve received, associated with each job position you’ve listed in your profile.

If you click on the Manage link, you will see the Recommendations you’ve received for that position. You can click the checkbox above the word “Show” and it will change that Recommendation to hidden on your profile. When you click “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page, it will remove that Recommendation from being visible on your profile.

You can also request a new or revised Recommendation on this page.

You can also refuse Recommendations. When you receive a message notifying you of the Recommendation, choose “Hide this Recommendation on my profile.”

Then, click “Accept Recommendation.” This will acknowledge receipt of the Recommendation, but it will not be visible on your LinkedIn profile.

These are the best ways to handle a Recommendation that you don’t like — if you’re not willing to contact the person who recommended you and ask for changes.

Final Thoughts

Recommendations matter — but who they came from is sometimes more important than what the Recommendation says. A Recommendation from a higher-level person makes more of an impact than one from colleagues. You can often judge a Recommendation by the quality of the person writing it.

Don’t write — or display — bad Recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. Bad Recommendations are those that are:

  • Generic
  • From people who don’t have a clear understanding of you and/or your work
  • Written without context (how they know you, how they worked with you)
  • Old or outdated

 

LinkedIn does allow you to go back and edit Recommendations after they’ve been posted, but remember: You never get a second chance to make a first

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