The Power of Recommendations

Not long ago, recommendations and references were asked for in good faith with very little knowledge of what might be written until a job was offered.  Or not.

Thankfully for today’s job candidates, that situation has changed with the advent of online forums and power of relationships & networking.  Most candidates are much more savvy about the recommendations they ask for and in more control over what is being displayed on their own profiles.

Does this scenario sound familiar?  You have a new message on LinkedIn: “Can you endorse me?”  You have probably received this message many times already from former or current colleagues.  Maybe you have sent this request yourself!   

Recommendations through endorsements on LinkedIn is one great way to proactively manage your own professional image.  But why do you need to market yourself?  To finally get your dream job at your dream company, of course.

Recommendations can play a vital role in advancing your career mainly because it grants two important benefits.  First, it enables you to better market yourself by reinforcing your own profile with credible comments from knowledgeable sources.  Secondly, recommendations allow recruiters to better identify top candidates for any applicable, professional searches that they may be actively engaged on.  But be careful.  It is not necessarily the number of recommendations that will help strengthen your candidacy when applying for jobs online, but rather the quality of those endorsements.   So instead of asking for a recommendation from anyone, be selective.

Recruiters value the quality of recommendation and know how to gauge skills and competencies from these recommendations. A very generic recommendation will have little positive impact while a specific recommendation made by former colleagues, bosses, or mentors indicating your work style, achievements, leadership abilities, and niche skill sets will definitely strengthen your profile.   The best recommendations are those that are concise and use industry specific terms which will increase the probability of your profile being returned in search string for recruiter!

Of course, although you may choose whose recommendation is displayed on your profile in LinkedIn, you certainly cannot control what they chose to write about you.  And although you do have the option of not publishing the recommendation that you requested, you should exercise this option judiciously because you may burn some bridges if you chose not to display someone’s requested recommendation.

With this in mind, try to be selective about who you ask for recommendations. It is also a good practice to clearly mention what skills & qualities you would prefer that the person to cover in their recommendation so that you have time to address any disagreement and reach some common ground!  

Of course, if you are asked to write a recommendation for someone whose profile you feel unable to validate, you should diplomatically decline.  This option, however, should  never be used simply because you are too lazy or too busy to write a thoughtful and meaningful recommendation.  And when you have agreed to write a recommendation, be sure to comment on any applicable traits and professional skills you have observed.  Consider the task as your response if asked if that person should be hired by a potential employer for those skills.  Because don’t forget, your time and credible comments can create a huge positive impact on someone’s career.