Back in 2019, I published an article on LinkedIn I’ve since referred to as, “It’s Okay to Be Awesome.” It’s all about the power of LinkedIn recommendations. In the time since I first wrote that article, I’ve had dozens, maybe hundreds, of conversations with clients about this often overlooked feature.
Recommendations are especially overlooked by my clients who work in an environment where compliance must be taken into account. It’s true that a small handful of people cannot use LinkedIn recommendations, like folks with a Series 65 license. However, most clients I serve, including those who work in highly regulated industries like financial services, can take advantage of LinkedIn recommendations, as long as they submit the recommendations they receive to a compliance portal like Hearsay Social for approval.
Of all the LinkedIn profiles I’ve transformed and all the leaders, executives, salespeople, and entrepreneurs I’ve trained, only a fraction fully leverage LinkedIn’s recommendation feature. Yet, it’s one of the simplest, most impactful ways to build credibility online. This topic bears repeating: It’s still okay to be awesome.
Let’s start with the why. If you’ve never given or requested a LinkedIn recommendation, here are the top reasons to try it. Already sold on the why? Jump down to the “how” section to get started with LinkedIn recommendations.
One of the reasons I love LinkedIn recommendations is that you can use them to help someone else. Not only is a surprise recommendation a great way to show someone that you value their work, but it also offers some perks. Giving someone in your professional network a LinkedIn recommendation allows you to:
Surprise and delight your connections with unprompted recognition;
Think deeply about the person you’re recommending and contemplate the meaningful impacts they’ve had on your professional life;
Thoughtfully offer feedback versus turning around a quick, off-the-cuff response to a request; and
Best of all, the idea that you took initiative and made time to share your experience without being asked will leave a lasting impression.
In addition, because your photo and headline appear on your recommendation, it has the added advantage of serving as a mini-billboard for you on someone else’s profile.
There’s no shame in requesting feedback in the form of a recommendation from a colleague or professional contact that can speak to your character. Most clients I work with are surprised to discover how many people will happily contribute a recommendation if asked. A strong recommendation can add color and depth to your profile in ways that describing yourself cannot. Requesting a recommendation from someone in your professional network allows you to:
Gain feedback about your colleagues’ experiences working with you;
Provide social proof that may increase the chances of people hiring you or partnering with you;
Encourage you and allow you to see how far you’ve come in your career;
Serve as a better proxy for client references; and
Strengthen and deepen your existing connections by creating an opportunity for someone to reflect on what it’s like to work with you.
Now that you understand just how powerful LinkedIn recommendations can be, let’s move on to the how. Giving and receiving recommendations on LinkedIn is simpler than you think. Follow the step-by-step instructions below to see for yourself.
First, decide who you want to recommend. You might consider vendors, clients, interns, colleagues, candidates (if you’re a recruiter), and bosses. Note that whoever you recommend must be a 1st-degree connection.
Go to the person’s profile
Describe your relationship using the drop-down menu provided and select the role you held at that time
Write your recommendation
In your recommendation, briefly explain how you know the person, when you worked together, and in what capacity you collaborated. What did they do that impressed you, helped you, or gave you an idea of something you could do better in your own work? Try to share an acknowledgment that sets them apart as experts in their field.
I suggest drafting your message in a separate document first to minimize spelling and punctuation errors. Once a connection has accepted your recommendation, it will appear at the bottom of their profile and at the bottom of your profile.
Pro Tip: Since LinkedIn recommendations are not automatically added to your recipient’s profile, it’s a good idea to give your recipients a heads up to let them know they have a pending LinkedIn recommendation. Reach out with a short note, such as: “Hi Kara, I just wrote you a recommendation on LinkedIn. I really enjoyed working with you last year and want the world to know how great you are! If there’s anything you would like me to change in the write-up before you add it to your profile, please let me know. I’m happy to make any adjustments. Otherwise, feel free to accept it so it will show up in your profile.”
First, decide who might be willing to speak to your professional capabilities. You might consider past clients, colleagues, candidates (if you’re a recruiter), and bosses. Note that only 1st-degree connections can give you a LinkedIn Recommendation. To request a recommendation, follow these steps:
Go to the person’s profile
Click “Request a Recommendation”
Describe your relationship using the drop-down menu provided and select the role you held at that time.
Write a brief note requesting a recommendation, such as: “Hi Carl, I really enjoyed working with you when we were both at Northwestern Mutual. Would you mind writing a LinkedIn recommendation for me and speaking to my leadership in our office, my communication style, and my ability to see a project through execution? Thank you very much.”
Pro Tip: Depending on your relationship with this person, you may want to give a heads up that you are making the request. No action is needed on their end until you send the request. Also, in the example request above, notice how I give Carl a few bits of information that I would like him to speak to when writing her recommendation; this is always appreciated and helpful to your nominator.
Be careful—you don’t want your recommendations to look gratuitous. Spontaneously offering someone a recommendation does not mean the recipient is required to return the favor. To help your colleague understand that reciprocation isn’t expected, include a note with your recommendation.
For example, “Please accept this recommendation as a display of my appreciation for you. I do not expect you to write a recommendation for me in return. It was a pleasure working with you; I wanted to share that positive experience with you and with others who may work with you. Thank you again for your great work!”
Keep in mind that LinkedIn does timestamp recommendations. This means that if you write one and your recipient quickly writes one back for you a day later, it will look gratuitous even if it is not.
Giving and receiving LinkedIn recommendations is by far the most underutilized LinkedIn feature I see in my work with clients. Everyone can benefit from the thoughtful use of this tool. Still, there are so many other ways you can upgrade your use of LinkedIn. I cover the fundamentals of how to use LinkedIn the right way in my self-paced "Key Pillars to Using LinkedIn the Right Way" training. If you’re looking for a quick-start way to grow your network and access the right people, I designed this guide with you in mind. You can sign up or learn more here.