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The 3 Elements of Great LinkedIn Recommendations

By Arnie Fertig

We rely on recommendations for everything from where to eat, shop, travel, and what products or services to buy. Recommendations have always been a part of the hiring process, as employers rely on the word of someone who knows a potential employee to vouch for his or her talents, expertise and character.

Don't Do This...

Imagine receiving this message via LinkedIn in your regular email account as I did recently:

“[Name] has shared his profile with you. Click below to leave him a quick recommendation. He will be much obliged you have supported his efforts!”

At first blush it seems like a routine use of social media to enhance the reputation of a contact. However:

  • Rather than coming from someone you know, it turns out that it comes from a total stranger.
  • This stranger has also copied more than 20 other total strangers on the message.
  • Rather than directing you to LinkedIn’s own recommendation feature, the link sends you to another site altogether.

This is a case of brash networking incompetence. When you act this way, you can easily lose potential friendships and alienate people.

I regarded the email as shameless self-promotion, asking me to lie about knowing a person and to make up something positive about him to lure others into a relationship with him.


Instead, Use LinkedIn's Recommendations Wisely

One of LinkedIn’s most underused, but a potentially valuable function, is the Recommendation (as opposed to the Endorsement). A recommendation actually requires someone to use words instead of just clicking an endorsement.

LinkedIn safeguards its users from having negative or inaccurate things said about them by requiring that the person being referred OK’s a recommendation prior to it being posted on their profile. And, it allows the two people involved to work with each other to tweak the language until both are entirely satisfied with it.

When you give others whose personalities and work you admire a recommendation, you show yourself to be a strong networker and team player. And, of course, what goes around tends to come around in the form of a return recommendation.

In order to give a 1st degree LinkedIn connection a recommendation, simply navigate to their profile and click on the down arrow next to the blue and white “send a message” button to open up the menu. It is the third item in the menu.

Key Elements of a Great Recommendation:

A great recommendation will have several elements, each made powerful by the specific facts a solid reference can bring to bear:

  1. Relationship context.

    Example: “I’ve known Joe for X years. We worked together at Moonscape, Inc. on a project to prepare and ship green cheese to the moon.”
  2. What the person has done.

    Example: “Joe’s job was to load the green cheese on to rocket ships. His work was always accurately executed. But in order to ensure that the launch was flawless and on time, he took the extra steps of staying late and coming in weekends to help out a coworker who lost several days of work for her own personal reasons.”
  3. A person’s key strengths and talents.

    Example: “Joe knows his way around our organization, and does whatever it takes, within the rules, to get things done. He has a good sense of people’s capacities, and, as a loyal team member, brings out the best in those around him. He knows our line of green cheese, and makes sure the product is where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. He’s really made a difference in our department’s success!”

Traditionally, companies only bothered to check references at the end of a hiring process. But your ability to give and get references posted on LinkedIn can turn the process upside down. In effect, a LinkedIn recommendation says to an employer: it is worth your time to get to know this person, because this is what you will find of value in him or her as a potential new employee.

To boost your job hunt, remember that good networking is not about shameless self-promotion, but rather building solid relationships. It’s about “give to get” and not “give me!” When you act this way you will enhance your own reputation, gain public standing, and evidence yourself to be the kind of person that others want to be around.

Happy hunting!

More About LinkedIn for Job Search:

Happy hunting!

About the author...

Job-Hunt's Social Media and Job Search Expert Arnie Fertig, MPA, works with clients throughout the U.S. who are dedicated to their own career advancement on the nuts and bolts of job hunting. He is the Head Coach at, and contributes weekly to the USNews & World Report "On Careers" Blog. Connect with him on LinkedIn, on Twitter (@jobhuntercoach), or directly: Fertig [at]

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