Once you've established yourself on LinkedIn, it won't be long until you're asked to write a recommendation -- it's inevitable. Some of us may even have a few requests sitting in our inbox right now. For many, this is new and uncharted territory. Questions like 'What do I say?' and 'How much do I write?' keep many from ever responding. But, when the requests start rolling in from previous/current bosses, customers or colleagues, you can only procrastinate so long.
As a recruiter for the past five years, I've seen my fair share of LinkedIn recommendations. Some have helped improve candidate's profiles, and others not so much.
Before we decode the great ones, let's take a look at why the feature exists.
Through our profile pages, LinkedIn gave us a way to re-imagine our boring, old resumes. Every traditional resume section from the "objective" to the list of skills have been enhanced -- and the references section was no exception.
Rather than the conventional, "available upon request," LinkedIn allows you to rack up recommendations and showcase them as part of your professional brand. When done correctly, LinkedIn recommendations not only validate your expertise and skills, but also give interested parties an idea of what it's like to work with you.
LinkedIn recommendations are located towards the bottom of your profile page. Once accepted, they are public and help to validate your relationship with the reviewer and your employment history.
The feature that really sets LinkedIn recommendations apart is the ability to visit the recommenders profile and evaluate their credibility -- which also means that as the recommender, you need to be on your game. In addition to the recommendations you've received, people can also view those you've written.
So, what makes for a great recommendation? I've broken it down into three parts: craft a great hook, back it up, and finish strong. Overall, the recommendation should be the length of a long paragraph.
A Great Hook (one sentence)
The beginning and the end of a recommendation are disproportionately important. A strong hook captures the audience's attention, and a great close leaves a lasting impression.
When writing a great hook, it's important to be concise and clearly state your public objective. Don't bury the lead. People shouldn't have to guess or read the rest of the recommendation to understand your opening sentence -- it should stand on its own.
Hooks also set the tone and act as a filter for the rest of the recommendation. So, make sure it conveys your desired message and provides an accurate roadmap. Running off-course and interjecting too many themes can undermine your original message and come across as inauthentic. In the words of Stephen Covey, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."
"Jane is a natural leader with an uncanny ability to motivate and develop others."
Back It Up (two to five sentences)
In a few sentences, provide some context that supports your hook and adds credibility to the recommendation. Specifically, include any information that demonstrates the impact the person had on you or your organization. Also, it's helpful to describe your relationship briefly.
"I had the pleasure of working with Jane for three years at ABC. Although she was technically my manager, rarely did it feel that way. Instead, Jane focused on being a great coach, mentor, and above all else -- a friend. Jane understood that great leadership requires more than delegation, it's about equipping and inspiring others to do what inspires them. It's about empowering others by creating a safe environment where they can be themselves and where their opinions matter."
A Strong Finish (one sentence)
Drive your message home with a final sentence that reiterates your primary objective and provides your recommendation.
"These leadership abilities coupled with her unmatched analytical and critical thinking skills make Jane a great asset to any organization."
Although I recommend you consider and include authentic information using the three components above, here is a quick template that you can follow to get started.
Jane is a [unique trait or ability that sets the person apart from others.] I had the pleasure of working with Jane [time you spent working with them and the company where you worked together.] During that time [add supporting details that confirm your relationship, demonstrate the personal impact on you/your organization, and drive home your central message from the hook.] These [summarize the skills and abilities from the body,] would make Jane a great asset to any organization.