Improve Your Profile: 5 Rules for LinkedIn Recommendations

Should you ask for a physical letter of recommendation or a LinkedIn recommendation? It’s a question that leads to more questions, and was an interesting topic of discussion in a recent meeting of career counselors.

It’s not an either/or proposition – you will likely need both at different points in time to meet the requirements of different employers. But as LinkedIn continues to grow as a tool for recruiting and professional networking the LinkedIn Recommendation shouldn’t be ignored. According to Jobvite’s 2012 Social Recruiting Survey, LinkedIn is the most popular social network for human resource professionals. In fact, 93% of those surveyed report that they are using LinkedIn in the recruiting process.

LinkedIn provides access to recommendations as part of your profile online. They tend to be more brief and informal (think testimonial) than a traditional printed letter, and will be more or less influential to recruiters and hiring managers depending on your target industry.

What’s the Value of a Recommendation?

From the employer’s point of view, asking for recommendations may not come into play until you have passed through the first few gates of the application process– resume screening and maybe an initial interview – although sometimes you’ll be asked to submit letters or a list of references with your resume. Here are a few ways in which LinkedIn recommendations can benefit your social and professional networking efforts even before you apply for a job:

  • Recommendations on your profile page indicate that you not only have an account, but also are actively connecting and networking with others working in your career field.
  • LI and Business Magazine explains how these recommendations give you an opportunity to let “others speak about your accomplishments,” so your online presence is not just you talking about you. Job search expert Jody Day compares LinkedIn recommendations to online customer reviews such as the ones you find on sites like Amazon and eBay. They are other people’s opinions of you and your work, which may influence their decisions about considering you as a potential candidate.
  • Liz Ryan at The Huffington Post tells us that LinkedIn recommendations provide much more information than a printed letter, which is quickly becoming a thing of the past. They also offer quick access to your recommenders’ LinkedIn profiles, as well as those of the companies you’ve worked for, to further describe your experiences.

Tips for Student Job Seekers

Don’t Just “Beef Up Your LinkedIn Account with Recommendations from Friends”

Responses to a LinkedIn question on tell us that this is easy to spot. Have you and a friend recommended each other? Mutual references aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but make sure they are genuine and focused on job skills and experience.

Include Recommendations from a Variety of People in Your Network

Examples include colleagues and co-workers, managers both current and previous, instructors, internship supervisors, and classmates. Look for those who also have strong LinkedIn profiles. Ryan also suggests that hiring managers who do look at your recommendations may also click through to your recommenders’ profiles for more information, and to verify their credibility as a source of information about you.

Look at the Recommendations on Other LinkedIn Profiles

Take the time to review multiple accounts to see how others manage their recommendations. How many do they have? How long are the write-ups? Who are they from (i.e., supervisors, co-workers)? Focus on those who work in the types of jobs you are targeting, and those working for the companies with which you are seeking employment.

Go for Quality Over Quantity

There is a lot of advice out there on how many LinkedIn references you should have, ranging from “a few” to “as many as possible.” Can you get one recommendation for each position you have included in your profile? That may be a good place to start.

Ask for Them!

This rule applies to all types of recommendations. Sometimes a supervisor or teacher will make the offer to write one for you, but this is rare. You usually have to initiate the process. It’s easy to request a recommendation through the LinkedIn system, but be sure to add a personal note and consider prompting your recommenders to include specific details about your shared experiences and projects.

Keep in mind that recommendations are just one part of your LinkedIn profile. If you decide to include them, make sure they are strong in terms of the professional relationship you have with the recommender. The better they know you – and can truly attest to your skills, experience, and potential for growth – the more effective their recommendations will be.

What are your thoughts on LinkedIn recommendations? Have you found them to be helpful in your job search?


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About the Author: Melissa Venable, PhD is an Education Writer for Melissa’s background includes work in higher education – private, public, and for-profit – as an instructional designer and curriculum developer. Melissa is also an experienced instructor, academic advisor, and career counselor working with both undergraduate and graduate students. She is actively involved in research related to online education and the support of online students. Her work has been published in The Career Development Quarterly, TechTrends, the Journal of Computing in Higher Education, and the Journal of Online Learning and Teaching.



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