LinkedIn masterclass no. 4: How to use recommendations as social proof to establish authority on LinkedIn

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So far you’ve created a profile that packs a punch and switched off or are managing endorsements to meet industry regulations.

Now add a powerful way to establish credibility and enhance authority, recommendations.

Recommendations link people by company, position and relationship, providing social proof. They position you within a company and industry, allowing others to rank your relative expertise. Displaying relevant recommendations can also help position you for transition into a preferred area by emphasising certain skills over others.

In this Masterclass we look at ways to:

  1. Ask for a recommendation
  2. Give a recommendation
  3. Accept a recommendation or ask for changes
  4. Show, hide or move recommendations.

On LinkedIn there are often many ways to do things. For example, you can navigate to recommendations from View profile as, by scrolling to Recommendations on your profile or from Privacy & Settings behind your photo. I’ll cover some but not all variations. 

The difference between recommendations and endorsements

Unlike endorsements, for which LinkedIn offers a too-easy tick or cross prompt, recommendations require effort. While harder to obtain, they are more valuable.

Although not every career path shows steady and logical progression, a leap from retail sales to non-executive director health should prompt questions? When, what, who did they work for? What explains the unusual advancement? Cross-links corroborate claims and the career path that is shown.

If someone has falsely claimed to work for a company, people within a network will be able to identify and flag it. Human resource or reputation managers should do regular audits, but peers can help weed out impostors.

Recommendations also show the relationship between connections – that is, if you managed or reported to someone or if they were a client, teacher or mentor, which helps weight feedback relative to need. If ‘team player’ is the heart of what you’re looking for then recommendations from team members might be a strongest insight than that of the boss. It’s all about context.

The absence of recommendations should prompt you to look more closely at a person to ensure that they are legitimate.

Ask for a recommendation

You can reach out to anyone in your network for a recommendation but only approach those you know well and who add value.

Unbelievably I receive requests from people I don’t know for recommendations but what they are usually looking for is a product endorsement for something they’re selling. LinkedIn is not the right place to do that. Vouching for someone is a big deal.

There are two ways to ask for recommendations –

  1. From the Recommendations section on your Profile
  2. From Helpful links.

From the Recommendations section on your Profile:

Go to Profile and scroll down (down, down) until you find Recommendations, usually towards the end of the page. Choose Ask to be recommended and follow the prompts.

dionne1This opens a series of prompts, follow them.

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From Settings

On the right hand side go to your photograph or Avatar if you haven’t uploaded one – in which case do so now. A photo makes the transition between a virtual and real life seamless and validates who you are across multiple profiles. Importantly, if you meet at an event and follow up on LinkedIn, a face is more likely to trigger memory than a name.

Click the drop down menu and navigate to Privacy & Settings. LinkedIn will ask for a password; this is a security practice.

dionne3Once you’re in you’ll see Settings and Helpful Links. Under Helpful Links select Manage your recommendations.

dionne4Voila! A Recommendations menu opens with numerous options. Choose Ask for recommendations and follow the four-stage process, starting with the position for which you want to be recommended.

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It’s good practice to have a recommendation for each role. You don’t have to display them all at once but you know they’re there in case you need them.

After selecting a position choose up to three connections from your network.

dionne6As you start typing, LinkedIn automatically finds the person you are searching for and requests further details.

dionne7Fill out the details. When you reach four, a template request is provided.

Tailor your message to make it personal and specify the skills you want the recipient to focus on. People are busy. Since you are asking for something, provide prompts that make it easy to action. Some people ask if it’s okay to ask for a recommendation before asking for one. Whew. That’s a trade off for manners over email overwhelm if ever I heard one. I think if you’re polite and willing to accept that your request won’t always be granted, you can skip that step.

Write a draft that is not a draft by providing keywords and direction. For example: “Tom, would you be happy to recommend me for the work I did as stakeholder manager on Project A? I’m applying for a more senior role with the same complex mix of issues and stakeholders on a project with political sensitivities. I think those weekly meetings with the department and Minister’s office helped me develop the high-level communications skills they are looking for.”

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Push Send. The person will receive an email.

Give a recommendation

Be judicious with recommendations, but give them when warranted.

A recommendation reflects on you so avoid clichés and write well. People need to know you have the qualifications and authority to make a recommendation that matters. Team members send a different message from the boss, they are all important but the context must be clear.

Since time is of the essence, use this simple 4-pronged approach:

  1. Open with a bang. Sum up key achievements in a single line. “Jane delivered a 50% increase in sales over 3 years by recruiting standout talent and implementing an aggressive training program that created the highest performance team we’ve had.”
  1. Add personal context. Add a line on relative positions and skills, while showing a bit of personality. “I had the pleasure of having Jane on my senior executive leadership team, her strategic and technical advice was second to none and we loved (and miss) her collaborative and witty style.”
  1. Be specific. Focus on a couple of standout qualities rather many generic ones. “I’ve never seen anyone manage the competing interests of stakeholders with the balance of respect and tenacity get results that Jane achieved.”
  1. Hit home. Seal the deal by stating the where and how of their impact. “Jane’s drive and emotional intelligence will strengthen any leadership team.”

There are three ways to give a recommendation:

  1. From a connection’s Profile
  2. From the Recommendations page
  3. Responding to a request.

From a connection’s Profile

Go to a connection’s profile, click the arrow next to Send a Message, choose Recommend.

dionne9Use the template that opens to write a recommendation.

Completed the relationship prompts and push send.

From the Recommendations page

From Profile scroll down to the Recommendations section (often a long way down the page) and click Ask to be recommended.

dionne10Select Give recommendations from the menu and follow the prompts.

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Responding to a request

Requests are emailed to the account you’ve associated with LinkedIn. Open the email and click Write your recommendation, which opens on LinkedIn. I prefer to open recommendation requests on the platform rather than following email links, to avoid phishing scams.

Accepting recommendations

You can accept a recommendation outright or request changes:

  1. From email
  2. From the Manage Recommendations

From email

  1. Open the recommendation in email titled [Your name], I’ve recommended you and click Add to profile or Ask for changes

From the Manage Recommendations page

  1. Go to your Profile
  2. Scroll to the Recommendations section, click Manage.
  3. In Pending recommendation click Add to profile or Ask for changes. If you don’t want the updates sent to your network remember to turn off activity broadcast.

Show and hide recommendations and reorder them

Navigate to Recommendations and click Manage.

dionne12Click on Received. Recommendations will be displayed for each position.

dionne13Click the box on the left to display a recommendation or leave it empty to keep it hidden.

dionne14You can use the two-headed arrow on the right hand side to re-order the recommendations that you have received by clicking on and dragging them up and down.

Recommendations are the sine qua non of legitimacy on LinkedIn. Used judiciously they will validate claims and form the bedrock of professional authority.

Dionne Lew is the CEO of the Social Executive, an adviser to boards and senior executives on digital and social media rated in the top 1% for global community influence by Kred.

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Dionne Lew is the CEO of the Social Executive, an advisor to boards and senior executives on digital and social media rated in the top 1% for global community influence by Kred. Her latest book, The Social Executive, is now available.

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