LinkedIn recommendations can be a valuable networking tool, bolstering reputations and credibility, and potentially paving the way for future business opportunities or employment.
But with your recommendation of a former colleague or associate on display for all to see, it is important to recognise that your credibility may also at stake.
So, what should you do if you’ve been approached for a recommendation from someone you don’t remember working closely with or someone whose work you wouldn’t rate favourably?
At Ladders, Lindsay Tigar has tapped the wisdom of Amy Cooper Hakim, PhD, an industrial-organisational psychology practitioner and workplace expert, to find out how such a situation can be approached.
If you can’t recall, it’s best to say no
If you can’t recall the specifics of working with someone, it’s unlikely you will not be able to provide an accurate assessment of their capabilities, says Hakim.
In this situation, the advice is to be clear and direct – and not simply ignore the request.
“To get out of giving a recommendation for this reason, say something like, ‘Thanks for asking me to write a recommendation! I remember working together a few years back, but I think that someone who worked with you more recently is better suited to provide feedback on your performance. Sorry I can’t be of more help,’” Hakim advises.
Sometimes it’s best to keep quiet
Public expressions of negativity on LinkedIn will likely be counterproductive, says Hakim, and it’s important to keep this in mind if approached by someone you feel unable to endorse.
If you’re unwilling to hand out a recommendation, explaining why via a private message could be the best course of action.
Hakim recommends ending such as message in the following way: “I’m probably not the best choice here as I’m not comfortable writing a recommendation. Best of luck, and sorry that I can’t be of more help!”.
You have no obligation to do so
Hakim says some professionals can fall into a trap of offering undeserved recommendations to people they’ve ended a working relationship with simply because they feel bad.
But there’s no obligation to provide someone with a recommendation, including on LinkedIn.
In fact, in the long run, being honest as to why you are not providing a recommendation could lead to a former colleague lifting their game, she says.
Capitulating to peer pressure should not be an option
You may not want to come across as being rude, but Hakim questions whether this is reason enough to provide a recommendation to someone you don’t feel you can vouch for.
“Say something polite yet direct and to-the-point, like, ‘I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to help you with that. Best of luck with your search! Sorry that I can’t be of more help,’” Hakim advises.
“Know that some may feel offended if you do not accept their request to write a recommendation. But, you have that choice, and should never feel pressured to do so.”