Professional Development

LinkedIn recommendations: Do’s and don’ts

Catriona Pollard /

We all prefer to work with people and businesses recommended to us, and leading companies have no doubt about the power of recommendations to drive sales.

The social media platform of choice for leaders, LinkedIn, has a specific section to give and receive recommendations.

Although LinkedIn recommendations can be an effective way of promoting and getting promoted by the people you work with, and can build your company’s reputation, there are some unspoken rules associated with this new marketing tool, and ways to improve their effectiveness.

What’s a recommendation?

People who are happy with your work write a brief description of their professional experience with you on your LinkedIn profile.

The recommendation is a way for a third party to obtain a better perspective of the recommended person.

Who and how to ask for recommendations

You can request a recommendation from your first-degree connections. Don’t go overboard asking everyone for one – and only ask people you have worked with.

You only want meaningful, genuine recommendations on your profile. People are suspicious of users with too many recommendations on their LinkedIn page!

You also want recommendations from people with the most credibility, preferably in senior positions, or someone known in your industry who has a strong, positive reputation.

When asking for a LinkedIn recommendation, customise the message with specifics on how you want your contact to recommend you. In fact, you could make it easy and write it for them – but be sure to let them know they can adjust it as they want.

Giving a recommendation

When you are providing, your goal is to educate others about the person. Keep this in mind. You don’t want to write a generic recommendation such as “Sally is a consummate professional and I highly recommend her to others” as it tells people nothing about how Sally works or her strengths.

Recommendations should be genuine, specific, and descriptive. They should also support a person’s professional brand. As a minimum it’s important to cover what they do and what makes them different or the best.

Keep your recommendations between 60-100 words. If possible, follow the rule of threes, such as “John is creative, a strong communicator and a positive leader”. Listing qualities in threes makes it easier for people to remember, and it will have much more impact.

If you don’t want to recommend someone who has asked, it’s OK to decline. No one wants a half-hearted recommendation.

Should you recommend people who recommend you?

Surprisingly, the answer is no. It just looks contrived and each recommendation undermines the other.

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Catriona Pollard

Catriona Pollard is the founder and director of CP Communications and the author of From Unknown To Expert.

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