How to Ask for Recommendations on LinkedIn: A Comprehensive Guide

How to Ask for Recommendations on LinkedIn: A Comprehensive Guide

These days, being able to promote yourself is very important for most people’s careers. Especially in a time of social distancing, it’s really hard to know what someone is like in real life. Fortunately, if you know how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn, you can counteract the problem somewhat. After all, many of the people you’d choose to write one have seen you in person. It might be through a conference, or years spent in the workplace. But either way, these people know the “real” you.

With that in mind, let’s look at the why and how of asking for recommendations. It’s worth noting that this post is a companion to my recent one on writing a LinkedIn recommendation. You might benefit from reading both. Sometimes it’s beneficial for people to recommend each other based on their relationship.

The Importance of Having LinkedIn Recommendations

It’s easy to ask, “who cares about LinkedIn recommendations? A potential employer will call them anyway.” The fact is, though, that these days a lot of recruiters look for viable candidates on LinkedIn. If you have some recommendations, this sets you apart right away from the competition. Plus, you can ask a wider variety of people to write you one here than you’d have on the call list. Here are some other benefits.

Recommendations provide credibility and social proof

If you know how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn, you can demonstrate that you’re a genuine professional. After all, people only recommend others that they know. And in most cases, they’ll recommend people they genuinely like. This is a bit different from traditional job references, since giving them is part of many supervisors’ jobs. And in places where HR must do the reference, the person giving it probably doesn’t know you.

They back up your claims made in your profile

Are you the manager that everyone loves? Have a special gift for consultative technical sales? Do you know how to make a company more efficient without making people hate you (or management)? This sort of self-promoting statement is often either ignored or taken with a grain of salt. Or else they’re hard to back up without saying things your (former) employer wouldn’t approve of. If you know how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn, you can have someone back up your claims.

Prove that you are a real entity in a world of fake profiles

Unfortunately, a lot of LinkedIn profiles are as phony as a two-dollar bill. Fake profiles are used for many purposes, including scams and getting jobs under false pretenses. These fakes waste recruiter’s time at best and, at worst, put people in positions that they aren’t qualified for. Luckily, LinkedIn recommendations help you prove that your profile isn’t fake. Looking at both profiles helps people be more comfortable that you are who you say you are.

Recommendations will be looked at when vetting potential employees or product/service providers
Recruiters aren’t the only people who can benefit from seeing your LinkedIn recommendations. Your vendors might also be interested in knowing how real you are. This is especially the case with freelancers and small business owners. Nobody likes to waste their time, energy, and money dealing with the wrong business partners. Employees in the wrong job tend not to be happy, and they don’t get the best results. And on the supplier side, mismatches can be just as bad.

For this reason and many others, it’s important that you know how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn. This will help the right people find you, so that your business relationships will be the most beneficial possible.

Traditional Recommendations vs. Recommendations on LinkedIn

At this point you may be asking what the differences are between traditional references and those you find on LinkedIn. After all, many of us feel that the old fashioned boss call should be sufficient. How many employers check references before they’re ready to hire you? The truth is, the differences in recommendation types are significant, and they lead to sometimes-different opportunities.

LinkedIn recommendations, unlike normal recommendations, become public because of the medium in where they are published.

One of the hard lessons we all learned at the beginning of the Internet age is that once something’s posted online it’s there forever. This is true because of caching and indexing, not to mention the impact of people’s downloading things and reposting them. For the victims of online bullying this is destructive. But with LinkedIn recommendations, this public permanence is a good thing. Once a recommendation is posted, it’s there for everyone to see.

Similarly, this means that LinkedIn recommendations become part of your public brand. Everything that’s on your LinkedIn profile reflects on you. And once you know how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn, you’ve found a great tool for building your professional brand.

Recommendations on LinkedIn are powerful in that they become published content on the Internet for all on LinkedIn to see.

Let’s face it, people love shoutouts from influencers and other leaders within a particular field. If your LinkedIn recommendations come from people that worked with you, then this is similar to the shoutout. Everyone can see it, and it reflects positively on you. Plus, anyone who’s searching for you can see what that person said about you. That alone is pure gold because it helps you find opportunities that you might not have even known existed.

Because the content is published on your profile, with permission it is easy to publish on your website as well.

It’s always a good policy to get people’s permission before posting their recommendation on your website. That’s because sharing recommendations is very personal, especially in this environment. But if your recommender is willing to allow this, the accolade is easy to share in different places across the web. In particular, adding this to your website will greatly increase its impact.

Recommendations on LinkedIn vs. LinkedIn Endorsements

Most of us are familiar with LinkedIn endorsements. Chances are that you’ve given these out to people, likely without giving it much thought. If you don’t understand the differences between endorsements and recommendations, it’s hard to know how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn endorsements are just “+1s” for your skills

The most basic difference between endorsements and recommendations is that endorsements only “vote” in favor of your having a particular skill. For instance, someone could “endorse” me for marketing or public speaking. I might endorse someone that helps me with back office functions for those skills. But the endorsements don’t tell me much about someone. About all they’ll do is alert people to skills that user might have.

A LinkedIn recommendation provides depth that a simple endorsement, which can be easily gamed, does not.

Let me unpack this point in two parts. First, a recommendation tells you what someone’s actually like. Someone might be a wonderful administrative assistant from a skills perspective, but awful to work with on a daily basis. Or on the other side of the coin, someone might be a really nice person, but nearly incompetent at work. Recommendations help viewers truly understand a professional’s strengths and weaknesses.

The second part of my comment is that endorsements can be gamed. Since they don’t take any work from users, endorsements are often passed out like candy on a quid pro quo basis. People can even have fake accounts endorse them. This is a lot like the fake followers and false engagement that is often rife in the influencer universe.

How Many LinkedIn Recommendations Should I Have?

Deciding if you have enough recommendations on LinkedIn or not can be difficult. Nobody wants their profile to look spammy, and we shouldn’t add empty references that lack value for recruiters and potential business partners. Here are some thoughts on when you have enough recommendations, and when you need to know how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn.

Think about whether or not your profile is complete with your recommendations.

LinkedIn used to have a feature that monitored your profile for completeness, and at that time having 3 LinkedIn recommendations was the baseline, so this is a good minimum to shoot for. This number is enough to show people that you are a real person, and that a few people think highly enough of you to write a recommendation. Plus, even a few recommendations help recruiters decide if you’re the kind of person they’re looking for.

Look up your competition and see how many recommendations the person with the most has.

Another way to see if you have enough recommendations to stand out from the crowd is looking at the competition. Is there someone who’s a major workplace rival? Are you competing with a particular talent pool for a job? This is especially true when your job is more niche or the number of qualified candidates is relatively small. In this case, you can try to maintain a similar number of recommendations.

Aim to have 1 recommendation for every year you have worked

This isn’t a lot of people for younger professionals, but it’s a pile for those of us who are later in their careers. With that said, senior-level talent often has the toughest competition. Standing out from the crowd of other well-qualified job applicants is important. And for people that work on a contract basis, the stronger your personal brand, the better.

Should You Ask for a LinkedIn Recommendation?

Unlike traditional recommendations that are typically given on separation or when a recruiter calls, there are several ways to get a LinkedIn recommendation. For instance, some people love to recommend the cool people they’ve worked with. However, sometimes it might be appropriate to ask. Here’s some guidance on when to ask.

Over time you might organically acquire LinkedIn recommendations

Some people love to recommend the awesome people around them. Or give accolades to people who have made a difference in their lives. Recommendations can also be given for an especially good job at something. As a result, you might find that people spontaneously send you LinkedIn recommendations.

Recommending people often inspires them to recommend you back.

If you feel like you need more based on the advice above, you can start by actually paying it forward and recommending others in your network. Choose someone whose professional efforts have made a difference in some way. They might be coworkers, a boss, or even a supplier with excellent customer service. While you don’t want it to be quid pro quo, many who you recommend will be thankful and offer to send you a recommendation as well.

When these efforts don’t give you enough recommendations, then it’s time to practice how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn. Remember that these references become a permanent part of your profile, so choose carefully.

Who Should I Ask for a LinkedIn Recommendation?

Deciding who to ask isn’t always easy. While there’s little question that the best boss you ever had is a great candidate, many other choices are less obvious. Here are some ideas about who you can ask, and ideally you’ll act on more than one. Remember, while this is a professional network, recommendations are very personal, especially in a public forum.

Aim to get a variety of voices to provide a wide perspective of you to the world

Many of us are easily tempted to simply pick two or three of our favorite coworkers. However, this isn’t necessarily the best approach. Instead, try and get people who have had a variety of roles. This will allow for a wider perspective of what you’re like, and what you’re capable of. Here are some examples.

Leaders who have been exposed to your work

For example, if you’re an academic then this could be someone who read your latest journal article or interacted with you at a conference. Similarly, in most professional niches there are up-and-coming professionals who do great work, and get noticed by thought leaders. These leaders are perfect reference sources.

Former managers

This one is very valuable. While employers will typically try and contact these people during the post-interview vetting process, it’s even better when you can demonstrate your value earlier in the process. If a former manager recommends you on LinkedIn, you can boost the chance of getting an interview in the first place.

Team members

Colleagues and team members can speak to your ability to work well in a group. Depending on the opportunities you’re looking for, this is very valuable.

Clients

If you work in a professional services field, clients are great sources of recommendations. After all, LinkedIn is a great place for people looking to hire people like you find the right person. With client recommendations, it’ll be easier for potential clients to decide if you’re worth contacting.

People that have taught or mentored you

Recent college graduates come to mind immediately with this category. However, it can also include graduate school professors, trainers, or even mentors. People like this have especially good insights on what you’re really like.

How to Ask for Recommendations on LinkedIn

Unsurprisingly, LinkedIn has some rules on who can recommend you in the first place. For one thing, you must be connected with someone on LinkedIn to ask for a recommendation. That means they need to be a 1st degree connection, not a 2nd or 3rd degree. By requiring this, LinkedIn helps maintain user privacy and reduce spam.

Your first step in how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn is navigate to their profile and select the “More” button located next to the “Message” button. Then you will see the option to “Request a Recommendation.”

After selecting “request a recommendation,” you will then have 2 drop-down menus: 1 to describe your relationship and the other to list your position at the time that you are asking a recommendation for. Positions can include anything on your profile as experience or education. This means that if you were classmates then you’d select “student at XYZ school” as the position.

The final window will then give you the opportunity to include a personalized message with your request. I believe that part of how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn is to personalize your message. After all, spamming people when asking them to give you a recommendation is a bad idea.

What Should I Say When Asking for a Recommendation on LinkedIn?

First of all, make it easy for them and don’t waste their time by keeping your message short and to the point. This means don’t belabor the point. But at the same time, you want to be helpful to your potential recommender. Here are my best practices:

  • Point out the context of why you are asking a recommendation and why it’s important to you.
  • Remind them of your achievements or what you did together that are relevant to your ask (not everybody has a great memory!). This also helps them write a recommendation if they agree to it.
  • Offer to write a draft for them on their behalf if they were too busy. This can be after they tell you they’re too busy, or upfront if you know they’re always busy.
  • In conclusion offer to help them in repaying the favor, including writing them a LinkedIn recommendation if they’d like to receive one. Even if they don’t want you to do that, it indicates that you value their time.

Customize This Email Template to Request a LinkedIn Recommendation

Talking about how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn is important, but I’d like to give you an example of a great request. Since I wrote this myself, feel free to use it. Simply fill in the blanks and you’re ready to go.

Hey [Name],

It has been awhile since we were last in touch – hope all is going well for you! (note: personalize this to address people as you would normally)

I’m contacting you in hopes that you can spend a minute to write me a LinkedIn recommendation. I am currently [looking for my next opportunity / investing more in my personal branding as a salesperson / personalize for your own unique situation], so adding your recommendation to my LinkedIn profile for others to see would be of great help for my [career / business]. 

The years have past since we worked together at [company], but I am hoping you remember the impact I made on our success, such as [provide details for others to remember you here]. That’s why I think you would be the perfect person to write me a LinkedIn recommendation that would highlight my skills in [provide details as to what skills or experiences you want to be highlighted] for others to see. 

Since time has passed since we worked together, I would be more than happy to write up a draft for you to use so it doesn’t take up much of your time. Obviously, if I could be of any help to you in return, including writing you a recommendation, please do let me know.

I hope you will be able to help me out, and even if not, hope to hear back from you and keep in better touch.

Warm regards,
[Name]

How Do You Add Recommendations to LinkedIn?

Asking for a recommendation, and having that request granted, isn’t enough to get it on your profile. Instead, LinkedIn has provided safeguards that keep spammy recommendations off your public profile. It also means you’ll need to accept recommendations. Here’s how to do it.

  • You will get notified by LinkedIn, either in-app notification or via email or both depending on your settings, that someone has written you a recommendation. This should arrive in a similar form as other requests on LinkedIn, such as connections or comments.
  • You can then accept the recommendation and it will automatically be displayed together with your other LinkedIn recommendations. If this is your first one, it’ll be in a new section dedicated to recommendations, and more will (hopefully) be added.

How do I Manage Recommendations on LinkedIn?

Finally there’s more to managing recommendations than knowing how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn. That’s because there are situations when you may need to remove one. You can also request revisions when appropriate. To do this, go to your profile and scroll down to the recommendations section and press the pencil icon in the top righthand corner. You can then individually ask for a revision of or hide from your LinkedIn profile any recommendation that you have received. In a world of impersonal job searches or recruiting, and where we can’t meet one another as easily as we’d like, recommendations hold a lot of weight. Even in the best of times, recommendations on LinkedIn can help you get noticed, bringing in business opportunities. Best of all, it’s easy to both give and request recommendations. By knowing how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn, you too can increase your internet profile.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go out there and start building your cache of LinkedIn recommendations!

Hero photo by Gabriel Varaljay on Unsplash

Every professional, whether they are looking for a job or not, needs to be recommended. Here's how to ask for recommendations on LinkedIn.
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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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