How to Write a Recommendation on LinkedIn That Performs in 5 Steps

How to Write a Recommendation on LinkedIn That Performs in 5 Steps

With today’s labor market, most jobseekers are looking for an edge over their competition. Many of them lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, while others fell victim to the usual industry upsets. But no matter what happened to each professional, the task of finding a new job often seems daunting. Putting ones’ best foot forward when out of a job is intimidating.

Fortunately, there’s something that you might be able to do that’ll help them: write a recommendation. If you know how to write a recommendation on LinkedIn, this endorsement from a business contact is often very valuable. Recruiters will see it when viewing your contact’s page, and it might convince the recruiter to reach out. In other words, these references can really help out your jobless former coworker or colleague.

What is a LinkedIn Recommendation?

what is a _____?

Before I can tell you how to write a recommendation on LinkedIn, it’s important that you understand what, exactly, you’re doing. There are some important differences between these references and the old-fashioned letter or phone call (or even letting the person put your name on a job application).

Technically it is a LinkedIn user recommending another LinkedIn user

Remember, LinkedIn has different kinds of memberships, some of them paid. But aside from the supplemental services you can pay for, there are no special privileges for people in management. Besides this, corporate accounts can’t write a recommendation on LinkedIn. This means that these recommendations are technically between two LinkedIn users.

With that said, this means that literally anyone can write a LinkedIn recommendation for someone. While it’s understood that you know this person and their work, recommenders can be at any career level. They can be coworkers, subordinates, or managers. In some cases, they might even be past clients or have a student/professor relationship. In other words, all you really need is some professional connection.

Of course, when you write a recommendation your name and a profile link will appear on that person’s profile, along with your position. This means that people who view their profile can see at a glance where you work. You might know someone from a different context like former employment, though, so mention the relationship if appropriate.

A LinkedIn recommendation is a professional reference with a personal face.

Unlike the old-fashioned written reference or “boss talk,” LinkedIn recommendations give recruiters and hiring managers a view of what it’s like to work with someone. In many cases, these recommendations are written by former subordinates, classmates, and colleagues. For that reason, they give insight as to what it was like working with someone on projects and why they would recommend them to work with you. That viewpoint is very different from what managers get otherwise.

Let’s look at this a different way: if you know how to write a recommendation on LinkedIn, you can tell a recruiter that this is an awesome person to work with! Great companies love to hire smart, dedicated employees that make the workplace pleasant. Better yet, a hiring manager can be more or less confident that someone is a good fit for the company culture and values. Best of all, the information comes from someone who isn’t a corporate robot.

Further Reading: LinkedIn Profile Tips: The 21 Mistakes You Want to Avoid – and Why

Why LinkedIn Recommendations are Important

Why LinkedIn Recommendations are Important

Of course, the “real person” thumbs up isn’t the only reason you need to know how to write a recommendation on LinkedIn. By writing one, you’re helping this person professionally on many different levels. Besides this, there are some benefits for your LinkedIn profile and overall reputation.

Further Reading: 17 Must-Have Items for Your Professional LinkedIn Profile to Shine in 2024

You provide credibility and show social proof that they are real

It’s one thing for someone to say that they’re known as the nice guy in the office, and another for somebody else to say the same thing about them. After all, most people have a positive view of themselves and will project this during a job interview. And there are some people whose personalities make them undesirable employees. Conversely, a few job candidates might be cooler than they let on, or have difficulty articulating their personality strong points.

Once you’ve learned how to write a recommendation on LinkedIn, you can help these people. For one thing, references help with someone’s personal branding. For another, you’ll enhance your own brand. Writing recommendations shows people that you’re willing to risk your reputation on others. This reflects well on both of you. Ultimately, both of you will become “real” people rather than just faces on a computer screen.

Recommendations back up the professional claims on their LinkedIn profile.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that people often lie to get ahead. Sometimes these lies are as simple as covering for an embarrassing situation. But in other situations, these lies can result in someone getting a job that they aren’t qualified for. Or worse, joining a company for the wrong reasons. Even problems like HR giving someone a good reference to get rid of them has become commonplace. In fact, these days as much as half of job applicants have something to hide.

People who know how to write a recommendation on LinkedIn can help combat this problem. Perhaps the biggest reason for this is that you can back up someone’s story. For instance, if you were someone’s academic advisor in college, you can talk about how hard they worked to finish their degree. As a former supervisor, you can tell another potential manager how well this person did their job. And as a coworker you might mention what a great peer mentor that person is. All of these insights are valuable.

Further Reading: 9 Tips to Update Your LinkedIn Profile with Impact in One Hour

You can influence whether a company or a person does business with someone or hires them for their services.

Given the choice, would you rather hire someone that’s an unknown quantity, or the competing candidate/business who has references? If you’re a hiring manager, chances are that it’s the latter. And even if you are a consumer, or looking for freelance services, it’s great to know that someone is reliable. Did this person perform at a minimal level, or go all out to please the customer? Chances are that someone in a hiring position wants to know this.

It gives you an opportunity to pay it forward to your network

Let’s be honest: most of us owe favors to someone at some point in our careers. Applying your knowledge of how to write a recommendation on LinkedIn might let you return those favors. Or have your contact saying, “thanks I owe you one.” Being the helpful contact in business settings builds up a lot of good will, and you never know when this will help you, too, advance. Especially since people like to work with/for genuine people, rather than narcissists who puff themselves up.

Further Reading: How to Network on LinkedIn from an Inbound and Outbound Perspective

Who Can You Recommend on LinkedIn?

Like other social networks, LinkedIn has limits on who you can write recommendations for. If someone doesn’t fit those criteria, then it doesn’t matter if you know how to write a recommendation on LinkedIn or not. Fortunately, it’s easy to correct this problem if you’d like to recommend them.

You can only recommend a contact that you are connected with on LinkedIn

It seems kind of obvious, but someone has to be your connection on LinkedIn for you to write a recommendation. This is somewhat similar to the restrictions on other social networks, where you can’t post on someone’s profile without being their contact. By doing this, LinkedIn reduces the risk that someone will invade your privacy. It also helps block people from putting malicious references on someone’s profile.

This problem is easy to fix.

This problem is easy to fix.

Fortunately, if you want to recommend someone, all you have to do is send a connection request on LinkedIn. If that person accepts your request, you can write them a recommendation. Of course, if this is the reason why you want to connect with them, it’s a good idea to let them know. Often, this is something you’ve discussed beforehand.

How to Publish a Recommendation for a LinkedIn Connection

Once you’ve connected with someone on LinkedIn, you’ll find that learning how to write a recommendation on LinkedIn is easy. The developers have made adding it to someone’s profile pretty simple, so the hardest part is deciding what to say. Besides this, if you know someone in multiple roles you might debate which one to use. Here’s the process, step by step.

  • Go to the profile of the person you want to recommend. You can do this either by searching for them, or locating this person in your contacts list.
  • Press the “More” button to the right of “Message”
  • Select “Recommend”
  • Select the appropriate relationship with the person you want to recommend and your job title when you worked with them from the two drop-down menus that appear. This is important, because your point of view on someone will help hiring managers and others understand why you like that person.
  • Write your recommendation!

How to Write a Recommendation on LinkedIn

How to Write a Recommendation on LinkedIn

Here comes the hard part: knowing exactly what to say! Especially for non-HR people, writing a reference or recommendation can be tough. And to turn up the pressure, what you say can affect this person’s career. Now relax. It isn’t that hard, at least, not if you follow these instructions.

1) Start with a “hook” to “sell” the person you are recommending

I’d like to describe this as starting off with a compliment for this person. So if they’re the most fun boss you’ve ever had, this is a great time to say it.

2) Make your relationship clear to understand the context

Here, you should give the job title or role that you had when you knew this person. For instance, you might say you were both account managers at XYZ sales company. This way, everybody knows that you were coworkers.

3) What impact did this person have when you worked with them?

Even the nicest employer is looking for results of some kind. To that end, mention specific examples or numbers if at all possible to showcase their professional skill. Remember, employers ask this kind of question in job interviews, so if there’s a crowning achievement you know about, then it’ll help with the interview.

4) Describe what is so special about this person or their personality.

Especially in jobs like sales, personality can make or break both professional success and the atmosphere in the office. Besides this, different companies have different cultures. The information you provide can help managers decide if this person is a “fit” for them. While it could cost the candidate a job, they might well have been miserable if they’d succeeded.

5) End with a definitive statement.

You can rephrase this as an answer to “so what’s the point?” Give the reader one quick reason why they should hire, or do business with, this person.

Further Reading: 21 LinkedIn Best Practices for Business Professionals to Follow for Success

A LinkedIn Recommendation Sample Using the 5-Step Process

A LinkedIn Recommendation Sample Using the 5-Step Process

Ready to see the principles of how to write a recommendation on LinkedIn work in practice? I composed one for myself, based on these five steps. Read this recommendation and see how the above process can be utilized.

Before we get to it, though, I need to give a word of warning. In some cases, mentioning specific numbers or examples might be challenging and against your company’s NDA or other policies. If you are in that situation, you will want to confirm your company’s policy on LinkedIn recommendations with your HR department before posting. Then, you can adjust what you say to fit company guidelines.

A (fictional) recommendation for Neal Schaffer.

Neal is a one-of-a-kind marketing consultant.

My company, Google, hired Neal to help us completely revamp our influencer marketing strategy, and I managed Neal’s work internally. 

In 3 months of Neal’s help, we were able to reconstruct our influencer marketing strategy that already started to show an increase in our ROI of 25% in a very short amount of time.

What is amazing about Neal was his skill and flexibility in working with us and engaging our managers through our sometimes changing requirements as well as his ability to understand our situation and recommend an approach that aligned with our internal culture and unique challenges.

If your company is looking for a marketing consultant like we were, I wholeheartedly recommend Neal for the job.

As you can see, if you know someone and their work well, it isn’t hard to write a recommendation on LinkedIn. My best advice, as always, is to start your planning with what stands out about a person. From this, it’s easy to build the rest of your post, policy permitting.

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Neal Schaffer
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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