A LinkedIn Recommendation is nothing more complicated or sophisticated than getting an online public reference attached to your LinkedIn Profile. LinkedIn Recommendations are a great way of validating your professional claims and experience in the eyes of others on the LinkedIn network.
Each LinkedIn member has their own page or profile. On this page, LinkedIn members can put a picture up of themselves along with a summary of who they are, and they can list their professional skills and professional history as one would on a CV. Against your professional history, you can ask your LinkedIn connections to write a reference for your time in one role or another (including your current job).
There are seven distinct advantages in having your references listed publicly on LinkedIn:
1) Employers use LinkedIn for headhunting
Employers and recruitment agencies regularly use LinkedIn to recruit or poach new staff. If after searching for a certain skill set or employment history they come across your profile, you get immediate validation in their eyes if you have a series of recommendations listed on LinkedIn. In a way, it inverts the traditional job hunting approach, with recruiters coming after you, and with references being provided upfront before any initial direct contact, rather than being provided before an interview or after a job has been offered to you.
2) You can account for all your past professional roles through your extended network
If you are on LinkedIn, there are numerous reasons why it is worth connecting with all sorts of professional contacts from your past, and most of these reasons will be covered in a separate blog entry. However, a key one is that only someone you are directly connected with on LinkedIn can write and provide a LinkedIn Recommendation for you. A referee of yours who is not a member of LinkedIn, or whom you are not connected to on LinkedIn, will not be able to provide you with an online reference. Therefore ensure that you connect with fellow colleagues as well as your line managers, as every bit of written endorsement helps in improving the impression you make on those reading your LinkedIn Profile. Try and get at least one LinkedIn Recommendation for each role that you list under your employment history on your LinkedIn Profile.
3) The people recommending you can be contacted through LinkedIn
As I’ve already mentioned, the people who are recommending you on LinkedIn are also on the network. Next to the written reference that they have supplied to you through the network, their photo will be displayed and their name will be clearly listed in blue, which means that it is a hyperlink connected to their own LinkedIn Profile. By clicking on the referee’s name or photo, the person reviewing your profile can read more about your referee and even choose to contact them through LinkedIn if they want them to expand on their reference for you. This is a very powerful validation process that sidesteps the suspicions that are often associated with self-published statements on company or review/comparison websites.
4) LinkedIn Recommendations have more substance and impact than LinkedIn Endorsements
As this blog has previously explored, people can endorse your individual listed skills on LinkedIn rather than write you a written recommendation. Although all forms of constructive endorsement are to be welcomed, awarding LinkedIn Endorsements to others only takes a matter of seconds and can also be rather self-serving for the person giving the endorsement (it’s an easy way to get links to your own profile if you give out a lot of endorsements, although this is a tactic I myself wouldn’t advocate).
A written statement takes a certain amount of time and thought, and a good one will give context as to why the person is writing the recommendation and precisely what for. It is, to a certain degree, an imposition on the person who has been asked to give a written recommendation, and therefore it carries more weight that they thought you were a deserving recipient of their time and effort as well as their praise. Consciously or subconsciously, other people realise this, and this is why a written recommendation carries so much weight.
5) You can ask connections to provide references for particular skill sets or projects
Following on from the above, when you approach people through LinkedIn for a recommendation, you can write a covering note for the request in which you can specify precisely what you want your referee to focus on. This helps you get a mix of praise for the different facets of your career or for the many aspects you may have in your skill set. You may be a web editor as well as a copywriter, but it would be lopsided if you had 10 recommendations for your skills as a web editor and none as a copywriter. Indeed, it could even be misconstrued that, in this case, you are not as good a copywriter as you are a web editor, so try and ensure that your references cover all your skills and qualities, even though not necessarily within the same individual reference.
6) It demonstrates that people are willing to publicly endorse you, which is more powerful than a private reference
As we have demonstrated, the LinkedIn Recommendations you receive are public and other people can click on the name of your referee to be taken to their profile. Aside from the benefits we have already covered, it is important to emphasise that this is a public declaration of support. This person is vouching for you in a public forum, and if you don’t live up to the skills and qualities that they have ascribed to you, it is their reputation that will be damaged as well as yours. Again, this just goes to emphasise the psychological strength of the written recommendation, as people will clearly see that other professional people would not risk their own reputation if they, in their heart of hearts, thought you were actually not very good.
7) You can keep on adding recommendations as you get new clients or get reacquainted with old colleagues
Unlike your old-fashioned CV where you would limit your references to two people (including, probably, your current employer), on your LinkedIn Profile you can keep on adding as many recommendations as you see fit or appropriate. You have a happy new client? Why not ask him for a reference once your relationship is cemented? You have become reacquainted on LinkedIn with George in accounts from that company you used to work for 10 years ago? Why not ask him to vouch for your professional time together? Your LinkedIn Profile is a living document, and once you are given a Recommendation it will remain on your LinkedIn Profile until your referee consciously and proactively retracts it, or you remove it yourself.
LinkedIn Recommendations are one of the key advantages the network has over other social media channels, and, alongside LinkedIn Groups, are arguably the prime motivation for many in joining the network. As this blog has hopefully demonstrated, they help you to validate yourself in the online professional world, where reputation is a key asset if one wants to be a successful social networker.
Nick Lewis Communications can provide training in LinkedIn as well as offer professional management of LinkedIn Company Pages. To find out, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07970 839137.