How to write an effective LinkedIn recommendation

By Julia Keady

LinkedIn recommendations are the two-way street of business networking. The more we write for others, the more will be provided for us. A LinkedIn recommendation works by providing what psychologists call 'social proof' of that person's worth, and by letting prospective clients and employers know important things about them. Recommendations are a win-win mostly, but a poorly written one can have the opposite effect. Here are a few dos and don’ts of writing great Linkedin recommendations.

Let's start with what not to do

Don't gush. Recommendations that are too enthusiastic or over the top aren't credible. Similarly, if it reads like a sales pitch with overly dynamic language, it won't be trusted. It's also good to keep it brief - no more than 80 to 120 words and a single paragraph. No one has time for War and Peace these days.

Try not to be generic or use business clichés, it screams duty rather than genuine praise. Finally, don't be ambiguous - praising someone for odd things such as being "dedicated to justice" says that they are difficult and opinionated.

What you should be doing

  • History/context: One sentence about how and where you worked with them.
  • Targeted: Be specific about the person's strengths and attributes. Maybe even consult with them about how they wish to be seen.
  • Tell a story: If you can mention a particular incident or problem that the person handled really well, it's far more powerful than a thousand adjectives or statements.
  • Make it personal: Let the reader know how much you appreciate what the person contributed to you or your business. Mention one great 'pro social' quality about the person such as their sense of humour, work ethic or ability to go the extra mile. Most employers are just as concerned about how the person will be to work with as they are about how well they can do their job.
  • Offer yourself as a referee: Invite people to contact you for further clarification or discussion. Being willing to stand behind your recommendation says more than your words ever could.
  • Don't publish without permission: Send your recommendation to the person and ask for their feedback.

Below is a sample recommendation for your consideration:

"I worked with John for over two years in his capacity as the practice manager for Straight Up Architecture. His ability to keep on top of the fine details of more than 14 ongoing building projects kept the practice humming along. However, John truly excelled when the global financial crisis hit the building industry. Through an aggressive campaign of new business acquisitions, he managed to keep every single person employed and add new staff while other firms were cutting back. His calm confidence and concern for the staff made us all feel secure in a time of great doubt. I'm more than happy to be contacted as a referee for John Citizen."

Take a look at the recommendations on your contacts page and see which ones inspire trust and credibility in you.


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