So, you’ve created a great, concise profile on LinkedIn. Your summary is pitch perfect and your experience shows a strong track record of growth in positions of increasing importance and responsibility. Education and professional credentials, check. Additional information, including the interests that help define who you are (i.e., mountains you’ve climbed, marathons you’ve run, extraordinary places you’ve traveled to) all round out your personal brand and in many cases provide that “first hit” intro of you on one of the web’s most powerful professional networking and job search networks.
Which brings us to “recommendations.” How important are they, and how do they help (or yes, hurt) you? Recommendations, LI’s equivalent of work references, can serve as an incredible “advance team” for your cause.
When I’m performing a search I take into account a number of things when reviewing recommendations:
1. While it’s nice to see a range of sources, including a boss, a peer, and a subordinate, my preference is towards seeing more entries from people an individual has reported to, mostly because these are probably the hardest to get. Also, recommendations written by someone who only knows your work tangentially can be kind of a red flag for me. If it’s one of only a couple I’ll wonder if getting a more direct reference was an issue.
2. Are they specific and do they provide detail on what the individual did, including their impact on project results?
Example: “A new CEO who replaces an existing founder almost always finds him/herself in a tricky situation, but it is something that Craig did rather deftly and sensitively. It could have been disastrous; in Craig’s hands it was a triumph. He led the company with passion and excellence, and I would gladly work for him again.”
I’m also absolutely drawn to potential candidates with recommendations that jump off the page with enthusiasm for their energy and the commitment they bring to their work environment.
Example: “While Paul is a captivating teacher, he prefers to lead by example. Paul tackles any challenge with unmatched fervor. He is the first and last one at the office, and his dedication never subsides until his task is done. His contagious passion inspires everyone on his team and elevates their efforts. I truly admire Paul, and I am lucky to have him on my team. “
3. Is it well written and does it merit a place on this LI page? This is a dicey one. If someone has taken the time to write a recommendation then of course your inclination will be to include it. However, if it’s poorly written, contains typos, or you see definite room for improvement, consider writing back and respectfully suggesting some changes. We’re all busy and helping with a bit of fine-tuning can make the difference between a useful reference and one you’ll have to leave out.
4. The unexpected benefits can be huge. I am often pleasantly surprised to find information in recommendations that address aspects of a job an individual has performed or technical strengths they possess that haven’t been addressed anywhere else in their profile. This can and does make a difference in whether I’ll reach out to them for a possible opportunity.
5. You don’t need to overdue it. Five or six great recommendations that address your professional strengths and personal style can round out a profile beautifully. If you’re going to use more than 10 make sure they’re all strong and not just filler.
Creating a well-edited and comprehensive portrait of your best possible professional self can be an incredibly rewarding investment of your time and energy. Completing the picture with strong recommendations is more than icing on the cake: It’s one of the best and most expedient ways to create your own “advance team” and, when managed correctly, can open doors and influence key decision-makers to take a deeper look at who you are and what you have to offer.