magic trick hatLinkedIn recommendations are a natural evolution of references and letters of recommendation. However, they often are more credible than these traditional documents, because it is harder to fake a recommendation on LinkedIn than it is to forge a letter. Since many companies are restricting reference checks to verification of title and dates of employment, a LinkedIn recommendation from a boss, coworkers, or people you manage carries weight.

LinkedIn has been described as a “reputation engine.” That’s an apt description, because your reputation does precede you online — not just in your work history, but also in your LinkedIn recommendations.

Someone looking at your recommendations wants to know two things:

  • What are you like?
  • Are you good at what you do?

Visibility: Recommendations are also vital in increasing your visibility on LinkedIn. In order for your profile to be considered “complete,” LinkedIn also requires you to receive a minimum of three recommendations. According to LinkedIn, “Users with recommendations in their profiles are three times more likely to receive relevant offers and inquiries through searches on LinkedIn.”

Search Engine Optimization: In addition, you can enhance your own reputation by providing recommendations, because people viewing your profile can see (and read) the recommendations you make. Recommendations can also provide Search Engine Optimization (SEO) results — meaning, they will help you get found — both on LinkedIn as well as on search engines.

Keywords: Use industry-specific terminology in your recommendations. Keywords included in LinkedIn recommendations also receive emphasis in search engine results — especially searches within LinkedIn. When conducting a keyword search, all the keywords in a profile are indexed, and profiles with a high match of relevant keywords come up higher in the results listings. Although LinkedIn’s specific algorithms are secret, some experts suggest that keywords in recommendations receive double the rankings of keywords provided in the profile itself.

How many recommendations should you have? How many recommendations you have on your profile depends on how many contacts you have. A good guideline is 1-2 recommendations for every 50 connections. Ideally, these will be a variety of individuals — not just supervisors, but co-workers, people you supervise, and clients/customers. Choose quality over quantity.

Recommendations should be built up over time. Because recommendations have a date attached to them, don’t try to solicit all of your recommendations at once. Don’t write and send your recommendations all at once either. Recommendations are date-stamped, so the reader will be able to see when they were added to your page. It’s best if they are added gradually, over time.

In this 3-part series we’ll start with what to write in the recommendation, and then show you how to make a recommendation on LinkedIn. Finally, you’ll learn how to request your own recommendations on LinkedIn.

Magic Formula

Before you write anything, take a look at your contact’s LinkedIn profile. Align your recommendation with the individual’s LinkedIn profile. Tie in what you write with their headline, summary, and/or experience — reinforce the qualities they want to emphasize in the recommendation you write. Look at the existing recommendations they’ve received too

Some things to consider include:

  • What are they good at?
  • What did they do better than anyone else?
  • What impact did they have on me? (How did they make my life better/easier?)
  • What made them stand out?
  • Is there a specific result they delivered in this position?
  • What surprised you about the individual?

Choose the qualities you want to emphasize in the person you are recommending. You may choose to use what author and speaker Lisa B. Marshall calls “The Rule of Threes.” Simply stated, concepts or ideas presented in groups of three are more interesting, more enjoyable, and more memorable.

In general, you will want to showcase transferable skills, because these will be the most relevant for your contacts when they are using LinkedIn for a job search or business development.

The top 10 skills employers are looking for in employees are:

  • Communication Skills (verbal and written)
  • Integrity and Honesty
  • Teamwork Skills (works well with others)
  • Interpersonal Skills (relates well to others)
  • Motivation/Initiative
  • Strong Work Ethic
  • Analytical Skills
  • Flexibility and Adaptability
  • Computer Skills
  • Organizational Skills

These are the types of attributes you can focus on in your recommendation. Use the following formula:

Here is a simple formula for a LinkedIn Recommendation:

  • Start with how you know the person (1 sentence). Give context for the relationship beyond just the job title and organization/company/school, although that can be a good way to start your recommendation. (“I’ve known Amy for 10 years, ever since I joined XYZ Company. She was my lead project manager when I was an analyst.”)
  • Be specific about why you are recommending the individual (1 sentence). What qualities make him or her most valuable? Emphasize what the person did that set him or her apart. What is his work style? Does she have a defining characteristic? To be effective, recommendations should focus on specific qualifications.
  • Tell a story (3-5 sentences). Back up your recommendation with a specific example. Your recommendation should demonstrate that you know the person well — so tell a story that only you could tell. And provide “social proof” in the story — give scope and scale for the accomplishments. Don’t just say the individual you’re recommending led the team — say he led a 5-person team, or a 22-person team. Supporting evidence — numbers, percentages, and dollar figures — lends detail and credibility to your story.
  • End with a “call to action” (1 sentence). Finish with the statement “I recommend (name)” and the reason why you would recommend him or her.

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