LinkedIn Recommendation Thoughts

June 11th, 2008 | by Jason Alba |

I continue to hear about LinkedIn recommendations, and various ideas about their value. Are they fake? Are they worthless?

I talk about LinkedIn Recommendations in my presentations, and how valuable I think they are. Of course, they can be junk, but if you go about it with a smart strategy, I think they are worth it. Giving them and receiving them.

Here are a few things that have come up over the last year:

On Giving LinkedIn Recommendations:

Rule #1 is only give a recommendation when you can, or should. Have you worked with the person in a capacity where you can professionally endorse them? If you can’t, then don’t leave a recommendation.

Think about it, when you meet someone in the grocery store for the first time, can you really professionally endorse them? Not likely.

Beyond that, the best LinkedIn Recommendations are specific, not vague. I blogged about this here.

On Requesting LinkedIn Recommendations:

I talk about 3 ways to request a LinkedIn Recommendation. I don’t like the first option, moderately like the second option, and recommed the third option (which is to GIVE a LinkedIn Recommendation first).

When I talk about this, Rule #1 from above applies… don’t go give them out like they are candy, rather, only when you can professionally endorse someone.

Beyond that, when you give a LinkedIn Recommendation, make sure do so without expecting a reciprocal favor. In other words, give it because you genuinely mean it… not because you are trying to entice someone to recommend you back! Of course, if they do, that’s great! But don’t expect it.

When should you ASK for a recommendation, and how should you ask? Let me know what you think… and then I’ll let you know what I think!

  1. 21 Responses to “LinkedIn Recommendation Thoughts”

  2. By Marty on Jun 11, 2008 | Reply


    I think asking for a recommendation is a bit desperate. “Begging for validation”, like a Jr. High student trying to break into a clique.

    The best way to get a recommendation is to give one. A real one. You are putting your name on the line by endorsing someone else, so recommendations should be real, accurate, and from the heart.

    If it is, the other person will (or should be) honored to return the favor and write you a great recommendation as well.

    Just my humble opinion.

  3. By Betsy Cozzarin on Jun 11, 2008 | Reply


    You are spot on. I once spent about 2 hours of my own time on the phone with a candidate, helping him with his resume, offering advice on interviewing, etc. mostly because I knew I wouldn’t be able to place him, and wanted to do what I could. I invited him to connect on LI, and felt I had really gone above and beyond the call in his case. I didn’t hear from him again until 6 months or more after that. He asked me to recommend him on LI. I barely remembered the time I had spoken with him, and had never met nor worked with him.

    I asked him what exactly he expected me to write, given that we had only spent a couple of hours on the phone and I didn’t even know what he looked like. He told me to just give an honest assessment of him. When I told him I couldn’t do that after only 2 hours, he wrote one for me and asked me to copy and paste it into the recommendation form with my signature. I am certain that, ultimately, I lost a connection that day, because in no uncertain terms did he come to understand that I don’t give recommendations out that easily, and I have not heard from him since.

    I was floored to think that some on LI would just write these things without even meeting or working with the people they are saying all these wonderful things about. Hopefully, your blog will stop some of that, but as with anything, it probably won’t end it completely.

    Thanks for a great column.


  4. By Ian Millar on Jun 11, 2008 | Reply

    Jason, I agree with Marty.

    I sought recommendations from the first three people that I invited to my LinkedIn network. They were new to it, and did not know how the system worked. Since then, I have given many recommendations and some of those folks have been gracious enough to return the favor.

    I don’t treat the recommendation system as trivial, because it is based on my reputation that the person I recommend is worthy of recommendation. I want to know that I am giving an honest and sincere appraisal that the person is capable and reliable enough to be recommendable.

    Thank you,

    Ian Millar
    Corporate Executive Recruiter
    Custom Solutions Services
    CIBER, Inc.

    Recruiting successful Executives and Sales people
    with experience in System Integration Consulting

  5. By Thomas E. Kenny on Jun 11, 2008 | Reply

    Unfortunately I’ve seen some who recommend almost everybody and I believe that dilutes their credibility.

    At one point I thought I’d provide no more then one or two percent of my 1st degree connections. Then a friend helped me realize how bad of a strategy that is. For example, “I’d love to recommend you and your better then the others I’ve recommended but sorry I’m over my recommendation quota!”

    So now my recommendation strategy is based on a WOW experience for somebody that I know very well.

    I still don’t intend to ask for a recommendation but I think if I hear somebody say, “WOW you really helped me out or WOW you did an excellent job. How can I ever repay you?” At that point temptation might nudge me to ask for a LinkedIn recommendation…

  6. By Nancy B on Jun 11, 2008 | Reply

    The only time that I would consider asking for a recomendation is if I felt I needed to have feedback on my LinkedIn profile from people I worked with at jobs before LinkedIn was established… and even then… I would be more likely to post a recomendation for them first and then hope they followed suit.

  7. By Kiley on Jun 11, 2008 | Reply

    This is a great topic! Thanks Jason.
    I think asking for a recommendation is very acceptable. In fact, I believe we miss a lot of opportunities by being afraid to ask. (The same is true in relation to asking for referrals from customers) That being said, I strongly agree with the idea that in order for the recommendation to be valuable, it must be valid. Personally, I am very selective in giving and asking for recommendations. Anyone with half a brain can see right through the fluff of a forced recommendation. One last thought: the recommendations you have on your profile will vary in value. If I see a recommendation on your profile from someone I know, like, and trust, that recommendation is much more valuable than if it is written by someone I don’t know from Adam…

  8. By Rich Hopkins on Jun 11, 2008 | Reply


    I only ask for recommendations from people who I’ve directly worked with, or have seen me speak. I don’t have a problem asking, as often testimonials are the last thing people consider when hearing a speaker, or working with a coach.

    They also transfer well to the testimonial portions of my website and other promo material.

  9. By David Sandusky on Jun 11, 2008 | Reply

    I think the recommendation feature is fabulous. You can tell a lot about the personal brand – good and bad.

    I advice people to ask for recommendations, with pride, from those who have already written letters and otherwise provided shinning and authentic reference. Especially during time when it is difficult to express transferable skills to different/new industry.

    I lost count how many times I have been in a bulk message asking for recommendation and/or asked by someone I don’t really know – they are the people with 15 not so thought out endorsements in one day. I tell them why I will not and am thrilled to learn about them this way when considering being a connector.

    Those who have been inspired to recommend me are responsible for some of the sales on my website from people who have never contacted me – for that credibility I am grateful. Recommendations are a good thing and that is why I do it for people without ask – reminds me I need to do more!

  10. By Cheryl J on Jun 11, 2008 | Reply

    After being displaced from a position by a location closure, I asked several supervisors and long-time co-workers if they would act as job references, to which they all agreed. Now that I am actively using LinkedIn, I requested a recommendation on LinkedIn from each of them and all were happy to provide it once they got the hang of LinkedIn. I would never dream of asking for a reference from a casual acquaintance, but see nothing wrong with being proactive and asking for a reference from someone I believe genuinely knows and values my work.

  11. By Sean Nelson on Jun 13, 2008 | Reply


    I agree with almost every one of your points. I have different thoughts on requesting a recommendation. My perspective is that it is acceptable to request a reccommendation from a client that you have worked for. I simply send an email telling them that I am building my profile on LI and if they felt that the work that I did for them was outstanding, I would appreciate them sharing their thoughts.

    I only request them from people I have provided a service to. On the flip side I do get requests from contacts to recommend them even though I am not a client of theirs. Most of these are from people I have known long term in my chamber. I write a recommendation based on my experience in knowing them, so it’s more of a character recommendation.

    For those requests that I get from people I have just, I let them kow I need to get to know them better over time before I would be comfortable doing so.

    Letters of recommendation have been around for a long term and the same standards hold true for LinkedIn.

  12. By Sean Nelson on Jun 13, 2008 | Reply

    One other comment I meant to make. I’m not a fan of the reciprocal recommendation. I do not want a recommendation from someone who feels they owe me one because I gave them one. I don’t even want one saying what a great guy I am (debatable).

    The recommendation I want is from a client. It’s the one that will help me stay high in the Service Providers listing. It has true value. The other types are eye candy.

  13. By Evan on Jun 20, 2008 | Reply

    I think of my resume/bio on LI as an advertisement of my services. This means that I seek recs that would appeal to either a hiring mgr or someone that I might do business with. I value recs from managers or clients — those who have direct insight into my work.

    I have noticed that most recs in profiles come from colleagues. Those recs may be nice to see on a profile but they don’t carry the same weight as a rec from a mgr or client. Many coworkers simply want to be nice when approached for a rec. They may base their rec more on their impression of a person rather than direct knowledge of their work, skills and expertise.

  14. By Van on Jul 11, 2008 | Reply


    I get your point about recriprocal recommendations between peers that simply say they are a great person in a generic fashion. However, your characterization of recommendations by co-workers as being eye candy is a bit extreme. Some of us are not service providers. We work in teams to produce products. In that context, a specific recommendation from another team member about my accomplishments is significant. For the kind of work I do, I would have questions about someone with lots of experience and no recommendations from past co-workers. One person’s eye candy is another persons staple meal. =)

  15. By Peter M on Jul 15, 2008 | Reply

    I’ve found recommendationa as an oppourtunity to give back to people I respected and worked with especially if it was in the past.
    With long work histories I have found it has added a continuity that might otherwise be missing. It also helps break down many of the time age constraints in the application process. I am glad to find people I worked with 20 years ago and see they have moved on nicely. I still remember the things that made the person special to me if that makes sense. In one case during lay offs corporate never let us give recommendations. HR made contrary promises but now finally I can say some kind words.
    As for the number I try to be selective but if it is someone form the past I usually give them a recommenation and I don’t expect anything back. I’m grateful to reconnect.
    I do ask for recommendations on newer jobs especially if they are contract assignments of a year. the recommendation helps with the time period.

  16. By Adam G on Jul 16, 2008 | Reply

    I have a more general question about Linked In, as I am very new to it. What generally is the accepted protocol in adding new friends? Is it somewhat free and easy like Myspace or Facebook, where it’s OK to pretty much click on anyone’s profile and reach out? Or is it severely limited and conservative and you can only click on already existing real-life friends or close colleagues? How does one reach out to new networks and new potential clients?

  17. By Sean Nelson on Jul 17, 2008 | Reply


    Point taken. As a self-employed person my point of view did not consider those who are employed in a capacty where they do not deal directly with clients. In those cases I am going to review the recommendation for specific things that provide the basis for the recommendation. If it’s simply “he’s a great guy” then I would consider that still candy. But if talks about performance, etc. then I would judge that on a higher level.

  18. By Anne Carey on Oct 7, 2008 | Reply

    I have found that people are uncomfortable writing recommendations. I find it difficult myself. It’s sometimes difficult to describe specific ways this person did a good job (or whatever). I’m even having trouble typing this email!

    I do think that sending requests for recommendations can make someone think of it — it’s not that they don’t think you are good enough, it’s that a) they never thought about it; and b) they don’t know what to write. If you invite them, they are more likely to do it.

    That said, I like the suggestion of saying “if you thought my work was outstanding, I’d appreciate your sharing your thoughts.” I think I will use that in the future.

    Since I am either the client or the co-worker, I haven’t asked anyone to recommend me that I wouldn’t recommend. I usually ended up doing it after, which I now realize is not the way to do it!

    Thanks for all your points of view and ideas.

    Carey (my nickname)
    (Anne) Carey, CMP
    Meetings and Events Professional

  1. 4 Trackback(s)

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