Asking For LinkedIn Recommendations – Is That Okay?

November 24th, 2008 | by Jason Alba |

Here’s a question I got recently about asking for LinkedIn Recommendations:

I’ve taken time to leave recommendations for people in my network. I’ve left a recommendation for nearly everyone.  The only two recommendations I’ve gotten have been two I ASKED for ages ago.  This is making me feel badly.  I know it shouldn’t but it does.

How do you think I should go about getting some additional recommendations?  Should I write people and mention that I left a recommendation for them and I’d really appreciate it if they’d reciprocate?  I could try explaining that I’m job hunting (unfortunately) and that I think it would help me but I’m afraid I’ll come off as begging.

Any suggestions for me?

Great question, and I feel I’ve staged this question with the idea that if you give, you’ll get.  Not always the case, as is shown here.  Here was my response to this job seeker:

I think people who reciprocate are going to be people who naturally think about networking, relationships and reciprocation.  Not everyone thinks about that, and they just wallow in the flattery of your Recommendation to them.  Some might not reciprocate because they simply don’t think about it, or because they don’t’ feel they worked with you in a way where they can, or because they aren’t quite sure what to write.

I think it’s perfectly fine to ask for a Recommendation (I’d assume they just didn’t think about it).  Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Write the contact an email… don’t use the “request recommendation” feature from LinkedIn.  I think the email is more personal.
  2. Let them know you are working on your LinkedIn Profile, and you’d really appreciate a recommendation from them.  You can even say “it’s like a letter of recommendation, only it should be about a paragraph.”
  3. With your brand in mind, coach them on what you want them to focus on.  “I’d like to bring out X, Y and Z.  When worked on that team together I think you saw this in my work ethic (or whatever), and I’d appreciate it if you could write something to those points.”  Even consider writing a paragraph as an example, and don’t be surprised if they just copy and paste.
  4. Make sure, in your email, they understand this is not a relationship deal-breaker, and that they don’t, or can’t, that’s okay.  I’m more of the “don’t impose” personality…
  5. I wouldn’t mention that you wrote them a recommendation, or that this is a reciprocal request.  I think that’s kind of cheesy to ask for, and it might turn people off.  You are asking for a sincere, genuine recommendation, regardless of whether you wrote them one or not.

Begging?  No, you are not begging.  The job seeker who goes to his old boss, peers or customers to ask for letters of recommendation is not begging, he’s simply doing what he should be doing.  I think an approach like this is acceptable, and a chance to nurture a relationship.

What do you think?

  1. 8 Responses to “Asking For LinkedIn Recommendations – Is That Okay?”

  2. By Terry Bean on Nov 24, 2008 | Reply

    Jason-

    I think this is solid advice. Lots of time people will reciprocate, but when they don’t it is OK to simply ask for what you seek. So many of were taught that asking is a sign of weakness. BARNACLES. It’s a really big world and we all have so much to do, but we are just one person. Think how much more gets accomplished when you receive help from others. You generally only get it when you ask for it.

    I am curious about why you didn’t mention the commenter about saying it was for a job search. Seems like a great opportunity to inform your connection that you are seeking an opportunity and ask for their help with that too. What do you think?

    Terry Bean
    CNO
    http://www.networkedinc.com

  3. By Chandlee Bryan on Nov 24, 2008 | Reply

    Jason,

    I think this is great advice and just the right approach to use, especially with regard to saying “it’s okay if you don’t want to do this.” I’ll be sharing this post with some of my clients.

    Thanks,
    Chandlee

  4. By Jason Alba on Nov 24, 2008 | Reply

    @Terry, yeah, I think it would reinforce the need to get a quicker recommendation if you put that sense of urgency on it. No problem there, from my perspective.

    @Chandlee – thanks!

  5. By Heather Mundell on Nov 24, 2008 | Reply

    I also think you’re right on the money. It’s a courteous and respectful way to ask for what you want.

    In my work my clients are confidential, so I am very clear when I’m asking for a recommendation that I would completely understand if they’d like decline and remain confidential.

  6. By Steve Duncan on Dec 8, 2008 | Reply

    I find that giving a good endorsement is a great way to ask for one. I’ve also asked, and second the recommendation that you do not use the “request an endorsement” button.

    I think the simpler and shorter your request, the better. Saying “It’s ok if you want to say no” just wastes space, and if you think it might be the case, you need to think more about whether you should be asking the person.

    I think it’s inappropriate to ask subordinates (even those below but not direct reports) when you’re working with them. If your departure is announced, then it’s ok.

  7. By Kendra Lee on Dec 28, 2008 | Reply

    As I always say, “ask,ask,ask, ask, ask.” Unless we ask, people don’t naturally think about offering recommendations. Personally I tend to respond more quickly to an email from my contact than from the automated request in LinkedIn. It feels like they took the time to choose me for their recommendation.

    I like the suggestion that you tell people what you’d like them to highlight in their recommendation. Sometimes they are simply at a loss for what to say, then don’t respond. When you guide them, they can write it more quickly. It’s just as we do in selling when we write the testimonial for our customers, then let them tweak it to add their own words.

    Great suggestions! Thank you, Jason!

  8. By Textrader on Mar 19, 2009 | Reply

    I am getting tired of people I asking for reccommendations and I hardly know them. I get this from former co-workers that are really just trying to build up their linkedin profile…can’t blame them, but unless I know there work personally AND they take the time to send me an email, I ignore.

    Is that bad?

  9. By Jason Alba on Mar 19, 2009 | Reply

    Textrader – I totally agree with you… I either ignore them (if I don’t really know who they are, or if we have never worked together) or I just reply and say that we haven’t worked with one another enough for me to do that. No big deal, and yes, it’s tiring!

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