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How To Ask For A Recommendation That Will Actually Help Your Career

LinkedIn profiles with endorsements are viewed more by recruiters and show up higher in search results. But not all endorsements are created equal.

How To Ask For A Recommendation That Will Actually Help Your Career
[Source illustrations: gn8/iStock; vasabii/iStock]

Asking for a recommendation can feel kind of awkward: After all, you are essentially asking someone to sing your praises.

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But even in an age where it’s easy to self-promote online, recommendations from experts in your field who specify your contributions are incredibly valuable when you’re looking for a job.

Of course, not all LinkedIn endorsements and recommendations carry the same weight. Here are some tips on how you can ask (and receive) recommendations and endorsements that will actually benefit your career.

The Power Of A LinkedIn Recommendation And Endorsement

In a previous article for Fast Company, Gwen Moran suggests that a lack of recommendations might be hurting job seekers. According to social media expert Melanie Dorado, this is what the average profile often needs help with.

Tatiana De Almeida, a member of LinkedIn’s corporate communications team, agrees. In an email to Fast Company, she wrote, “Skills endorsement and recommendations are how we validate and support other people’s expertise, and it adds credibility when your skills are seen and endorsed by your connections that are also highly skilled in those areas.”

De Almeida also mentioned that those with skills listed receive up to 17 times more profile views, “and the more endorsements you have for those priority skills, the higher you rank in search results.” LinkedIn members with five or more skills listed are discovered up to 27 more times in searches by recruiters, and messaged up to 31 more times by recruiters and other LinkedIn members.

The Components Of An Effective Recommendation

De Almeida and Rosen both note, however, that not all skill endorsements and recommendations will be helpful to your career. Having a lot of endorsements on skills that are outdated and irrelevant to your field are not going to earn you brownie points with recruiters. The same goes with unendorsed skills or endorsements on skills that are broad and generic.

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Effective recommendations, Rosen previously told Fast Company, need to highlight skills that a manager would deem to be important. For example, this might be your team-building skills, your timeliness, your ability to keep things on track and generate revenue, and your leadership capacity. The more specific, the better.


Related: Former Recruiters Reveal The Industry’s Dark Secrets That Cost You Job Offers


However, it’s also important to keep it short, according to Molly O’Malley, recruiter at Adams Keegan, as reported in a previous Fast Company story. Unless you’ve been referred by one of the recruiter’s clients, they’re not likely to be reading your profile in detail and will only give your profile a quick scroll, which is why it’s important to make sure that every section (including the recommendation and endorsement) stands out.

How To Ask For A Recommendation

If you find it difficult to ask people if they can write nice things about you, there are a number of steps you can take to make the process less cringeworthy. For starters, you can offer to do most of the work yourself, like writing a draft for your recommender to edit or list out the specific skills that you’d like them to endorse you on.

People like to do things when there’s a clear why, so a less self-absorbed way to ask for help is to give them a compliment. Make it clear why their expertise and experiment make them the right person to give you an endorsement or recommendation. Jeremy Cohen, cofounder and executive search firm The Talent Studio, previously told Fast Company‘s Stephanie Vozza, “The emphasis needs to be on the fact that you believe their opinion has gravity, and you respect it to the point where you want it memorialized on the largest public forum of accessible career information on you.”

Vozza gave two examples of how you can couch this request. Compelling “whys” for your recommend might be something like, “I feel like I did some of my best work under your guidance, and would really appreciate if you’d be open to sharing our experience together in a LinkedIn recommendation,” or “Your opinion means a great deal to me–would you be open to sharing our work together with a LinkedIn testimony?”

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Lastly, you can always start the conversation by endorsing or writing a recommendation for that person. It will be a nice surprise for them, and is likely to make the conversation a whole lot less awkward.


Related: 9 Ways Your References Can Land Your Next Job 


Just make sure you refrain from asking someone you barely know. This is an amateur move, and even more cringeworthy gesture than asking your old boss to write a recommendation for you. As Amber Mac wrote in a previous Fast Company story, “In real life, it would be a strange networking move to request a testimonial from someone you don’t know.” So don’t do it in your digital life.

About the author

Anisa is the Editorial Assistant for Fast Company's Leadership section. She covers everything from personal development, entrepreneurship and the future of work.

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