Employers, recruiters, clients, suppliers, and more, use LinkedIn to identify potential candidates, business partners or professional relations. Before they select you, invite you for a first contact or for an interview, they will read your profile, analyse your career path, check whom you are connected with, and especially who recommended you and why:
- a superior, a client, a colleague, an employee or a supplier;
- your competences, your professional achievements, your specific experience, your behaviour at work, etc.
Just like the selection and the enhancement of your key competences that we addressed in “Insights No 1”, recommendations on your profile are also about self-marketing. A recommendation should not only bring forward positive sides of your profile, it should also acknowledge, certify, validate your competences, your candidacy for a position, or even your soft skills at work.
A recommendation can be an advantage or a disadvantage according to the consistency you want to give to your digital and professional identity. There are two different types of recommendations on LinkedIn. First, there’s the written recommendations related to a specific position or a professional experience. Second, there’s the “Skills and Endorsements” represented as tags or labels. In both cases, it’s important to learn to filter – decline – select – organize recommendations that you receive or ask for.
The tips I’m sharing with you are based on my experience as coach, recruiter and most of all as a head-hunter. Not all endorsements are worth taking. Your capacity to manage them will testify to your professionalism on a professional network like LinkedIn. Furthermore, your “digital” recommendations will tend to become more significant than your traditional work certificates, a trend that will verify itself with professional networks imposing themselves in the work market.
A few tips
Ask for recommendations only from individuals with whom you have worked, collaborated or shared a professional relationship. It is important to select endorsements from significant and meaningful people for recruiters, employers or clients that will identify your profile.
In my day-to-day coaching activity, I accompany candidates through the building of their complete professional identity (resume, career summary, LinkedIn profile, etc.). One of the challenges we work on is succeeding in identifying the most pertinent relations among their network, those most likely to give a reasoned judgment on their career path, to fully appreciate their competences and aptitudes, their professional achievements, their soft skills or specific experiences. Preliminary to this, candidates need to have their profile built around their 3 to 5 key competences and skills.
Your “brand” must be coherent and homogenous. Always in a self-marketing perspective, recommendations that you will ask for and/or select from the existing ones, must validate and acknowledge the professional path you’ve chosen to highlight. But be careful, stay authentic, overbidding and cheating is quickly spotted!
We all have colleagues, superiors, bosses, mentors, coaches, collaborators, employees, clients, and suppliers whom we work with, collaborate, build, succeed, developed, etc. Put it simply, we all have professional relations that have led to mutual recognition, unforgettable moments, successful challenges, overcoming of obstacles, on a shared trust or an extended partnership.
Writing a recommendation, at least as I understand it, gives meaning and action to the activity of “networking”. It’s a significant action that enables the building, consolidating and maintaining of one’s relationships in an effective way. In this exercise, it is sometimes necessary to decline, select or ask the person recommending you to be more precise or more exhaustive.
One of the simplest ways to develop you relationships, and at the same time, work on your marketing is to write recommendations to the persons that were significant in your own professional path.
Writing a good recommendation is a challenge, a mix between:
- generosity: in terms of time and in terms of sharing one’s experience with the person, humanely or professionally;
- rigour : in terms of writing, to be clear, concise and give all the necessary elements for the understanding of the context of the professional relationship you are describing.
Tips for writing a recommendation
1 – The first sentence must draw the reader’s attention and make him/her want to meet the person you are recommending. This phrase should bring in light what is “remarkable” about this person, in every sense of the word.
Example : Very few people had the opportunity to work with a Manager that succeeded in being also a coach and a mentor. I realized this privilege while working for Paul Martin.
2 – Try to avoid as much as possible the use of superlatives.
Example : One of my favourites colleagues, one of the best employee that I had, etc.
3 – It is essential to contextualize and describe you professional relationship: your respective roles, the duration of collaboration, on which project you worked, etc.
Example : From 2010 to 2013, as a Sales Executive, I’ve worked with Sophie, at that time our new Community Manager, in the context of the development of our social network strategy. Since that time, she never stopped taking on new responsibilities, managing several digital projects for our company. I fully acknowledge her contribution to our positive sales growth.
4 – Once you found the teaser and set the context, you need to select 1 to 2 key competences regarding the person you are recommending. Elements that marked your collaboration or that made this person professionally remarkable. If the profile is well done, competences will be easy to identify and easy to illustrate with your own experience with this person. In all cases, it may be useful to simply contact the person and ask him or her if there are competences, achievements or a special aptitude that he or she would appreciate to be highlighted by our contribution.
Example : Christian most impressed me with his capacity to manage several projects at the same time, while handling extremely demanding clients in terms of planning and resource management.
5 – Disagreements in a company, a team, a department or interpersonal relationships are rarely linked to the competences of someone. Most often, problems are due to differences of perception, communication, personality or culture. That’s why it’s always useful to write a line about the soft skills of the person, why was it so pleasant to work with him or her, a personality trait, etc.
Example : Pierre has a real talent when it comes to defusing tense situations and to ease communication. Regardless the type of meeting and inherent conflicts of the reunion, Pierre would always make sure that everybody comes out with a real satisfaction and a renewed concentration on the collective goals of the company.
6 – Finally, I would recommend to finish with a phrase of encouragement to action for the readers of your contact’s profile.
Example : The competences of Sarah in terms of digital marketing are a real asset for the team or company that will have the privilege to work with her. Richard is part of the people you want to have and keep in your team.
Skills and Endorsements
LinkedIn implemented this alternative in the form of labels. Although very popular because it’s quick and simple, this option can be tricky. These endorsements are frequently distributed without real consideration. Sometimes individuals do not even know each other personally or professionally. Often perceived as superficial, these endorsements do not have the same impact and relevance as a written and signed recommendation. However, there is a way to use this part of your profile to your advantage.
Indeed, in order to keep control of your image and the way you want professionals to perceive your profile and identify it, stay vigilant and uncompromising. Remove (unclick in editable mode) endorsements that do not reflect the key competences of your profile, and those that come from individuals that cannot actually acknowledge those skills in a professional frame.
Ask your network to recommend you solely for your key competences in order for these labels to reflect your positioning and allow LinkedIn users to adhere to your profile and message. Choose the skills for which you want to be endorsed without diluting your brand. Make sure to select terms that are specific according to your competences, your specialities and general according to your larger field of competences. LinkedIn defaults labels, but be aware that you can also personalize them. The system allows up to 50 tags. In all cases, be attentive to the coherence of your choices and not to dilute your profile.
For example, if your function is Digital Marketing Manager, the competences that could be retained according to your profile and career path are;
Digital Marketing, Applications marketing strategy, Analytic management, Mobile, internet or social media (SMO) strategies, Content strategy, Advertising, Emailing campaigns, SEO, SEM, PPC, E-commerce, Google Analytics, Project management, etc.
If your function is IT Support HelpDesk, the competences that could be retained according to your profile and career path are;
Support IT, Technical Support, Service Desk, ITIL Foundation, MCSA, MCSE, MS Office Scripting, Active Directory, or SharePoint, etc. (Carefully specify the corresponding versions to your certifications and/or recent experiences)
Do not underestimate this step which will increase your chances of being identified by search engines.
To conclude, this effort towards the management of your employability should not only be undertaken when you are looking for a new opportunity. Your employability must also be undertaken on-the-job, thus helping you to position yourself in your company, orient your choices in terms of training, etc.