How to Write a Great LinkedIn Recommendation

How to write a great LinkedIn recommendationEver been asked to write a LinkedIn recommendation for a friend or colleague?

It’s flattering, right? Until you realize how much work it can involve. How many questions it elicits when you finally sit down to write “what should be simple.”

As with all writing, developing a strategy before going in is an essential start. For this article I’ve lifted directly from my own LinkedIn profile.

Start With Who They Are

In the screenshot below, you’ll notice that I’ve recommended five people to date. Three show up as teaser lines, prompting you to click for more.

Writing LinkedIn recommendations

From My Own LinkedIn Profile

So what do you notice about the copy? Each leads with what the subject brings to the world, professionally.

Victoria Ekegren Ahlén (CEO of social media agency Awoque) and I went to school together. I’ve since admired her work from afar, but since we went to school together, I can’t speak directly about her work today.

However, I remember Victoria from college as a smart woman who cares deeply about things that matter, she is also a person of immense integrity. Her international perspective helped me see beyond my own backyard all those years ago.

So it took time to develop a strategy for Victoria’s recommendation, but I finally led with “even before she was a branding guru,” which gets who she is out the gate fast. By framing it this way, I acknowledged her now, in a way that lets me speak authentically about Victoria as I know her.

You’ll notice the same approach when I wrote recommendations for my virtual assistant, Kandace Friesen of Friesen Virtual Assistants and my graphic / web designer, Jennifer Quinton of Quinton Design Studio. In each example, the reader knows who the subject is without having to click for more. And perhaps it breathes a bit of life into the reader experience. Professional writing shouldn’t mean stale writing.

Be Honest

There are two ideas under the honesty category.

First, be honest when asked to write a recommendation:

If a friend or colleague asks you for a recommendation, and it’s easy to say yes, do it!

If you’re less than eager, or uncomfortable, say it. Evaluate why and take a bit of care in explaining why you might not be the right person to make a recommendation. It can be especially tricky if the person has written a recommendation for you. But in this case, it doesn’t have to be quid pro quo. It must be genuine.

If you’re at all concerned, be resolute. Say no thank you now, nicely, before you write a recommendation out of obligation and proceed to live with something the world can read for the rest of time. Being honest with yourself and your contact—no matter how awkward—is always better in the long run.

Second, be honest when writing a recommendation:

Choose something you know for certain about your subject. Don’t invent anything. Don’t misrepresent anything because you’ll have to live with it.

Write something interesting and meaningful from your own perspective about your friend or colleague. Be appropriate and make it interesting. It’s a recommendation after all, not an obituary. Put a little joy into it.

Be Strategic

Talk about strategy before you get started. It makes everyone’s job easier.

If there’s something your subject would like you to focus on, you’re in a unique position to write something s/he alone can’t say without sounding goofy.

For instance, a client recently said he stays calm amidst chaos and that he always sees the big picture. These are important things for me to know as a résumé writer. They’re important traits for most professional positions. Certainly executive roles. But they’re overused in résumé writing and can lose their impact. They begin feeling like filler unless backed up in some way.

Back up with your third-party perspective changes everything. As a peer or former boss, you can speak about calm-in-a-storm, big picture viewpoint, and over-arching strengths in a way your subject can’t. Especially if you tie in a strong example or two.

Let’s say your friend wants to stress the international part of his or her career. Consider starting with something like, “John is no stranger to the international arena.” Get it out there. “John is a citizen of the world” is a great opener when it’s true, genuine, and written from a third party.

Say your friend wants to emphasize her start-up experience. How about, “Susan’s start-up growth strategies are unmatched,” and build from there. (If it’s true, of course.)

Build a great recommendation from a strong strategy. Have fun with it.

Be Specific (And Genuine)

So many businesses and product lines enjoy success because they serve a niche audience. By definition, niching means that some people will be drawn in and others will walk away. That’s okay. Borrow the niching concept when writing about your subject. Be specific. Your friend doesn’t have to be all things to all people, and your recommendation doesn’t have to be either.

You’re not obligated to write “Everything I ever knew about Jack.” Focus on one or two things you know about Jack and get it out there. Keep it short. A terse, genuine, lively, well-written recommendation runs a better chance of being read. A big, fat block of copy will be overlooked.

In all things brevity is key.

Which is a great signal to wrap this article. What do you think about writing recommendations? Do you squirm a little? Do you excel? Have you struggled through them, but discovered a principle that might help others?

Until next time!

Jared Redick
Visit: The Resume
Follow: @TheResumeStudio
Call: 415-397-6640

P.S. For another perspective, check out Adam Nash’s “Recommendations and the Reputation Economy” from LinkedIn’s own blog. I like how he thinks.

One Response

  1. […] get your creative juices flowing, read Jared Redick’s How To Write a Great LinkedIn Recommendation or uber-recommender Chris Brogan’s older post Elements of a Good LinkedIn […]

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