A few weeks back, I received a request from a former employee asking for a Linkedin in recommendation. Read the note below and I’ll share why this wasn’t the best approach and 3 tips on how to get a strong detailed recommendation.
This person was right about one thing, future employers will be looking at his LinkedIn page and recommendations will definitely help. In fact, 89% of all recruiters report having hired someone through LinkedIn. That being said, the approach this person used to obtain the recommendation lacked effort and intentionality. This was coming from a former employee whom I hadn’t spoken to in years and when they did work for me they were part of a much bigger team where I did not have the opportunity to directly supervise them. There wasn’t much of a connection to begin with, and so a note a few years later randomly asking for a recommendation was not motivating at all.
No matter if you needed recommendations for school or for a job, we all know how important a powerful recommendation can be for your future. That phrase, “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is far too common in today’s workforce. It’s important now, more than ever, in a time of limitless social connection, to use the tools (online and face-to-face) available to you to build your network before you need it.
A majority of employers still require you to provide a list references at some stage in the hiring cycle. Many times, as early as when you hit the “apply” button. When it comes to building your reference list or asking for a recommendation, consider these questions first and foremost.
Who are the 5 most recent connections (former supervisors, colleagues, employees) that can speak to my strengths as an employee and my work ethic?
When was the last time I spoke to them about my desired career path, and do they know I am currently applying to jobs?
Is there anything I can do to help make their life easier when it comes to serving as my reference? (ie. send them your resume, hop on a call to discuss the job, etc)
Often times, college students and young professionals ask for a recommendation from someone that did not directly supervise them and those individuals are unable to cite detailed examples of their work ethic.
If you have a reference in mind and believe they can speak strongly about your work ethic and skills, and you have prepared them with materials or information about the job, then you’re ready for the next step. Now you are fully prepared to ask for that recommendation, and here is how to do it.
1. Do the work
As I mentioned above, prepare some materials for your recommender. Make sure they have information about the job you are applying for and an updated resume. You might want to also jog their memory of a few key projects you worked on with them that can be referenced in the recommendation. Don’t be too pushy, you’ll need to find a balance between providing adequate information and not writing the recommendation for them. The best way to avoid a mishap here is by simply putting yourself in their shoes.
2. Stay in Touch
In 2014, there is no longer an excuse for not staying in touch. Avoid asking for a recommendation from someone who you haven’t (at least loosely) kept in touch with in over a year. Most likely they will not remember the specifics of what made you a great employee or colleague, and they will be unsure of your career path and recent accomplishments. Essentially they won’t be able to speak to what makes you the best candidate for the job. The chances of getting loose connections, those you haven’t spoken to in over a year, to give you a recommendation at all is slim….let alone getting a strong recommendation.
3. Post it Forward
Find your current supervisors, colleagues, and employees on LinkedIn and start writing a genuine recommendations for them. The more timely the better. Especially, after completing a big project, initiating a new venture, or a hitting a major goal for the organization.
The recommendation below was written by a current student that works for my social media team at Rutgers and will be a senior this year.
She is building her network before she needs it, keeping in touch with them, and providing real-time recommendations. In turn, she has immediately landed herself a handful of detailed and powerful recommendations from not only myself but from other well-connected professionals.
The job you love is out there for the taking, but lackluster recommendations are not going to get you there. ‘You get what you put into it’ is a concept that applies to the job search just as much as it does to any other experiences in life.
The Niche Movement is an organization founded on the principle to end employment unhappiness, and this is one of wide range of topics and ideas we share with young people to help them find the career path they will love. If you found this article helpful, you can support The Niche Movement and our ability to continue to do this work, by checking out our Kickstarter campaign. Donating to the campaign will score you our first book that will be chock full of tips and stories just like the ones featured in this article.