A practical guide to LinkedIn | Part IV: 9 tips for recommendations

This is the last in a 4-part series on LinkedIn for investment industry professionals. In our first 3 posts, we talked about profiles, connections and groups. Today we turn to recommendations – or endorsements, as they’re sometimes called on LinkedIn.

But first this reminder:

These tips are based on what I understand to be the typical social media policy. The policy at your firm may be more restrictive, so. . .

Make sure that you read your firm’s social media policy carefully. If you have any questions about it (or even if you don’t), ask your supervisor to clarify exactly what is and is not permitted – then follow the guidelines to the letter. It’s not worth losing your job over a social media post.

Truth be told, giving someone a recommendation is a risky business. Here’s the scenario: A manager at another firm in the industry calls asking you for a reference on a former colleague, which you provide. Ex-colleague doesn’t get the job, concludes that the problem was your recommendation and sues you – and your employer – for defamation.

These suits are all too common, which is why most employers have very strict policies about recommendations. They may require that all reference requests go through the Human Resources department – and they often limit the information provided to title and dates of employment.

At the same time, we all need recommendations at some point during our working life – and, increasingly, managers are looking for them on LinkedIn at the start of the hiring process. An unemployed friend of mine told me that one prospective employer wouldn’t bring her in for an interview until she had at least two references on her LinkedIn profile.

So to help out the people you like – and to increase the odds that they’ll help you when you need them – you’ll want to write a few recommendations. But make sure you don’t expose yourself too much in the process.

Here are 9 rules I use when writing LinkedIn recommendations:

  1. Know your company’s policy. . . and abide by it. If your company’s policy is “no recommendations,” then don’t write any. Maybe your firm’s restrictions are more limited – so that you can endorse colleagues from your prior job or service providers – but make sure you understand the rules before you post. Remember that your recommendation will be visible to all of your and all of your friend’s LinkedIn connections!
  2. Don’t recommend current colleagues, even if it’s kosher under your company’s policy. Leave this to the Human Resources Department.
  3. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. The adage really applies here. If you can’t write a positive – and truthful – recommendation, better not to write anything at all.
  4. Learn to say no. Don’t ever feel pressured to write a recommendation if doing so would violate any of the first three rules. It can be uncomfortable turning someone down – but uncomfortable is better than unemployed or in litigation.
  5. Wait for a request. It may seem obvious, but don’t write a recommendation until someone asks you to do so. Once you get the request. . .
  6. Ask for a draft. No, it’s not unreasonable to ask the requester to write a draft of the recommendation for you. You’ll save time – and you’ll make sure that the review focuses on the skills and characteristics that the requester feels are most critical.
  7. At the very least, provide a draft. If you’ve done the drafting yourself, give the person that you’re writing about a chance to review the recommendation before it’s posted.
  8. Focus on the work. Talk specifically about the work that you’ve done with someone. Comments like “he’s a great guy” are nice, but not particularly helpful to a prospective employer.
  9. Don’t elaborate. Has someone read your recommendation and sent you a message asking for more information? Don’t feel that you have to respond. If you do, stick to reiterating the facts and themes in the recommendation. I also check with the person that I’m endorsing to make sure that they know about the request.

Other posts in the “Practical Guide to LinkedIn” series:

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