Really, You Want ME to Write YOU a LinkedIn Recommendation

During my professional career, I've been fortunate to be able to take advantage of some fantastic opportunities. As I result; I've developed an amazing network of friends and colleagues. I've personally tapped these fine folks when applying to various opportunities of interest and expect to continue to leverage these connections throughout my career. Since I've become more senior in my career, I knew that eventually I would be called upon to recommend someone else. Here's what happened, I recently got a request to write a LinkedIn recommendation from one of my connections. The problem is, I don't think that this person was very good at doing what they are asking me to recommend them for: accomplishing their work objectives. This was a problem noted not only by me, but also our supervisor and the senior management team. For me, this creates a couple of potential issues in my mind.

Everyone Sees IT

Just like my blogroll and network connections give insights into me, whom I recommend is also a reflection upon me. Unlike a paper-based recommendation that might only be seen by a recruiting manager or admissions committee, a LinkedIn recommendation is online. Not only will this recommendation be viewable by everyone, but it will also be seen by the person I'm being asked to recommend. The visibility and permanence of this recommendation is extremely concerning. Every time someone views my profile, they will see whom I recommended and why. Given my previous experience with this person, this is not someone I necessarily want to stake my reputation upon.

Undervalues Current & Future Recommendations

Just as I asked more senior people within my network to recommend me for graduate school (engineering & business), early career connections will begin to depend on me to recommend them. I'd like to give them the best opportunity to achieve their goals. However, if I accept recommendation requests from anyone, my current & future recommendations will be undervalued. This is not fair to those who will seek out my assistance in the future.

Time Consuming

Don't get me wrong, I don't mind taking time to help people out. In fact, nothing gives me more joy than when I can help someone else out. Since, I was not particularly impressed with this person's work ethic or ultimate accomplishments; it will take much more time to come up with an honest & accurate recommendation. When someone's performance is impressive, there is lots of material to choose from when putting together a recommendation. At the same time, I want to give this person the opportunity to be viewed as favorably as possible while still being honest in my assessment.

Perhaps, I'm taking this recommendation request far too seriously. I mean nearly all of the recommendations I've ever read are glowing. In fact, most of the time when I see a recommendation, it becomes a neutral data point. Maybe if I refuse the request, this person will find someone else who is more impressed with their work. What do you think about online recommendations? Are they additive to online profiles? What's your rule for accepting recommendation requests?

-Omowale Casselle (@mysensay)


About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the co-founder and CEO of mySenSay, a social recruiting community focused on connecting talented college students with amazing entry-level employment opportunities. Our solution integrates social media tools, real-time web-based communication, and intelligent analytics to enable employers and students to discover, interact, and connect with each other.


Views: 439

Comment by Steve Fleischner on April 22, 2010 at 3:10pm
Volume certainly devalues the recommendation, affecting not only the person who has or gives a large volume of recommendations, but recommendations in general given for or received by anyone. It's the same devaluation that facebook has wrought on Happy Birthdays.
Comment by Omowale Casselle on April 22, 2010 at 3:14pm

That's a good point. I was just thinking that since almost 8 of my FB friends have birthdays today. Knowing that everytime I wish someone a Happy Bday it shows up in my news stream, I wonder how special they feel.

Comment by Donna Svei on April 23, 2010 at 9:03pm

As a headhunter, I don't even read written recommendations. Who is going to write anything negative? There's too much legal risk. I talk with people's references in depth. I don't expect 100% praise. I'm looking for a balanced, candid assessment of a person's strengths and weaknesses.

Written recommendations, although probably often sincere, make me very uncomfortable.

Thank you for bringing this topic up.

Donna Svei
Comment by Omowale Casselle on April 24, 2010 at 8:41am

Thanks for the comment. You are definitely highlighting the challenges associated with using written recommendations as part of candidate review. It is probably more effect to go deep via phone. Perhaps, the written recommendation can help decide which candidates are advanced in the process.

I didn't realize the legal risk. What potential legal complications can come from written recommendations?

Comment by Donna Svei on April 24, 2010 at 11:01am
Hi Omowale,

Here's a good bit on avoiding lawsuits when giving references: As you can see, it's a pretty tight rope to walk. Thus, the likelihood of getting a balanced picture of someone from a written reference is pretty unlikely. In fact, taking this further, research shows that the most predictive references come from former supervisors. I focus my reference checking on those people.


Comment by Omowale Casselle on April 24, 2010 at 4:29pm

I see. I'd always heard about the references with the bare minimum of information: name, job title, salary, and dates worked. Now, I understand why employers can be hesitant.

Thanks for sharing the link.

Comment by Kevin Stakelum on April 26, 2010 at 11:58am
Rarely do I write a recommendation that is requested of me. If someone has earned the recommendation, I try to provide that proactively, thus avoiding the need to decide whether I respond to these requests. I do think that recommendations that are too freely given devalue all of the ones that I give.
Comment by Omowale Casselle on April 26, 2010 at 12:11pm

That's an interesting strategy. As long as everyone you are connected with knows your policy, I can see how that could definitely help avoid the issue outlined above.

Comment by Omowale Casselle on April 26, 2010 at 1:42pm

Thanks for the comment. I love the concept of a teachable moment based on the recommendation request and subsequent feedback.



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