How To Spot a Fake LinkedIn Recommendation

Recruiters and hiring managers often head straight to LinkedIn to learn more about new job applicants. They look at their pictures, read their profiles, and decide whether or not to interview them. They often skip their recommendations because of time constraints.  That’s a shame because the LinkedIn recommendation offers a lot of information about a person.

LinkedIn Recommendation Pluses

Many people find LinkedIn recs to be a good source of credible background info about applicants because the recs are quasi-public. The thought is that the writers won’t lie because their colleagues can see what they’ve written. There’s built-in verification.

Recommendations also demonstrate a person’s ability to form relationships. If they don’t have any recs, or only have a few, you might wonder about their people skills.

LinkedIn Recommendation Negatives

On the flip side, some applicants do exchange recommendations with people they know and people they don’t know. They also buy recs. You can Google “trade LinkedIn recommendations” and “buy LinkedIn recommendations” to see just how cheap, easy, and common this is.

How to Spot a Fake LinkedIn Recommendation

Given this, as a recruiter or hiring manager, what aspects of a recommendation might make you think it’s fake?

  1. Consider the Tone: Does the rec read like a person wrote it or does it sound like a LinkedIn recommendation generator produced it? Yes, there’s an app for that.

  2. Look for Former Managers: Does your applicant have any recommendations from former managers? If not, be wary. Dig. 

  3. Check the Writer’s Work History: Click through to the writer’s profile to verify that s/he actually worked for the company claimed in the recommendation. I’ve seen recs that claim that Tom, the writer, was Jorge’s direct report at Company X. When I look at Tom’s profile, there’s no mention that he ever worked for Company X. 

  4. Look for Reciprocal Recommendations: While you’re on the writer’s profile, look to see if your applicant has written a reciprocal rec for the writer. While some reciprocal recs are legitimate, others aren’t. Make sure both recs pass the smell test for you.

  5. Look for Hidden Reciprocal Recommendations: LinkedIn allows you to hide or display the recommendations you write for others on your profile. To find hidden recs, right click on your applicant’s LinkedIn profile picture. Then click on “Search Google for this image.” Google will show you all of the LinkedIn profiles that feature your applicant’s picture. Click through to see if you find your applicant’s picture in the profile’s recommendations section. If you do, you’ve just found a hidden rec. 

  6. Assess. After you’ve completed these steps, check your gut. Do you feel comfortable that your applicant’s recommendations are real or do you suspect they might be fake?

What’s Next?

Based on what you find, you might:

  1. Green light an interview.

  2. Classify your concerns as a red flag and proceed cautiously.

  3. Decide that you have seen such egregious abuse that you know you don’t want to spend any more time on the applicant.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Hire in haste, repent at leisure.” A bad hire can cost your organization months or years of lost opportunities and many thousand dollars. It only takes a few minutes to run the due diligence process described above. Do it!

I write executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles and blog at AvidCareerist. For more information, you can find my LinkedIn profile here or email me at

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