LinkedIn Recommendations: Not just for job seekers! Part I

In my last post, I shared how My Career Grew with LinkedIn. In this next post, learn when to request recommendations from colleagues and employers to use on LinkedIn – and more.

Many of you have been in this position: you've made it past your first interview, and you've wowed your prospective employer (or hope you did). Then you get a phone call: you’re informed that they’ll be checking your employment history and references. After respectfully asking what the next steps are (and jumping up and down in excitement), you start calling your former employers and personal references to give them a heads up that someone from Amazing Company will call them.
This is the worst possible time to ask for a recommendation. For many, it will turn out fine, but if you haven’t interacted with your previous employers in a while, or that former coworker has moved on to another company, or perhaps your reference didn't know you as well as you think they did, you may be sabotaging your chances at securing that perfect new job at Amazing Company.

You’re also missing out on valuable opportunities to create a dynamic network of former and current employers and colleagues who respect your work and value your contributions to the team.

So when is the right time to ask for a Recommendation?

Recommendations should be requested long before you've decided to look for new positions. Below are some of the best times to ask for a recommendation.

Following Project Completion. A good recommendation and reference happens after direct interaction. In the A/E/C, marketing, and graphic design industries, I interact with multiple project managers, principals, and team members on a daily basis. It’s easy to finish a project and move on to the next one without capturing the value I contributed to the team. So whenever I finish a project and get complimented on my efforts, I take action depending on the source. When these compliments occur in a meeting or on the phone, I ask if they would tell my boss how I’m doing. When the praise is via email, I give the individual a call and ask if I can forward the message to my boss. Recommendations received following direct contact normally contain more information regarding your work ethic, how easy or enjoyable you are to work with, and detailed comments on your specific contributions to the team.

For you, a project may be an event you helped coordinate, an annual report you compiled, or perhaps the grand opening of a new storefront. Whatever the case may be, those are still the best opportunities to gain valuable insight into how your team members view your quality of work.

After Employee Reviews. Annual reviews are another ideal and often missed opportunity to secure recommendations for LinkedIn. Most annual/performance reviews have sections for direct narrative regarding your performance, contributions to the company, and improvements over the year. Whether your direct supervisor, a small group, or your company employs 360 reviews to evaluate your performance, you can garner one or more recommendations for your LinkedIn profile.

After a Promotion. When being promoted, you are likely to work with a new group of people and/or report to a new manager. This is the perfect opportunity to ask your former manager and former team members for a recommendation. They may be willing to expand on your abilities since they no longer manage you or you will no longer influence their career path.

After a Bonus. Much like an employee review and a promotion, a bonus is usually preceded by a justification for the bonus and praise for your work. This is the perfect opportunity to parlay your financial boon into a great recommendation.

When Leaving a Company. This is probably the most common time when people ask their colleagues for recommendations. While it is the most common, it is also the trickiest. There are a few cardinal rules you should follow when asking for a recommendation or reference when leaving a company:
  • Leave on good terms: Give your current employer notice that you are leaving (two weeks is the standard); make sure all your unfinished work has been delegated; offer to train your replacement; give instructions on tasks for which you were primarily responsible; and leave your contact information and offer to answer questions (within reason). Your former employer may have loved you, but if you left the company in a bad position or deleted all your files when you left, they may be disinclined to leave you a good recommendation – LinkedIn or otherwise.
  • Follow the rules: You should avoid putting your former colleagues or managers in a position where they are circumventing HR procedures for references.
  • Make it Timely: If you haven’t asked for a recommendation before, ask for a recommendation during your two-week notice or soon after you’ve left the company. If you wait too long, they may not be willing to give you a recommendation or may not remember enough about your work to be able to recommend you.
LinkedIn is the perfect place to store recommendations, but you should be asking for them frequently – whether they make it to LinkedIn or not. For my next post, I’ll share how I ask for a recommendation for LinkedIn after each of the scenarios listed above and the language I’ve used.

Originally posted on

Vanessa Hahn is the Marketing & Communications Manager for GHD's Innovation Program.


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