How to Respond to a LinkedIn Rec Request

1960s woman housewife washing dishes in kitchen sink looking at camera
Old-fashioned courtesy: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Someone you worked with for two weeks in 1992 sends you a  LinkedIn request for a recommendation.  A colleague whose work ethics leave you cold asks for a LinkedIn recommendation. A kid you hardly knew in high school wants you to recommend her. What to  do?

Here’s one of those many instances when what Mom told you was spot-on:  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Niceness abounds on LinkedIn. The reason you will rarely see a negative recommendation there is because the content is public. Anyone with a LinkedIn profile controls the content on the profile, including recommendations. No one is going to approve negative comments for public display.

Solutions to Problem Requests

Business etiquette says you can’t completely ignore requests for LinkedIn recommendations. But you don’t have to accept them either.  Here are your choices. Choose the one that best suits the situation.

Beg Off.
Respond that you don’t feel the person well enough to write a recommendation. The nice way to say this is, “I realize we’ve known each other for years, but I don’t know enough about your career and industry to be a credible reference.”

Put Them Off.
If you don’t have a history with this person, it’s acceptable to say something like, “Once we’ve worked together for a while, I’d be happy to write a recommendation for you.” This buys you time, lets the person know you take the recommendation seriously, and saves face for you both.

Blame LinkedIn
When you agree to recommend someone, LinkedIn offers a form that makes it difficult to be evasive. You’re required to specify how and where and in what capacity you know Joe. If you know Joe only from your weekly game of pick-up basketball or because his daughter is your children’s babysitter, you’re within bounds to respond with,  “Although we know each other socially, because LinkedIn attaches recommendations to specific jobs, I don’t feel I’m a good fit for you.”

Steps to Easy Rec Writing

If you do decide to write a recommendation, here are some ways to make the process simple.

Ask About the Goal
The first question you should ask is: “What is your objective?” Once you know the answer, you’ll provide better service. You should learn if the individual is job hunting, wants a promotion, is looking to land a certain client, or is in the midst of a career change.  Knowing the goal means you can tailor the recommendation to meet your contact’s specific needs.

Check Out the Profile
Look at the individual’s LinkedIn profile. Especially look at the job description of her position when you worked together, so you can align what you say to what she says, adding weight to her credibility and documentation.

Ask for a Draft
There’s no rule against asking a person to shoot you a few talking points. Heck, they may write the entire thing for you, making your task  a whole lot easier. Just be sure that you personally agree with what’s sent to you.

It makes good sense to consider the big picture when you’re dealing with LinkedIn. Your own profile there is an important piece of the puzzle that employers will put together when they are considering  you as a hire.  You don’t want your own profile to look fluffed up or watered down. I can help you fine tune your LinkedIn profile. Just contact me and we’ll go from there.

Remember that recommendations you write show up on your own profile, so excessive and indiscriminate  recommendations may come back to bite you.

And that sounds like something your mother would say.

Author: Mir Garvy

I’ve written resumes for 2,000+ job seekers just like you—and helped my clients land jobs with companies like Amazon, SAS, Google, Duke University, Travelocity, Cisco Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, Expedia, and IBM.