Are Your Recommendations Five Star?

Question:
In today’s reputation economy, professionals, like products, are rated and judged based on recommendations. How do I write a LinkedIn recommendation or a recommendation in general? Do you have examples or samples I can see? 

Answer:
The best recommendations is something that could only have been written by you because it is genuine, very specific, and descriptive.

Recommendations are part of everyone’s ‘permanent record’. Of course, they’re important for the person who receives one, but they also reflect on the people that write them. Don’t tarnish your reputation; learn 3 tips for writing better professional recommendations.

Be Specific and Descriptive
Recommendations should be genuine and earnest, specific and descriptive. The words you choose should closely match the person’s personal or professional brand. The idea is to vividly describe what they do and what makes them different. Occasionally, if you feel strongly, include a call to action. Here’s an example:

“Alejandra is an experienced, creative, and inspirational instructor. Because she has over 12 years experience as both an English and Spanish teacher, she uses a variety of creative teaching methods to ensure you learn what you need to in a way that works best for you. Even when you’re making mistakes, her calming personality makes you feel completely comfortable. If you want to improve your language skills quickly, hire Alejandra.”

Notice the specific structure: it includes three traits, then provides specific details as supporting evidence of the positive traits and ends with a strong call to action. The power of the recommendation comes from the strength of the examples provided. It’s through the specific examples that we gain a deeper understanding of the person.

Highlight Transferable Skills
Also notice that while Alejandra’s recommendation includes details of her experience, it also highlights transferable skills. By highlighting skills that can be applied to a variety of positions (such as communication and team skills) you ensure the recommendation is useful for a variety of possible uses. For most recommendations highlighting three skills, traits or abilities is sufficient.

Be sure to choose positive traits that you have observed in your interactions that are in alignment with his or her personal or professional brand. In addition, it’s always a good idea to check in with the person you are recommending. They might want you to help fill in the gaps by highlighting certain skills that are important to a specific opportunity they are interested in. Again, your goal is to highlight unique and valuable skills that are valuable not only for the current situation, but are likely to be valuable in the years to come.

Consider the Context

Perusing LinkedIn recommendations, I read one about John Fudala. “John is Hilarious! He speaks multiple languages, does improv acting, and is an amazing skateboarder. He’s full of ideas and has as an eye for art and entertainment. He always has a creative, positive outlook and he’s good at organizing and bringing people together. He is usually the first one up even if he was the last to hit the sack. (And he’ll probably wake you with a coffee and a muffin.) If there is a microphone around, put him on it and you’re sure to have a good time.”

Clearly, this recommendation wouldn’t be appropriate for most professions. However, it was written for a sports marketing professional –he gets hired as an MC at big skate board events and represents young hip sneaker brands.  For him, this recommendation is well-done. It highlights his humor, creativity, tirelessness, organizational skills, and athleticism, all of which are important to his work.

Keep context in mind to make recommendations strong, relevant, and interesting. You wouldn’t include “Natalie reads aloud with expression, attention to detail, and appropriate volume while monitoring comprehension” in a recommendation for a bank president, but it would be completely appropriate for a daycare provider.

Sample Linked-In Recommendations

Finally, many people are interested in seeing examples of Linked-In recommendations.  I thought I would post a two recommendations below and describe what I thought was good about the recommendation or what could have been improved on the example LinkedIn recommendation.

Here’s one written by  Chuq Von Rospach for Guy Kawasaki

I worked with Guy while he was Chief Evangelist at Apple during the dark years when it seemed Apple was going to fail. He was a tireless fighter for what he felt Apple should be, both internally and as a promoter of Apple to our developer crew (and beyond).

His creation of EvangeList, a mailing list to rally and motivate Apple fans around the world, really was a revolutionary change to the way companies handled PR and communicated to their users and gave Apple supporters the information and reason to fight the overwhelming negative news about the company at that time. Guy was a promoter of openness and transparency long before those words came into common usage.

Working with him as a huge education for me in how to communicate with a large audience and motivate and encourage those around me, and of the usefulness of openness and honesty as tools in times where problems exist and need to be acknoweldged, not hidden.

I would work with (or for) Guy again in an instant; he’s fun, interesting and around him, you’ll never be bored. One of the most memorable times in my long tenure at Apple, and Guy was a core reason why I stayed on during those dark years.

Ok so let’s break it apart to understand the elements of this Linkedin recommendation example that made it good.

I worked with Guy while he was Chief Evangelist at Apple during the dark years when it seemed Apple was going to fail. 

He immediately tell you his relationship to Guy which is something that should be done early in any recommendation.  He also includes when he worked with Guy–but he took a interesting approach in that he didn’t tell you the exact years, instead, shared the time period in terms of a difficulty that Guy was facing (and overcame). Nice!

 He was a tireless fighter for what he felt Apple should be, both internally and as a promoter of Apple to our developer crew (and beyond). 

Next he highlights an important element of Guy’s brand–tireless champion of his vision.  This acts as summary of Guy even if the reader chooses not to read the rest.

His creation of EvangeList, a mailing list to rally and motivate Apple fans around the world, really was a revolutionary change to the way companies handled PR and communicated to their users and gave Apple supporters the information and reason to fight the overwhelming negative news about the company at that time.

In this part he provides a very specific accomplishment [EvangeList] that highlights other important elements of Guy’s brand–that Guy is a change agent.  He uses descriptive language [revolutionary] to describe the accomplishment which is turn gets transferred to Guy.

Guy was a promoter of openness and transparency long before those words came into common usage. 

With this sentence not only does he highlight again, key elements of Guy’s brand directly [openness and transparency], he also highlights another brand element indirectly–that Guy is a genuine leader.

Working with him as a huge education for me in how to communicate with a large audience and motivate and encourage those around me, and of the usefulness of openness and honesty as tools in times where problems exist and need to be acknoweldged, not hidden. 

In this sentence he highlights a skill of Guy in the form of  lessons learned.  Including lessons learned in LinkedIn recommendations for people that you worked for or for people that you may only know from their writings online.

I would work with (or for) Guy again in an instant; he’s fun, interesting and around him, you’ll never be bored. One of the most memorable times in my long tenure at Apple, and Guy was a core reason why I stayed on during those dark years.

Finally he wraps up his review with a specific recommendation.  This is a good way to end all recommendation.  Notice in this case, he also slips in a one more element of Guy’s brand [fun] and makes the recommendation even stronger by showing Guy’s influence on the writers career.  By including how the person impacted your career you can both personalize and expand on recommendation instead of simply saying, “I highly recommend, Guy.”

Share Your Thoughts!

Name: Email:  
Copyright Lisa B. Marshall ©2012-2013. All Rights Reserved. Photo of Lisa B. Marshall by Joan Ford Photography.