The LinkedIn Recommendation/Endorsement baffles me. I can think of no other digital interaction that requires as much thought and creates genuine concern and trepidation. What is it about asking for (or receiving a request for) recommendations that make us twitch?
The psychological response to the LinkedIn Recommendation is very different than a Friend Request or connection. It’s simple to accept a request from your old high school flame and then alter your privacy settings to keep them secluded from your everyday musings on Facebook. They never have to know that they are on your limited profile list and that you’ve blocked their updates in your feed. Or, you could just outright decline the friend request and never give that person another thought. Sure, they might call you nasty names and wonder what they ever did to you, but they’ll get over it… eventually.
The LinkedIn Recommendation is something completely different. It’s one of the few ways that people can publicly endorse your credibility as a professional. It’s a personal validation. It’s a lasting declaration of support, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I receive requests rather frequently from former colleagues asking for recommendations. When these requests come through, I ask three simple questions:
1) Why did this person select me as someone to provide a recommendation?
2) What information do I have that can be included in the recommendation that will help them achieve their goal?
3) Will this individual respect my honest recommendation?
I’m very selective about the people I recommend. In part because I want to make sure that I’m not a “Recommendation Engine” that people turn to for a positive review regardless of the quality of their work, but also because my review is now public and a reflection of who I am. If I just pump out mediocre endorsements, what does that say about me and my commitment to my peers?
In many cases, I decline the request to provide a recommendation because I do not feel that I have enough information or simply because I do not feel that endorsing said individual is a wise move for my personal brand. If I wouldn’t refer you for a job at Digital Influence Group, I will not endorse you on LinkedIn and have that be a source of consideration for hiring managers I am unaffiliated with.
Here’s the challenge and what causes that concern and trepidation. If I decline to endorse you, I have only two options to inform you:
1) Respond to your request and explain why I am opting out (which could damage the relationship – Keep in mind, just because I may not endorse you professionally, doesn’t mean I don’t like you personally)
2) Completely ignore your request
Most people choose option 2 and that’s unfortunate, but you can’t blame the requestee for not participating. The fact is, you as the requester made a mistake. You asked the wrong person for the recommendation and put them in a very difficult position. That person had to sit there and ponder their choices; none of which are appealing. It’s a can’t win situation.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer here. I often make the same mistake and send out requests to folks that go unanswered (and, no, I am not looking for a job. I ask for recommendations from people because it is valuable for clients I work with to hear endorsements from previous clients.)
I also struggle with the reciprocal recommendation. It’s like saying “I Love You” to your significant other the first time. Did they say it back just because I said it first, or did they really mean it?
What’s your theory on LinkedIn Recommendations? How do you handle them and what advice would you share for those staring at the request with concern?