HOW TO: Ask for an Online Recommendation | HR Fishbowl


Whether it’s for a job or our own freelance work, getting a recommendation from someone is valuable and can help you nab a gig. Recommendations show the world we know our stuff. They tell others more about us, maybe a quality or skill we are a bit shy to disclose about ourselves. And they explain what it’s like to work with you.

Many social media sites, such as LinkedIn or BranchOut, offer the ability for people to post recommendations or endorsements. These features, if used wisely, can be used to separate you and your talents from the crowd. But first you have to learn the strategy for asking for a recommendation.

Here are some tips for asking for a recommendation:

Plan a Recommendation Strategy

Charlie Judy, global director of human capital strategy and operations at Navigant Consulting, a company that provides financial, economics, and business consulting, says online recommendations can help your audience get some level of comfort for who you are as a person. “Having at least a few well-placed recommendations can help show that you’re not completely fabricating your profile, that you actually are connected with people who are willing to put themselves out there for you, and that you’ve taken the time to develop your online presence is at least welcomed from most employers who use LinkedIn or BranchOut for sourcing,” he says.

Tracy McCarthy, senior vice president of human resources at SilkRoad Technology, a software-as-a-service solutions provider that manages career cycles within companies, recommends having a clear strategy for why you want a recommendation in the first place. “If you can’t articulate why, then why are you going through the motions? Once you have a clear picture in your mind, develop your short story around it. Then, go to people whom you respect, internally and externally, tell them and sell them on your story and ask for the recommendation.”

Judy adds, “In a world of slight distinctions, anything that might give you an edge as a candidate really can’t hurt. It’s also a good way to point out something positive about you that may not be front and center on your resume or online profile.”

Balance is the Key

Once you figure out why you’re asking for recommendations, then figure out who you should ask. McCarthy recommends getting a good mix of people -– direct boss, peers, subordinates and customers or vendors — to provide a better sense of who you are as the whole person. McCarthy also offers some food for thought to managers who might be asked for employee recommendations. “Direct bosses are often difficult to obtain, as many companies frown on providing written recommendations (for fear of lawsuits), and I think we need to get over this practice. If you are going to write something, it is likely going to be positive, so what’s the big deal as long as it is accurate?”

Judy agrees that getting recommendations from a variety of people is a good approach, and he adds one more thing to consider. “I also think it’s a great idea to get a recommendation from an organization that you may have left under less than ‘favorable terms.’ If you’re going to have to explain a departure from an organization on terms other than yours, it would be nice to demonstrate you had a positive impact on their environment nonetheless.”

Volunteerism Demonstrates Skills

When you think about the skills you want to profile, don’t dismiss the accomplishments you weren’t paid for.Omowale Casselle, chief executive officer at mySenSay, Inc., a social recruiting community that helps undergraduate and graduate students find the right opportunity, recommends using your volunteer connections. “A fellow volunteer is often one of the best people to ask for a recommendation. As a volunteer, there are often unique resource constraints that are associated with achieving measurable results. If you have been able to achieve results within this environment, the lack of compensation shouldn’t be a limiting factor in asking for a recommendation. This can be especially helpful for those who might be switching careers.”

Meghan Biro, principal and founder of TalentCulture, LLC, which provides recruiting and strategy services along with workplace culture branding, agrees. “Volunteering shows you have genuine passion and are willing to work beyond 9 to 5 to support a worthy cause. This step can also bring additional perspective to your presentation for a new career opportunity.”

Selecting the Person to Ask

When it comes time to asking for the recommendation itself, it boils down to your relationship with the person. It takes time to build the kind of trust and shared experience on which to base a recommendation. Biro offers some guidelines. “While every workplace relationship is different, I recommend giving it at least one year before asking for a recommendation. It’s also useful to make a practice of asking for recommendations once a year — treat it as a task and choose your targets carefully. Think about what you want said about your accomplishments and skills, and who among your contacts is best positioned to provide you with a solid recommendation.”

Judy shares another way to decide the best person to ask. “You ought to know them well enough that you could actually write the recommendation yourself, send it to them, and they would be comfortable posting it under their name. Accordingly, they should know you well enough that they would give a recommendation for you over the phone. After all, some recruiters may go as far as to request it.”

After identifying the perfect person, be sure to ask for your recommendation in just the right way. McCarthy says, “I always find that picking up the phone or asking in person is far better than in email. I personally won’t recommend anyone who asks for my recommendation over email. And if the person you are asking for a recommendation expects quid pro quo, he probably isn’t the right person. It can really discount the recommendation if you are recommending the same people who recommend you –- it seems a bit disingenuous!”

Finding the Right Number

A common question about recommendations is how many is the right number. Is it possible to have too many recommendations? Yes, “especially if they’re clustered around one job or employer, or repetitive in content,” says Biro. “Ideally, recommendations should highlight a different competency, so one or two per job is ideal.”

Casselle reminds candidates to keep the reader in mind. “Just like, recruiters or hiring managers won’t read through more than two pages of a resume, people may not read through the information if your number of recommendations becomes excessive.”

Curate Your Recommendations

Not all recommendations
are created alike — a badly written recommendation can do more harm than good. Biro suggests being the “curator” of your own recommendations. “When you ask for one, politely ask for the opportunity to review before it’s posted.”

If you receive a recommendation that isn’t exactly what you’d hope for, Casselle points out “one of the great features on LinkedIn is that you can choose to selectively hide recommendations. So, based on a position you are seeking you can optimize your profile recommendations to include only those aspects that most strongly support your target opportunity.”

The recommendation you’re asking for is not a trivial exercise for someone else — they’re usually a sacrifice of time and energy. Be thankful and let your recommenders know that you appreciate their effort, says Casselle. “Always ask how you can repay the favor, not necessarily through a reciprocal recommendation, unless appropriate.”

What advice can you offer when asking for a recommendation? Leave a note in the comments.

Image Credit: DapperLifestyles

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