An important part of building your brand is creating a narrative for how you want to be known and making sure others understand that narrative. You want to be sure that when someone introduces or refers you, they are able to highlight those values, qualities, skills and attributes you want to be known for. This is particularly important when you ask for recommendations, introductions, referrals or testimonials.
Whether you are asking for those recommendations online or in person, here are some things to remember:
1. Make it easy for the person giving the recommendation. When you ask for a recommendation, offer to provide clear talking points for them to address. You can specify key words for them to use (i.e. for a job in information technology project management, you can tell the recommender to use the phrase “IT specialist” and “IT project management” instead of “technology guru” to help your chances for the job).
2. Consider the format. On LinkedIn, recommendations can only be provided by someone with a LinkedIn profile. Be sure you ask colleagues or supervisors who are able to give recommendations (some companies prohibit recommendations and endorsements as company policy). You will have the opportunity to review the recommendation and offer changes to a it before it is posted on your LinkedIn account.
When someone offers you a written or phone recommendation, it is possible to be more descriptive and detailed. For this reason, you want to give your recommender as much guidance as possible. Again, your key points and desired positioning will be important. Don’t go overboard with pages of notes and suggestions, but it will be appreciated if you can outline the talking points you’d like highlighted.
3. Consider the source. Asking former coworkers and peers to give recommendations may carry different weight and importance than if you ask your former or current supervisor or even the president/CEO of the company. Consider which person would be seen as more credible and influential to the recipient of the recommendation. That said, remember that certain companies and professionals do not allow recommendations as they can be seen as endorsements (and can bring legal and human resources implications).
You might also consider recommendations and testimonials from community members, professionals you have collaborated with on projects and people you know in business who can vouch for your skills, character, work ethic and talents.
4. Be prepared to hear “no”. Just because you ask for a recommendation or testimonial does not mean the person is comfortable offering one. They might not feel that they have had enough experience with you, or maybe they have not been too happy with your work (and didn’t tell you). Or, as mentioned above, they may not be able to offer you one because of company policy. When someone recommends you on a public platform, like LinkedIn, it shows on their profile as well, and that might make some people uncomfortable.
5. Say thank you! Be sure to follow up with a handwritten note for a recommendation or testimonial. The person who offered to vouch for you took the time and made the effort and it should be recognized. They also leveraged their own credibility to support you. Be sure to keep them posted on the opportunity you were recommended for, particularly if it was a job or client opportunity.
Recommendations are a wonderful way to celebrate people you’ve worked with or known and share their great talents with others. Be mindful of those recommendations you offer because you are leveraging your own reputation in vouching for others. And, reputation is everything!