LinkedIn recommendations

Spoken recommendations, please!

LinkedIn recommendations are not trustworthy

A trustworthy recommendation is something said about you when you are not present and which you cannot control or influence. When people you know meet each other and talk about you, the frame is much more credible than LinkedIn recommendations.

LinkedIn recommendations are:

  1. Controlled by you
  2. In writing
  3. Addressed to the general public

Good recommendations are:

  1. Not controlled by you
  2. Not in writing
  3. Not adressed to the general public

Much professional work, and especially in the IT industry, consists of short-term projects where you meet people and co-operate with them for some months. You meet a lot of people and would like an easy way to introduce yourself. But public recommendations on your LinkedIn homepage will not do the job for you, precisely because they are public and controlled by you.

The crucial part of working in a project is cooperation, where I find your error, and we correct it together. Eventually you find an error of mine, and we correct it together. Now we have good reasons to respect each other's contributions to the common project.

A public, written recommendation from one of your colleagues will typically only mention the positive sides of your co-operation and will lack a real description of your work. I hope that's not what you wanted.

The author of a recommendation should know that he cannot describe all the problems without criticizing himself and his employer. An overly positive recommendation is not a good description of the process of cooperation in a project. If everything just ran smoothly, what was your job in this project? Was there any work for you to do at all? And if you describe why it did not run smoothly, then you are exposing your employer's problems in public, and that is not a good idea either.

Further: Written recommendations tend to contain a description of the author, not you. The author will typically use more words to describe the organization and his own responsibilities than to describe your contribution - according to the maxim, "If you point a finger at someone, three of your fingers will point back at you." And this apparently kind person may also have a hidden agenda - he may want to get rid of you by writing nicely about you!

The real value is what is said about you when you are not there. When people you know meet each other and talk about you, the stage is set in a credible frame. This could be in the canteen near you, or at a conference far away, but always beyond your control.

The second-best recommendation is in a telephone call between two people who know each other. This is also targeted, spoken communication that is not controlled by you.

In spite of these objections, LinkedIn has good reasons for distributing recommendations: LinkedIn has no way of distributing more targeted and thus more credible recommendations, and as the owner of a network LinkedIn has an interest in making you spend more time at the website, create more content and create more traffic.

Join the LinkedIn group "Spoken recommendations, please!"

LinkedIn is a good way to keep in contact with your former colleagues, but it is not the place for recommendations. You are welcome to join the open LinkedIn group "Spoken recommendations, please", if you agree.

Ebbe Munk


Here is LinkedIn's standard text for how I should ask for endorsements.


And here is the standard text when one receives it from a friend.