On LinkedIn And Recommendations


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Perhaps, some “guru” has just published something about the importance of LinkedIn Recommendations. In the past week, I’ve gotten several requests from people for recommendations. Here’s the bad part, they are people I don’t know!

Yes, they are connected with me, but other than what I read in their profiles, I don’t know them. Some of you may argue, why did you connect with them if you didn’t know them–that’s fair, but I honor about 85% of the requests for connection. There are some that just don’t look right, the open networkers, there are people who want to connect but haven’t done anything more than list their name and provided no profile–I don’t connect with anyone who hasn’t at least developed a pretty good profile. But if the profile seems legitimate, the person doesn’t appear to be just “building their numbers,” I’ll generally connect.

Yet several people have approached me asking for recommendations, and I have never communicated with them–other than accepting the connection invitation. I know nothing about them. The last one put me over the tipping point, he was particularly “directive” about what I was to write in a recommendation. I was tempted to respond:

Mr. So and So has had the balls to ask me for a recommendation. I have never had any communication with Mr. So and So other than receiving his request to connect and a request for this recommendation. I know nothing of his capabilities, his work, or whether anything in his profile is true. I would tend to question the quality of any recommendation he has in his profile—some people are foolish enough to blindly reply to his requests.

He has the audacity to ask me to comment on the quality of his work and his capabilities. Apparently, he can’t get legitimate recommendations, perhaps the quality of his work sucks! So apparently, he approaches people he doesn’t know, who he has never worked with, and who know nothing of them to ask them for recommendations.

I do, however, want to be responsive to Mr. So and So in his outlandish and personally offensive request for a recommendation. His sheer audacity says something–to me it’s nothing positive, but I thought it would be useful for people considering Mr. So and So to understand my perspectives, since he has asked me for them.

Recommendations are great, but they have to be earned and they have to be genuine. Have people asked me for references? Absolutely, and I have been happy to give them! I’m not offended by the request, if I know and have had great experience with the person. Usually, I give them unsolicited, but for some reason had an oversight and hadn’t provided one earlier. I’m, in fact, flattered by these legitimate and deserved requests. The recommendations I give are people who I have had great experience with, people who I truly respect, trust, and am pleased to provide recommendation. They are people on who I am pleased to stake my personal reputation.

Providing a recommendation is an honor and a privilege. Providing a recommendation should be done freely because you want to, without an expectation of receiving one in return. I get huge pleasure in providing recommendations to clients, colleagues, friends. Receiving a recommendation is an honor, a privilege, and something to be valued.

In some ways, perhaps naively, I view recommendations as one of the last domains of some level of profile integrity in LinkedIn. As people rush to stack up endorsements and freely endorse people for whom they have no relationship, as people stack up connections (don’t get me on the topic of the free for all with “open networkers”) and manipulate key words and massive repetition in their profiles–recommendations, hopefully have some meaning.

I pay attention to people’s recommendation. The quality of the recommendation is important. Who they come from is important. The number received is interesting, I’m not sure how important. The number of recommendations a person has given is important to me—it tells me something about the quality of the person.

The “experts” talk about getting recommendations. It’s odd they don’t talk about giving recommendations. But isn’t a large part of networking about giving without the expectation of a return?

OK, I’ve said my piece, I’m off my soapbox. Thanks for putting up with my tirade.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. I’m so with you on this. As a result, of this kind of thing, it seems like we’ve devalued a lot of things because of our own behavior on social media. What does a friend mean? What do recommendations mean? Not much.

    I’ve said over and over that without knowing the credibility of the source (in terms of feedback and such), that the value of it is zero. Usually I talk about this in context of 360 degree feedback but it applies everywhere.

  2. Robert, thanks for the comment, I’m glad I’m not alone in this. We have all these wonderful networking tools that become less valuable as people game them—racing for meaningless numbers. “Open networkers,” blind endorsements, the race for “likes,” and so forth. All this raises the volume of the noise and dilutes the value of the tool and the real networking.

  3. It’s really disappointing, really. It might be I’m getting old, but the “gaming” part is so common, it’s really made it hard to find any “good stuff”, on the Internet, and it’s gone way beyond the fake recommendations, likes, etc.

    I’d say the overwhelming number of “articles” and posts I come across, when I’m looking for something on the net that are simply repetitions of the same old same old that are simply attempts to “market” is depressing.

  4. Dave: Wow – people do that? I’ll confide that nobody has sent me a similar unsolicited request (nor have I of anyone else), but if it happens, I’ll know I wasn’t the first to experience it.

    In the past, we would use a word that’s now entered mainstream English, chutzpah, to describe this behavior, but clearly not everyone feels this way.

    I think “click to connect” simplicity has erased our notion of what perfunctory really means. And I’m with you – I read recommendations, and consider it a high honor whenever I’m asked to provide one for someone I know (someone I know being the operative words).

    I think the only way to prevent “recommendations” from going the way of “connections” – which is now near-meaningless in my view – is to enforce our own standards. To that end, when someone I don’t know asks me to connect, I always appreciate and welcome the outreach, but in the majority of instances, I reply by requesting at least an email or short voice conversation with that person.

    It probably wouldn’t surprise you that when I do that, fewer than one in ten go to the trouble. That should tell you something right there . . .

  5. Andy: It’s interesting, when people ask to connect, I always send a personal note in response and suggest a call. Virtually no one takes me up on it.

    Despite all advice to the contrary, most of the invitations I receive are the LinkedIn default invitation. I always send a custom one, also inviting a call.

    Networking is supposed to have some meaning, not just stacking up the numbers. It makes one wonder when people seem to be doing so, so blindly.


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