Referential Treatment

Recommendations and endorsements are the currency of LinkedIn, the social network for professionals. A good recommendation can go a long ways, which is why it pays to be very selective when you’re asked to write one.

Here are a few things I picked up from my experiences.

If I’m asked to write a letter of recommendation for a candidate, and I’m not directly familiar with what he or she has done, I usually defer that person to someone else who’s more familiar with their work. If I am tangentially familiar with their work, I’ll ask the person to write me a few specifics on why they feel they merit a recommendation. The question I’m hoping my letter of recommendation will answer is: “Why is this person specifically unique and a viable candidate?”

Having additional background knowledge and insight into a person’s accomplishments helps me a great deal because it gives my recommendation more gravitas, compared to writing a generic version.


How do you handle the delicate situation when you’re asked to write a recommendation for someone whose work you’re not familiar with? Have you ever been burnt by a supposed recommendation that was less than flattering? Sound off in the comments below!

(FYI, inks and colors will happen soon. In the meantime, please share the love.)

Finished ‘toon is now up!


These beautiful and intelligent people wrote

  • Kevin RubinReply
    July 2, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I don’t get a huge number of requests for recommendations on LinkedIn, but a few, and I haven’t asked for any… The ones I don’t want to do I just sort of stall and wait and eventually they go away…

    What makes me uncomfortable are the ones where someone whose work I really didn’t like asks me for a recommendation.

  • Andy KonecnyReply
    November 27, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    My current handling is avoidance. I have three requests all pending because the first is the hardest. A really bright guy, but I never really got into understanding his field of focus to usefully recommend him. All my attempts so far have come out far too corny.

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