by Jacob Curtis

Have you ever been asked for a recommendation on Likedin? I have, and I don’t think my response was what they were expecting.

It started off like this:

“Unfortunately I don’t feel like I know you well enough to write you a recommendation.”

Now before you write me off as “rude” I’d like to not only justify my answer but also offer some insight as to why I responded the way I did.

You see, ever since I graduated from Oregon State, I’ve become the go-to-guy my advisors send prospective students to who are looking for a career in Social Media Marketing – I am one of the few students who have actually applied their degree in a relevant industry.

The initial conversations with this particular student weren’t anything out of the ordinary. We talked about personal branding; building your resume, and hot to keep your social profiles clean over the course of two hour long phone calls.

We then connected on Linkedin, which was fine, and then it happened… imagine my surprise when I found this in my inbox shortly after our conversations:

Which leads me to my first Don’t:

Don’t send a generic default message when asking for a recommendation.

Do send your request with pertinent information or guide them in the right direction about what “work” you are asking to be recommended for. Bring up specific jobs or projects you worked with that person on. This will also make your request more personable.

Don’t just ask anyone for a recommendation.

Do ask for recommendations from coworkers, clients, or those who have directly managed you. Good recommendations are important, not generic ones like “so and so is a hard worker”. Potential employers will see right through that which is why real recommendations are built on professional relationships that have been built over time.

Don’t jump the gun.

Do give your coworkers, clients, or managers time to develop a professional relationship with you.

Think of it this way:

“Recommendations are like fine wine, the longer you wait the better they become.”

Meaning you give that advisor or employer more time to have legitimate examples of your experience, in return you receive a better recommendation.

Don’t underestimate recommendations.

Do remember when someone recommends you they are putting their own reputation on the line. For that reason, wait until you are sure they can speak highly about your proven abilities and how those abilities will transfer through to your next employer.

Don’t wait.
Do capitalize on asking for a recommendation when your work is still fresh in their mind. Unless you were an extremely outstanding employee, don’t expect your manager to remember all the good deeds you’ve done if it’s been 3 years since you’ve worked for them. Though there is no definitive “right time” to ask, there is definitely a wrong time as described above.

In closing, I went over these same guidelines with the prospective student and they took my feedback very well. After all we both agreed it was an honest mistake and a great learning opportunity for both of us – I don’t usually provide such constructive criticism.

I want to thank this student for the inspiration to write this blog and commend them on being pro-active; at least they took the step to ask for a recommendation even if it was misguided. Remember a closed mouth does not eat, if you never ask for a recommendation it’s very likely you won’t ever receive one.

Have you ever denied someone a recommendation? Have you ever been denied one? Do you agree with my Do’s and Don’ts? Let me know in the comments below.

Jacob Curtis, New Media Manager living in Portland Oregon. Jacob produces weekly social media tutorials , videos, comics, blogs, and much more. Follow Jacob on Twitter or Google Plus.