Think about the last time you agreed to give one of your favorite businesses, vendors, consultants, or colleagues a recommendation or testimonial.
You probably knew that person or business pretty well, right? Maybe you’d worked with them in the past, purchased their product or service, or hired them to do a job for you. Or maybe their spouse was a friend of yours, and you knew that individual well enough to vouch for their integrity, work ethic, or professional background.
Either way, you could speak with a certain degree of assuredness about who they are, what they do, and why someone else should want to do business with them. And you certainly wouldn’t attach your name to theirs unless you were darn sure that they wouldn’t make a fool of you for doing so.
So, why would you treat a LinkedIn recommendation any differently?
Lately, I’ve been receiving a surprisingly high number of requests to provide LinkedIn recommendations to people who are in my network, but whom I don’t really know beyond our virtual connection.
The conversation usually reads a little something like this:
“Dear Kendra — I’m sending this to ask for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include in my LinkedIn profile. Here’s my bio. If you have any questions, let me know. And thanks in advance for helping out!”
First, I’ve never worked with you, so how can I speak with any authority on what you do, how you do it, and why someone should hire you? Second, isn’t it a little forward to thank me in advance before I’ve ever agreed to help you?
Somehow, people seem to think that if they’re in my network on LinkedIn, I’ll gladly provide a recommendation.
Unfortunately for them, I won’t. And here are three reasons why you shouldn’t either:
- It’s no different than lying. How can you recommend someone that you don’t know? Anything you say about their capabilities — beyond, “John Smith works at XYZ Company and he’s in my network” — is fluff at best, and a blatant misrepresentation at worst.
- It dilutes the value of your recommendations. You might also call this the “girl who cried wolf” syndrome. By lying about your experience with one person, you invite people to doubt every other recommendation you’ve given. Naturally, that will cause every recommendation you give in the future to seem weak, inaccurate, or without merit — even if it’s a truly genuine testimonial.
- It hurts your reputation. This point builds off of the previous two, but what if the person you provide the recommendation to isn’t really good at what they say they do? Without first-hand experience, you can’t be certain. And if you attest that someone is skilled when they’re really no more than a snake oil salesman, you’re now culpable in their failures. Companies that hire someone based in part on your recommendation will remember that you vouched for that person, and it could come back to haunt you.
The bottom line is that you should treat LinkedIn recommendations no differently than you would treat handwritten, verbal, or e-mail testimonials.
At the end of the day, your reputation, brand, and credibility are at stake. So by all means necessary, preserve those things by only granting recommendations to people whom you know and truly believe in.
For everyone else, a simple reply along the lines of, “I’m sorry, we haven’t worked together and I don’t know you well enough yet,” will suffice.
If they’re offended by that, that’s their problem — not yours.