The days of hard-copy recommendation letters privately shared with prospective employers are over. Now, it’s all about LinkedIn recommendations.

LinkedIn recommendations give prospective employers valuable insight into your skills and accomplishments. They stand as public proof of your professional reputation, because they’re tied back to the profiles of those who give them.

Thoughtfully written LinkedIn recommendations can help you get a leg up in your career. They showcase your strengths, help you stand out as a candidate, and give you a means to keep your network active.

Of course, in order to get these recommendations, you have to ask for them. Doing that requires putting some thought into which of your colleagues can best speak to your strengths, what specific accomplishments you want to highlight, and how you can best return the favor.

What LinkedIn Recommendations Can Do for You

LinkedIn recommendations are a lot like Yelp reviews for your professional reputation. They allow prospective employers to learn more about who you are as an employee and how you’ve contributed to previous organizations in valuable ways. Recommendations allow recruiters and employers to see you through the eyes of your previous colleagues and bosses.

Your LinkedIn profile should outline your key accomplishments and the skills you’ve used to achieve them. However, employers and recruiters are often skeptical of candidates’ claims about their own abilities and accomplishments. That’s where LinkedIn recommendations come in. They provide a window into your strengths as a candidate and insight into how you might gel with a company’s culture. A well-written recommendation gives valuable information about your attitude and work ethic that can spark interest from potential employers.

Furthermore, LinkedIn recommendations can help you stand out from the crowd when you’re applying to jobs. Many LinkedIn users don’t go through the trouble of asking for recommendations. Maybe they think they don’t need them because they’re not actively job hunting, or maybe they don’t know how to ask for recommendations. Whatever the reason, having a few strong recommendations on your profile can really help you stand out when it’s time to look for your next position.

Getting Recommendations on LinkedIn

The only way to get LinkedIn recommendations is to ask for them. In order to do so, go to the profile of the person you’d like to ask for a recommendation. Click the “More” (…) icon at the top of that person’s profile. Select “Request a Recommendation” from the menu that appears. You’ll then be prompted to provide information about your relationship with the person and your position when you worked together. Finally, you’ll be sent to a boilerplate recommendation request, which you can tweak.

For the best results, don’t just request recommendations all willy-nilly. Think hard about who can best speak to your skills. Think also about which skills and accomplishments you want to showcase.

When you’ve chosen a person and you have an idea of the specific skills or accomplishments you’d like them to highlight, it’s time to finally send the request. Don’t use the preloaded letter that LinkedIn provides. Instead, write a personalized message telling the person why you’d like a recommendation from them and what specific skills or accomplishments you’d like them to endorse. If you’re searching for a job, say so – your contact might know of some opportunities. Also outline the skills for which employers are looking in candidates for the positions to which you’re applying. This will help your contact write a strong recommendation for you.

If someone agrees to write you a LinkedIn recommendation, you should return the favor and write one for them. In fact, writing unsolicited recommendations for colleagues you admire could be a good way to get more recommendations for yourself. When you write a recommendation for someone, LinkedIn prompts that person to write a recommendation for you.

LinkedIn recommendations serve much the same purpose as the hard-copy letters people used to share in the old days. They give recruiters and employers the chance to learn more about who you are as a candidate and person and how you’ll fit into a company’s culture.

Melissa Thompson is an entrepreneur, writer, health expert, and founder of HarcourtHealth.

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