Given all the effort that goes into a modern job search, you may be wondering about which tasks deserve the bulk of your time.
For instance, should you bother collecting skill endorsements and recommendations from colleagues on professional networking sites? Do skill endorsements really influence the opinions of recruiters and hiring managers? What do the best recommendations look like? Can you skip them?
To help you focus on activities that generate the highest return, here are some ways to ask for (and receive) skill endorsements and recommendations that actually add value to your brand and profile.
Leverage the Power of Social Proof
While having lots of skill endorsements makes your profile seem more complete, they don’t carry a lot of weight with tech recruiters and hiring managers by themselves. That’s because anyone can endorse your skills with a click of a mouse, explained Daniel Lorenzo, marketing director of résumé and profile writing service Let’s Eat, Grandma.
“Recommendations tend to carry more weight because someone has to actually write them and you have to approve them,” he said. “Essentially, they provide social proof of the experience and qualifications in your profile.”
Science shows that social proof is most powerful when things seem equal.
Posting a strong recommendation that speaks directly to an individual’s ability to perform may tip the scales in favor of candidates who don’t have a lot of experience or who look like other candidates “on paper,” noted Matt Youngquist, founder of career coaching and résumé-writing service Career Horizons.
To gain real credibility for your personal brand and achievements, focus most of your effort on getting recommendations from people who have seen your work firsthand and who are perceived as influential and knowledgeable.
If you want to garner meaningful skill endorsements that actually support your career goals, keep your skills updated and relevant. Add new or in-demand tech skills and drop the outdated ones from your “skills and endorsements” section; place the ones that align with the job you are pursuing near the top. Finally, ask influential “endorsers” to amplify their support for your skills with a recommendation.
Elements of Effective Recommendations
The best recommendations are just three to five sentences, but they say something specific, unique and meaningful about your skills, work style and job performance, Youngquist explained. Ask for recommendations that explain how you applied critical hard and soft skills to achieve high performance.
An effective recommendation provides concrete examples of projects or successes that mean something to a prospective hiring manager, Youngquist added. For instance, ask your boss to describe the time you used Python to build a distributed system for technology integration.
Recommendations also provide a canvas for highlighting soft skills that are hard to convey in a résumé, such as communication, organization, teamwork, leadership, critical thinking and adaptability. That’s also why you should strive for 360-degree feedback by getting recommendations from vendors, stakeholders and product owners as well as managers and peers.
How to Ask for Meaningful Recommendations
So how do you go about asking for a recommendation? Conventional wisdom says that you start by volunteering to write a recommendation for someone and hope they return the favor.
However, since writing recommendations is part of a manager’s job, don’t be afraid to ask a current or former supervisor for a recommendation in a polite but straightforward way.
There’s nothing wrong with coaching the recommender or providing a list of specific things you’d like them to include. While you don’t want to put words in someone’s mouth, the easier you make it for someone to write a recommendation by suggesting talking points or examples of what you need, the more likely they are to help you.
Start your email with some small talk, then remind them about the time that you designed a new user interface that maintained functionality while enhancing the UX (for example). Then explain that you are pursuing a role as a designer and would appreciate a recommendation highlighting your skills in user-centered design concepts including evaluation, optimization, analysis and empathy.
Finally, give the potential recommender an out by saying something like: “Are you comfortable writing a recommendation for me? If not, no worries. I appreciate your consideration and hope to see you soon.”
Recruiters and hiring managers don’t look at one thing when deciding who to interview. They’re looking for consistency—to see if the information in your profile, résumé and application materials tell the same story. The most effective recommendations complete the picture by verifying the claims in your profile and portfolio.