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5 Ways to Get Winning Recommendations

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

If you’re in job search mode, you want every edge possible to help you land a new gig, right?

Recommendations are one of the most powerful things you can have to boost your job search results. Consider recommendations social proof of your ability to add value in your next role—a faster return on investment (ROI) in the employer’s investment in you.

According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, applicants with recommendation letters were not only more likely to be hired but also earned more when hired.

Are you uncomfortable asking for a recommendation?

In my book, Rock Your Network® for Job Seekers, I ask you to think about how many people you’ve helped over the years—and how you felt about helping. In my talks, these are the words that audience members use to describe how they feel helping others: “good,” “awesome,” and “giving.”

Now your colleagues, coworkers, leaders, and others can help you by writing a recommendation. And people DO want to help. They, like you, feel good about helping.

Here are five ways to get winning recommendations and make requesting them easier:

1. Who to ask

Determining who to ask for a recommendation will depend on the type and level of the role you’re pursuing and the organizations you’re targeting. You’ll want to get recommendations from people who know you in different capacities, not just past bosses.

For example, if you’re targeting a leadership role and have a staff, request a recommendation from one or two past employees. If the organizations you’re targeting focus on giving back to the community, you’ll also want to get a recommendation from someone you’ve volunteered with for a community nonprofit or served with on a nonprofit board.

2. What to say in your request

Specifics matter. This helps your recommender help you best. The more specific you can be, the better recommendation you’ll receive.

Don’t use the generic LinkedIn prompt, “Will you recommend me?” That’s too vague. A vague request nets a generic recommendation like, “Bob’s awesome.” That’s unclear why Bob is awesome or how that quality will benefit the organization.


Customize your request. Be specific as to the expertise for which you’d like to be recommended. Use these elements in your request:

  • Reconnect: Start with a warm greeting.
  • Context: What’s the reason you’re requesting a recommendation? Research shows if you give people a reason and use the word “because,” they are 50 percent more likely to accommodate your request.
  • Refresher: What project did you two work on together, and what expertise do you want them to highlight in their recommendation?
  • Work style: What was it like working with you?
  • Result: What was the measurable outcome of the project?
  • Gratitude: Thank them in advance for the recommendation (gushing helps!).
  • Reciprocate: If relevant, offer to reciprocate by recommending them.

Here’s an example:

Hi [Name],

I hope all is well with you. [Next, add a friendly reconnection reference.]

I am reaching out because I am exploring Chief Training and Development Officer roles [your target job title], and I’d greatly appreciate it if you could write a recommendation for my LinkedIn profile based on our work together on [name a project].

In particular, it would be helpful to potential employers if you could mention my role in leading the team to achieve [quantified project results] and what it was like to work with me.

Let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to connect and catch up! And provide you with a LinkedIn recommendation too.

Many thanks in advance for recommending me,

[your name]

When you’re specific with your request, you’ll receive much stronger LinkedIn recommendations.


3. When to ask

Ask for recommendations well before you need them. Make it a habit and schedule your time each month to get a recommendation for your performance. This will pay off, not only for upcoming performance evaluations while you’re employed, but also for your job search and beyond.

If you’ve not done this regularly, start now. You’ll want at least three to five recommendations in your LinkedIn profile (or in other forms) before upcoming interviews.

4. Where to highlight them

I encourage getting recommendations on LinkedIn. According to JobScan, 87 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to source and vet candidates. Your recommendations serve as instant vetting because you can’t edit LinkedIn recommendations, and the recommender’s information is readily available for easy verification. Plus, the LinkedIn recommendations show how the person knows you, as it’s part of the recommendation process.

Depending on the job post or application process, you may be able to include recommendations when you apply online. And if you’re using LinkedIn’s Easy Apply, your profile, which includes recommendations, is shared.

You can also bring recommendation letters (or screenshots of your best LinkedIn recommendations) to your in-person interviews as a leave-behind.

5. Share your results with those who’ve recommended you

No matter the outcome, keep your recommenders in the loop on whatever happens during your job search. They’re already in your corner and want to see you succeed.

Plus, depending on your update, they may have more advice, ideas, or referrals for you.

By knowing how to ask for recommendations, you’ll create more opportunities for yourself, enhance your online presence, and have better results to land your next big gig faster.

I’m in your corner! If you’d like more help with your career search, check out my free “Get Hired Faster” job search guide and action plan.

About the Author

Wendy Terwelp, founder of Opportunity Knocks of Wisconsin LLC and author of the Rock Your Network® series, was dubbed a “LinkedIn Guru,” by the Washington Post. Terwelp consults, speaks, and writes about social media, networking, branding, and career development for conferences, associations, and companies worldwide.

Her private executive coaching clients win raises, promotions, and jobs. Want to advance your career? Schedule a strategy session to discuss your career, goals, and next steps.

An award-winning career expert, Terwelp's advice and expertise are regularly quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Fast Company, Inc., The Chicago Tribune, The Business Journal,, Manage Smarter, Physicians Practice, CTDO (Chief Talent Development Officer) magazine, TD magazine, NBC, ABC, FOX, radio, and more. She served on the Association for Talent Development Program Advisory Committee and authored the ATD Infoline “Jumpstart Your Job Search and Get Hired Faster,” included in ATD's "Best on Career Development" anthology.

In addition to ATD's recognition, Wendy was named one of the Top 15 Career Masterminds (along with Richard Nelson Bolles author of "What Color is Your Parachute?"), JobMob's "Top Job Search Blog Posts" annually, Top 100 Twitter Accounts Job Seekers Must Follow, and Inc. Magazine's "Top 10 Career Helps."

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