Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Most of us have worked with great colleagues, bosses, and employees over the years who we’d be happy to recommend on LinkedIn (or anywhere, really) in a heartbeat if asked.
Problem is, of course, that sitting down and writing said recommendation always takes more time than you think it will. What should you say that will make your contact stand out—but still sound genuine? Should you describe every amazing skill this person has—or keep it short and sweet?
Don’t worry. I've turned that daunting task into a five-step (and five-minute) process. Next time you’re asked to recommend someone, follow this template (complete with sample lines to cut and paste—I won’t tell!).
Step 1: Start With a Knockout Line
As with any good writing, you want to start with a line that grabs your audience and makes them want to read more. (After all, what good is a great recommendation if no one reads all the way through?)
Ideally, this line will show right away what an awesome person your recommendee is. Be careful, though, to avoid phrases like “one of the best” or “one of my favorite employees”—while, no, not everyone’s going to be the ultimate superlative, there are plenty of words and phrases that sound just as strong, but less qualified.
It’s rare that you come across standout talent like Mike.”
Few people have the opportunity to report to a manager who is also a coach and mentor—but I did when I worked for Susan.”
‘Ridiculously efficient’ is the phrase that comes to mind when I think about Tim.”
Step 2: Describe Your Relationship
Next, you’ll want to give the reader some context as to how you know the person, including your reporting relationship, what you worked on together, and the length of time you’ve known each other. While you don’t have to give all the details (LinkedIn will show the company and both of your job titles on your recommendation), it’s important to let readers know why you’re qualified to give the recommendation. (And, of course, be sure to note that it was a positive working relationship!)
"I had the pleasure of working with Jim for two years at the Smith Company, collaborating on several project teams.”
"I hired Carrie as a freelance designer in 2011 after seeing her online portfolio, and she’s completed six flawless projects for me since then.”
"Mark expertly filled the role of social media coordinator for my company marketing team for just over a year.”
Step 3: Share a Standout Trait
If you’re recommending someone, there’s a good chance you think he or she is smart, talented, organized, wonderful to work with, the list goes on. So, there’s no need to use the limited characters in your recommendation to state the obvious.
Instead, think about one or two things this person does better than anything else—or that really stand out to you above others—and focus your recommendation there. You can also ask the person if there’s something he or she would like you to talk about: For example, if she was your executive assistant but is now applying to her first management role, she’ll likely want you to highlight her experience managing volunteers over her organizational skills.
I was particularly impressed by Kelly’s ability to handle even the toughest clients—effortlessly. That skill often takes years to develop among customer service professionals, but it seemed to come perfectly naturally to her.”
"I was always in awe of Fred’s ability to command a room and get people on board with ideas—even people who were initially on completely different pages.”
"Matt’s ability to juggle multiple projects was unlike any I’ve seen before and made a dramatic difference in the productivity level of our team.”
Step 4: Add a Touch of Personality
Let’s face it: Everyone wants to hire someone who not only gets the job done, but who’s also great to work with. So, if you can share a tidbit about what it’s like to work with this person or some insight into his or her personality, do so! (Just, you know, know your audience. “Sophie planned the best office happy hours ever!” might not go over so well with her future employers.)
"Oh, and she made sure our Monday morning staff meetings were never without bagels and coffee. Talk about motivating a team!”
"And we still miss her on the office softball league!”
"No matter how tense a meeting, Annie made sure everyone left with a smile.”
Step 5: End With Your Solid Recommendation
Finally, it’s always nice to seal your recommendation with a final line that makes it clear that you give your contact an enthusiastic thumbs-up. You don’t need to do much here—think short, sweet, and solid.
"Allison would be an asset to any team.”
"As a team member or a leader, Steve earns my highest recommendation.”
"Any employee would be lucky to have Michelle as a manager.”
While we recommend following the steps above to create a new recommendation for each contact, here’s a quick example of how to put them all together (and a template to use if you’re pressed for time!).
[Descriptive phrase] is the phrase that comes to mind when I think about [name]. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing [name] for [length of time], during which [description of your working relationship]. Above all, I was impressed with [name]’s ability to [description of what makes person really stand out]. And, of course, his/her [personality trait]. [Name] would be a true asset for any positions requiring [1-2 skills needed for position] and comes with my heartfelt recommendation.
That’s it—five steps, five lines, and five minutes to a recommendation that will make sure your contact shines.