During my professional career, I've been fortunate to be able to take advantage of some fantastic opportunities. As I result; I've developed an amazing network of friends and colleagues. I've personally tapped these fine folks when applying to various opportunities of interest and expect to continue to leverage these connections throughout my career. Since I've become more senior in my career, I knew that eventually I would be called upon to recommend someone else. Here's what happened, I recently got a request to write a LinkedIn recommendation from one of my connections. The problem is, I don't think that this person was very good at doing what they are asking me to recommend them for: accomplishing their work objectives. This was a problem noted not only by me, but also our supervisor and the senior management team. For me, this creates a couple of potential issues in my mind.
Everyone Sees IT
Just like my blogroll and network connections give insights into me, whom I recommend is also a reflection upon me. Unlike a paper-based recommendation that might only be seen by a recruiting manager or admissions committee, a LinkedIn recommendation is online. Not only will this recommendation be viewable by everyone, but it will also be seen by the person I'm being asked to recommend. The visibility and permanence of this recommendation is extremely concerning. Every time someone views my profile, they will see whom I recommended and why. Given my previous experience with this person, this is not someone I necessarily want to stake my reputation upon.
Undervalues Current & Future Recommendations
Just as I asked more senior people within my network to recommend me for graduate school (engineering & business), early career connections will begin to depend on me to recommend them. I'd like to give them the best opportunity to achieve their goals. However, if I accept recommendation requests from anyone, my current & future recommendations will be undervalued. This is not fair to those who will seek out my assistance in the future.
Don't get me wrong, I don't mind taking time to help people out. In fact, nothing gives me more joy than when I can help someone else out. Since, I was not particularly impressed with this person's work ethic or ultimate accomplishments; it will take much more time to come up with an honest & accurate recommendation. When someone's performance is impressive, there is lots of material to choose from when putting together a recommendation. At the same time, I want to give this person the opportunity to be viewed as favorably as possible while still being honest in my assessment.
Perhaps, I'm taking this recommendation request far too seriously. I mean nearly all of the recommendations I've ever read are glowing. In fact, most of the time when I see a recommendation, it becomes a neutral data point. Maybe if I refuse the request, this person will find someone else who is more impressed with their work. What do you think about online recommendations? Are they additive to online profiles? What's your rule for accepting recommendation requests?
-Omowale Casselle (@mysensay)
About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the co-founder and CEO of mySenSay, a social recruiting community focused on connecting talented college students with amazing entry-level employment opportunities. Our solution integrates social media tools, real-time web-based communication, and intelligent analytics to enable employers and students to discover, interact, and connect with each other.