We all recommend or have been recommended at some point in our professional lives, but have you ever thought about the hidden consequences a recommendation can have on the person you recommend?
There are some pitfalls you should avoid when recommending people (e.g., make sure you know the person well, do not exaggerate their qualities etc.) and in order to illustrate this, I did the following experiment: I took recommendations from LinkedIn and used Wordle to build the word cloud below, which shows the words most often used (I used dozens of recommendations with a total of almost 4,000 words).
Before I discuss the pitfalls, here is what I first thought when I saw this cloud: people are very polite and tend to exaggerate a little when giving recommendations (hence the use of words like “pleasure”, “great”, “always”, etc.), but many also used words that you can find in job ads (e.g., “professional”, “communication”, “skills”, etc.). Additionally, “leadership”, “experience”, and “expertise” do not seem to have a high importance when people recommend others—not to mention “ethic” and “knowledge”—which are hardly visible in the picture. How Not to Recommend Someone
1. Do not recommend people you don’t know well: Even though you’re trying to help, the end result might be the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. If you don’t know the person you are recommending, you will either be vague—which does not help, or you will improvise—which can be dangerous because you might assume things that are not true.
2. Do not exaggerate: We all do our best to say nice things about others, but when you tell someone that a person is “ideal” for the job or “amazing”, recruiters really expect the person to be that way. A candidate who’s described as being “great” will have to demonstrate this during the interview—and quite frankly, you’re not doing that person a favor by exaggerating his or her qualities or skills.
3. Do not provide irrelevant information: Make sure you know exactly why a person needs a recommendation. This will help you provide relevant information about the candidate, which will help for the specific position he or she applies for. It is always better not to give a recommendation than to give a vague, general one.
4. Do not use buzz words: What does “professional” or “great asset” mean? It’s like saying during an interview that you’re communicative and a team player—we all are, but in different ways. Try to illustrate what you mean by giving examples: When did the person you recommended prove to be professional and how?
5. Do not ignore spelling errors and typos: When recruiters read resumes, a typo or negligent formatting can be costly for the candidate. The same happens with recommendations—by providing recommendations with errors; you show that you don’t care much about the person you recommend since you did not take the time to review your text.
What do you think?
They are good advice to all Job seekers and recommenders.
You missed two major trends:
1) Reciprocal recommendations (translated as I-scratch-your-back-you scratch-mine). Seasoned recruiters see through such nefarious designs. Besides, such mutual admiration club should never appear in professional sites where the intention is to land a job in a dignified way.
2) Seeking recommendations from all and sundry including peers and worse, subordinates. The latter invariably spout gushing homilies even if they are not qualified and/or in a position to judge things likes expertise, leadership, values and so on.
The true value of any recommendation is directly proportinate to the value of the relationship between the sender and the receiver. I have personally experienced this as both the recipient of and the benefactor of recommendations for employment.
a. As the recipient, my ‘day-to-day’ specific capabilities,my job knowledge and experience cannot differentiate me to the degree of a “trusted agent” that knows the needs of a perspective employer. When a perspective employer hears that there is a potential candidate who fits the culture and profile of the company TODAY, that is the recommendation they will move on expeditiously.
b. As the benefactor, I concur with Srinvas’s initial assesment of reciprocal recommendation except I would categorize it as “One good turn deserves another”. Comparable businesses are seeking similar employees often collaborate on large public or private projects to fill employee skillset gaps. It is detrimental to recommend someone you would not hire, but it is perfectly acceptable to forward a candidate who could fit the needs of a competitor.
@Honey I’m glad you liked it!
@Srinivas You’re right - those are two important trends. I do not find the first type extremely useful - you should not recommend someone just because he or she recommended you. As for the second point, it is really hard to refuse someone’s request for a recommendation.
@Woody I agree with your first statement, but usually the person reading the recommendation does not know what relationship the sender and the receiver have.
Recommending a person for a certain job should not be to help the person only if he is not competent enough to discharge his responsiblity on his assigned task.to recommend a person for a job one shoul include the openion of others also otherwise the unilateral outlook only will be dependent mainly on the attitude of the individual tward the recommender
Good comments by all contributors. My experience has also shown me that sometimes leaders are only too willing to give good recommendations to those they consider “difficult employees” who are aspiring to move to another job or position. The leaders tend to think that the better the recommendation sounds, then the sooner they are ‘out of my hair’.