How to give and ask for recommendations

Recommendations (testimonials) are highly valuable in building personal and business brand trust. But asking and giving them can be difficult.  In this article I will show how to give and ask for recommendations..

And I will shine a light on the pitfalls to avoid and look out for as discerning genuine testimonials from false  ones can also be a minefield in the social proof highway of  trust.

Genuine recommendations with grunt are multi purposed across LinkedIn profiles, social media and websites.  And the juice of Google rankings, SEO is a bonus. But the key benefit is that it provides a strong element of social proof 


Whether you are looking for a new job, changing careers, seeking new clients, suppliers or launching a new division social proof is so important. 

And along that is how others have experienced you forms a core part of your market trust bank. Published recommendations can be in written or video format.

The video format can be more of a ‘marketing  push’ and I recommend mindful caution in who, how and why of video testimonials. Often they can be perceived as being too salesy and manufactured. A Vox pop for situations such as event and conference feedback is gold when done well.


Many professionals won’t have a lot of recommendations for client personal integrity and privacy considerations.

I have quite a few recommendations as you will see on my LinkedIn recommendations and website reviews here. However there are so many clients who I totally understand will never be giving me public recommendation as I am their ‘little secret’

And I get that and it will apply to many others as admitting they used a certain type of service lets the cat out of the bag of their need.  For example I have written LinkedIn profiles and CVs of some very high profile public and private sector clients who I don’t expect to share publicly that I did so.


Quality is more important than quantity. So beware of LinkedIn profiles with 100s and 1000s of recommendations. Some can be genuine of course but 90% are not.   

Did you know there is automated and bought plug in extensions that give recommendations? Often they can be seen in large scale engagement pod groups providing gushy inane recommendations with nauseating narratives. Talk about diluting trust and social proof value.


Businesses and career professionals can be hesitant to ask for recommendations, or feel awkward doing so. Remember that people have a lot on their plate and so a kind nudge if valid is quite ok. . 

Genuine and trustworthy people will however never put their name on a public recommendation unless they are willing to have it stand up to verification and scrutiny. . 

And trustworthy means that someone has actually experienced the work and relationship in a valid and meaningful way. Mates giving mates recommendations doesn’t cut it.

Check out my article in Mumbrella here on the pitfalls of giving dodgy reference checks to mates etc.

The mosaic of your brand and business is multi-dimensional.  People can be equally keen to read the experiences from clients as well as suppliers and current staff.  It’s valuable to gain insight and perspective from different relationships to minimise risk.


First names only, initials only or a broad industry sector reference is useless. A full name and transparency is crucial for social proof. As an ex media recruiter the no 1 rule in reference checking is to verify the referees – same with recommendations.

Gee anyone can create a fake recommendation with a first name only or other vague non identifying information on their website , ie Jack, Government Leader OR Sally, Executive OR Helen QLD. Seriously, why bother as they are as useless as tits on a bull for social proof trust. 🐂


Don’t be shy to ask – most people want to help others.  Best is to approach with an intent of:

“Can I ask a favour” OR “I would really appreciate your help to have a recommendation to build my business”. OR “I really enjoyed working with you and it would be great to share our brands in a few words of your experience” 

And as like all communications and messages on LinkedIn – you should personalise your Recommendation Requests. NEVER use the default: “I’m sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include in my LinkedIn profile. If you have any questions, let me know. Thanks in advance for helping me out “.

Be open and appreciative. Remember that most people will find it a chore to write a recommendation despite being happy to help.

So you can provide them with the CARP Model (see below section of giving) to craft recommendations or offer to jot down a few points to help them.

But a little caution. Some people are totally risk averse to put their name to any published recommendation online. . For whatever reason they don’t like to do so but will happily give a verbal one. It’s rare but does happen so it’s a good idea to allow them to save face and not feel awkward.


Write a recommendation as you would speak in your general tone and brand voice. Be authentic and real. Don’t be too gushing and over the top unless that is totally your style. Then go for it.

But be mindful and considerate to the receiver’s feelings also. The CARP Model will guide the best structure.


  1. CONTEXT – of relationship, brief, problem, scope of job and needs
  2. ACTIONS – work and strategies undertaken, processes and engagement
  3. RESULTS – the outcome and impact – and not just metrics and $$
  4. PERSONAL INSIGHTS – share something of the person, and how you experienced them – authentically.

In all of the above you should minimise clichés, robotic jargon, corporate speak and banal comments that could apply to anyone.

Be generous with others also – where deserved of course. Recommendations can cover many experiences as mentioned – from a client, colleague, volunteer, staff, and partnership or collaboration perspective.

And a side benefit of giving and receiving is that there is multiplying impact of personal brand visibility and authority  for both parties.

And widen the field in giving and receiving them. They may be from suppliers, staff, colleagues, volunteering, board roles or anyone that has had a really key experience with you and your brand. But be aligned at all times to your greater purpose and focus.

Genuine testimonials as published  social proof is vital. So knowing how to give and ask for recommendations successfully will be a great asset. 

For more articles on careers and job search see my media portfolio here

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