What makes a great LinkedIn testimonial

If you have spent any time at all on LinkedIn, then you should know about recommendations, or testimonials, which vouch for the good character and quality of work of a given member of the site. LinkedIn now has more than 135 million members, and is gaining more and more clout as a means of connecting professionals to opportunities. So, with the right testimonials, you really can boost your chances. Oh, and don’t forget to return the favour by writing some of your own.

97 per cent of recruiters have used LinkedIn to find job candidates, according to a Bullhorn survey, with a whopping 67 per cent of them claiming to only use LinkedIn for recruiting purposes – so it’s safe to assume that some good testimonials could make a difference on your profile. But what makes a LinkedIn testimonial good, and why does it have such power?

LinkedIn referrals have immense authority 

People pay attention to LinkedIn recommendations because they are trustworthy, being very much the site’s equivalent of traditional employment references. Anyone who has ever written a CV knows how important the right references are, and on LinkedIn, recommendations can be freely viewed and used to inform the recruitment process.

Think about it… it takes time, energy and commitment to write a referral. The author must have found it worthwhile to sit down, think about and compose a couple of sentences to describe their fellow professional. What’s more, the implication is that this person has first-hand experience, of one kind or another, of the person that they write about. So you can presume that they are being reasonably sincere in what they write, and it is this appearance of sincerity that recruiters trust.

These factors all help to make LinkedIn testimonials more powerful than almost any other recruitment factor. Ours is what might be termed the reputation economy – people’s opinions and reviews matter, and this is definitely true when it comes to LinkedIn recruitment.

The characteristics of a great LinkedIn testimonial 

A LinkedIn recommendation can build trust or erode it, so don’t get typing too hastily. Instead, think carefully about what you write for others, as well as where your own testimonials come from.

Good rules of thumb include sourcing your LinkedIn testimonials from a manager or business partner, rather than a subordinate. They should also ideally reference specific achievements, rather than being generic references to how supposedly ‘brilliant’ and ‘professional’ you are. Simple ‘tit for tat’ traded praise is no good, either.

Furthermore, the testimonial should be recently written and relate to recent achievements and events – so forget about getting someone to praise you for that art prize in primary school, or that promotion that happened a decade ago now. Employers just aren’t going to be interested.

Generic recommendations: a definite no-no 

Good first piece of advice here: don’t write generic recommendations. Stating, for example, that someone is simply of a high calibre and the utmost professional smacks of the least imaginative feedback that you might give on an eBay sale. It says a lot about the person who wrote the referral, and not much at all about the person who received it, that someone could have come up with such a middling and unimaginative recommendation.

Such a testimonial doesn’t even shed any light on why someone is such an outstanding colleague. Often, that’s because the reviewer barely knows the person they are reviewing. They may have exchanged a few emails, perhaps even worked together casually, but such a recommendation suggests that regardless of the extent of the business connection, they have little of true value to say – and are instead simply trying to invite that person to reciprocate with a recommendation of their own.

Make your testimonial genuine, specific and descriptive

If you are to approve the publication of a recommendation on your profile, you will at least want it to come from someone who actually appreciates your work, having experienced it at first hand. Furthermore, you will want this to show in a testimonial that is not only sincere and earnest, but also makes clear precisely why you are such an consummate professional, with plenty of description.

At the very least, every LinkedIn testimonial that you write should mention what that person does, and what differentiates them from the competition or makes them the best in their field. You might also throw in a call to action – such as “If you require this kind of work, hire them now!” They’re powerful things, calls to action, and there are so many more things that you can put into a great testimonial.

Let’s imagine that you are writing a recommendation for a teacher, for example. You will want to make that fact clear, as well as what they teach, the extent of their experience, examples of their capability and how this enables them to get results from their students. This is also a good space in which to talk about positive personality traits that contribute to them being good at their job.

In so doing, you will have put together a genuinely specific and descriptive recommendation that helps to differentiate this person from the competition and give readers very good reasons to hire or do business with them.

Focus on transferable skills

Although you won’t want your testimonial to be generic, if you’re a professional, there are still certain characteristics that people will generally expect from you. They will want to see evidence of strong communication skills, for example, as well as interpersonal skills like humour, empathy and tact. The person should also be a dab hand at building a team and working as part of one. Analytical problem-solving should also be a strong suit, in addition to creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial ability. They should also be a self-starter, taking responsibility for themselves and their work.

To communicate these qualities in a LinkedIn testimonial, you will need to apply some imagination, again being very specific and descriptive. Of course, it isn’t possible to satisfactorily cover all of these skills and abilities in a testimonial, at least if you’re trying to avoid that dreaded ‘generic’ territory. But you can read that person’s LinkedIn profile, make a note of their personal branding messages and highlight three transferable skills in support of their claims – knowing that you have experienced it all at first hand.

You might therefore write a light-hearted – but still professional – testimonial that is effusive about the person’s skills and abilities, perhaps with a hint of an anecdote or two. You might mention that they’re creative, for example, and like art. You might say that they speak multiple languages. You might also mention that they’re jovial, positive and inspiring to be around. Maybe you’ve had sessions working together, late into the night (stop sniggering at the back), and have a few tales to tell (we said, stop sniggering).

Anyway, you get the idea. A referral like this really gives a sense of what the person is like, rather than just reducing them to a list of drab and worthy bullet points. It sticks in the mind so much more than a referral that merely formally outlines their versatility, background and work ethic. Ask any employer. They want to really understand that person’s personal brand, as well as what that person is like to work with on a day to day basis – right down to the quality of the office banter, and how willingly they would get their colleagues a coffee on those dreary Friday afternoons.

The best things come in threes. Adjectives are no different

Do you love to use language? Well in that case, you’ll probably know all about the inherent power of grouping into threes. So put that power to good use with your testimonial’s adjectives – which should also be imaginative, unique and descriptive, rather than the usual clichés and buzzwords. Describing someone as “pioneering”, “vibrant” and “vivacious”, for instance, says so much more than the everyday “good”, “great” and “excellent”.

Finally, testimonials that are truly engaging to read are almost always relatively concise, being between 60 and 100 words, or thereabouts. With the application of these basic rules of thumb, you can write so much more effective recommendations, and hopefully attract better testimonials of your own work from respected and experienced colleagues. Who knows, it might just make the difference between getting that life-changing career opportunity and merely crashing and burning – for you, and every one of your friends that you recommend!