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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

How Credible Are LinkedIn Recommendations?

Written by  Duane Bailey

I was at a neighborhood social function recently when one of my friends, a C-level executive at his firm, asked me if I placed any stock in LinkedIn recommendations when making a hiring decision.

What prompted his question was a recent experience, where he had discovered glaring inconsistencies between a candidate's track record and the glowing recommendations that had been posted on behalf of the candidate in her LinkedIn profile.

While I'm a fan of LinkedIn recommendations, I've always believed it's important to consider them in the context of "doveryai no proveryai" (or "trust, but verify"), the old adage and Russian proverb made famous by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980's.

Without exception, every LinkedIn recommendation I've ever seen is a glowing one (mine included). The LinkedIn user has sole discretion regarding the content of the recommendations that get posted to his or her profile. So, yes, I suppose it's reasonable to think of them more in terms of owned media and less as earned media.

If you're wondering why this distinction is important, consider the results of Nielsen's 2012 Global Trust in Advertising Survey. Of more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries, 92% said they trusted earned media (e.g., word-of-mouth and recommendations from friends and family) vs. 58% who trusted owned media (e.g., messages on company websites). If I have that much control over the recommendations my friends and colleagues post on my online profile, are they really not just another form of messages on my "company website"?

What's a hiring manager to do? How can you be assured of the veracity of LinkedIn recommendations?

Let me offer a few suggestions:

• Look for evidence of impact elsewhere on a candidate's LinkedIn profile.

If a candidate's recommendations tout his or her ability to deliver results, the candidate's profile should list specific results, achievements and timeframes.

• Ask the candidate for more information and examples during the interview.

If a recommendation speaks to a candidate's history of fostering positive working environments, ask the candidate for two or three short stories attesting to his or her experience in creating and sustaining those kinds of organizational cultures.

• Insist on a commensurate number of recommendations from people with similar working relationships who have not provided reviews on LinkedIn.

No brand is without its detractors... and its share of less than flattering reviews. Insist on telephone references from others among the recommendation peer group, who have not provided them on LinkedIn, for a complete picture.

LinkedIn recommendations can be excellent and credible indicators of a candidate's qualifications as long as you take the time to "trust, but verify."


For more on personal brand authenticity on LinkedIn, please see:
If Everyone Else on LinkedIn Is Motivated, What Makes You Different?
Marketers: What Evidence of Impact Can You Provide?
Make Your Personal Brand Stand Out in LinkedIn
Truth in Advertising: Did They Really Do That?

Duane Bailey

Duane Bailey

Duane Bailey is a regular contributor to The Chief Storyteller® online conversation. He has helped organizations of all sizes drive growth in revenues and market share through the development and delivery of key business messages that resonate with target audiences. He holds an MBA in International Business and a BS in Marketing. He brings 28 years of experience in marketing communications and high technology sales.

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