The Art of Getting a Good Recommendation for Executives
A good recommendation is gold for executives. We answer all your questions on where, how and what kind you should get.
We have talked quite a bit about executives marketing themselves. In a world where everybody’s got a LinkedIn account, most have Twitter or maybe Instagram; there seem to be limitless opportunities to sell yourself digitally. How does an executive get themselves to stand out in the digital marketplace? Can LinkedIn recommendations act as references for a client? These are questions we get asked quite a bit.
Setting yourself apart from everyone else isn’t just about populating a bunch of information and content out there. It’s what you do with that content. What interactions does the content invoke? As much as digital marketing seems like a one-on-one relationship with your computer is more about being social than one might think. How does your network interact with your content and conversely, how do you interact with your network’s content? This is especially important when it comes to content within your realm of expertise. It is very easy to get lulled into hiding behind your résumé and your profile and feeling that as long as you are posting stuff you are doing everything you should be doing. In that scenario, you are trusting that people will come to you. You need to start going out to others. The virtual space is no different than the physical space. People like social people. They like being asked questions, having their comments added to, being applauded, etc. It is a two-way street. The same rule of authenticity goes for virtual interactions as in-person interactions – make it authentic. Starting self-serving conversations are easily spotted and don’t elicit the social interactions you should be looking for. Supporting others in their thought leadership also goes a long way. Make it a two-way street.
Think about the recommendation in terms of a reference. To put weight on it, I need at least one of the following: 1) Trust the source, 2) Relevant information.
This is where I either know the source is providing me the reference or I have some background on them in order to build a level of trust. The recommendation won’t carry as much weight if I am not able to confirm the source and have the source be credible to me. In this case, credibility doesn’t need to be built over time. In fact, it can be made instantly. This is one of the benefits social networks have provided us concerning recommendations. I can quickly and easily assess the credibility of the reference as it relates to my situation. If I am hiring someone to do a marketing assessment, a recommendation from a colleague who’s work history doesn’t show the two of them ever working at the same company doesn’t hold as much weight as someone showing they were a former supervisor.
The information is relevant to my intended interactions with the person I’m looking to hire. It doesn’t matter to me if they are the best project manager in the world if I am hiring them to do a marketing assessment. This is why so many companies still prefer to do a reference check despite how many recommendations you have on your social networks. I want to ask questions unique to the role I am bringing the person in for and make sure the responses are consistent across everyone I speak to.
One of the biggest drawbacks is the inconsistency of the recommendations as well. Recommendations that are inconsistent or have little or no relevance to my interactions with the executive or much of the information on the profile can start me questioning things. An executive will do an excellent job of communicating here is what I am best at, here is how I help companies and why you should work with me. The problem is then none of that is mentioned in any of the 15 recommendations or references. When you ask people for recommendations (or references), try to be more specific as to what you want them to focus on. Feel free to guide them to share your specific accomplishments and results rather than that you were the most professional and organized person they had every worked with and who helped them through a difficult situation. Treat them as strategically as you would a turnaround. Beware of sitting back and waiting to see what ends up on the wall.
The endorsements seen on some social sites have also been a big challenge for executives. For example, I had a marketing executive who was a leading expert in eCommerce and apps. He said that although he had been doing nothing but this for the past ten years and successfully sold two businesses, these skills were ranked in the lower quadrant of his recommended skills sets. Conversely, those at the top, he did little in and had no desire to work in those areas of expertise.
Consistency is key. Think about it. If you are hiring a contractor to tile your bathroom and you talk to three of his referrals, your hope is that you are talking only to people who have also hired the contractor for tiling work and at least one for bathroom tile work. Though it is nice to hear that he installed their granite kitchen counter professionally, on time and within budget; I am also very concerned about the quality of the tiling work.