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Asking for Recommendations


Asking for RecommendationsMarketing would be nowhere without smiling and satisfied consumers recommending a purchase. And the written equivalent of this is the testimonial or recommendation. A few words singing a product’s praises – or a person’s praises – go a long way in building credibility.

Testimonials have slipped into job hunting strategies, and rightly so; a job hunt is, after all, a self-marketing venture in which the employer purchases your services. Recommendations or testimonials are an effective career tool and are now being used on a LinkedIn profile, and in the resume or cover letter.

But how is a job hunter to ask for a recommendation – it seems so bold!?

  • Draft a list of those who know you well; if you have to remind them of who you are, they are unlikely to write about you with any useful and influential specifics. Pen a nicely worded request, share the kind of job you are looking for, and respectfully ask if they feel comfortable with providing a written reference.
  • Collaborate with respected colleagues, past or present, to exchange testimonials.
  • Request testimonials from past supervisors or managers, particularly following a superbly-executed project!
  • Ask people with whom you volunteer to write a short paragraph; a volunteer coordinator would likely be quite pleased to do so.

(Resist asking family and friends; LinkedIn or self-marketing documents such as the resume and cover letter are not the place for non-work-related or non-volunteer-related praises.)

Ideally you should choose people who write well as a testimonial full of spelling and grammar errors will reflect badly on you. And if your best references might come from those whose grammar is less than enviable, you could suggest that to save them time you wouldn’t mind editing for grammar!

Sometimes, although this isn’t ideal, you could suggest that you will draft a paragraph — pending their approval of course. Not only poor writers, but also busy professionals appreciate this gesture. And such a step would boost your success rate in securing recommendations.

In drafting a paragraph, keep in mind the skills and attributes that would most interest your potential employer, and consider these in relation to the work you did. Also keep in mind the person on whose behalf you are putting a few words together – stay as true to his or her speech pattern as possible. The challenge is to wordsmith these into a highly personalized recommendation that sheds light on your specific skill set and reputation, while not sounding inauthentic.

Likely you are wondering “Okay, what does a good recommendation sound like?” Glad you asked!

Here is a sample that would be useful to a salesperson, where the emphasis is on building relationships:

“Mark worked for me for four years. An outstanding sales professional, he impressed me with his business know-how, and most remarkable was his incredible ability to make connections by remembering names and faces as well as personal details. His customers felt valued and rewarded him with sales.”

This sample is geared to a manufacturing floor equipment mechanic:

“Paul worked on our manufacturing floor for more than five years. During that time, he earned a reputation for being the mechanic most called upon to fix issues and quickly getting our lines back into production and minimizing down-time. He is not only skilled, but almost intuitive about what the problem is, and I highly recommend him.”

But sometimes a very short phrase works equally as well. For example:

– for a writer “outstanding grammar geek”

– for a manager “amazing ability to build teams that get along”

– for a health and safety manager “thank you for reducing workplace injuries”

– for an administrative assistant “I recommend Ashley for any job that requires tight organization, strict time management, and a ‘wow’ level of customer service … and a splash of fun!”

The key is that the praises must be skill-specific, showing a true expertise in the field of work.

Every pro-active job-hunter, every person who is active in his or her own career management, must collect testimonials or recommendations throughout their career. Seize the moment, who could you ask, right now, for a timely and powerful testimonial?

– submitted by Stephanie Clark, Master Resume Writer

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