LinkedIn recommendations have become a staple of many of the networking website's 135 million member profiles. When users fill out or edit their profile, LinkedIn encourages them to tap their professional contacts for a few words of endorsement and, in the case of service providers, a few positive attributes (great results, good value, personable and so on) plucked from a list.
Unlike reference-checking tools such as Pre-Hire 360, there's nothing anonymous about the LinkedIn recommendation process. Not only can endorsees view their contacts' testimonials (and know when a contact declines or ignores their recommendation request), they can choose whether to display those testimonials on their public LinkedIn profile or hide them. As a result, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything less than a glowing recommendation on LinkedIn.
But not all human resources pros and recruiters discount LinkedIn's public endorsements. Shilonda Downing, owner of Virtual Work Team, a Chicago-area virtual assistance company that frequently helps clients with the hiring process, has used LinkedIn to check candidate references in two dozen recruitments.
"When somebody has given you a recommendation on LinkedIn, it's because they feel free to talk about you," says Downing, a former HR professional. "They go beyond 'This person worked here,' which is what you typically get when you call an HR department."
Still, to make sure a LinkedIn recommendation is legit, Downing phones HR departments to verify that candidates and the LinkedIn connections who've endorsed them worked where and when they say they did. Only then will she email a candidate's LinkedIn references to set up a phone conversation.
So far, the process is working. "We have not had a problem," Downing says. "LinkedIn has proven very reliable."
Michelle Goodman is a freelance writer based in Seattle and author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org.