A LinkedIn recommendation can significantly boost the appeal of any product manager candidate. After all, it’s a publicly visible recommendation, which means that the recommender has strong faith in the candidate’s abilities.
As product managers, it’s important for us to know how to give strong LinkedIn recommendations to colleagues, because we have the privilege and the responsibility to accelerate other people’s careers. After all, a strong LinkedIn recommendation is the cornerstone of a solid product manager LinkedIn profile.
In this article, I’ll focus on how to give a fantastic LinkedIn recommendation; then, in a future article, I’ll discuss how to obtain a solid recommendation for ourselves.
Why this sequence? It’s because I strongly believe that we should first create value for others before capturing value for ourselves. So, let’s get into it.
Why recommending other people matters
Every day, product managers work with countless stakeholders to craft impactful products. Because we’ve worked closely with colleagues, and because we’re closest to the impact that our product delivers, we’re uniquely positioned to provide strong recommendations.
Note that we can provide LinkedIn recommendations for a nearly infinite variety of roles: not just product managers, but also engineers, designers, analysts, marketers, salespeople, and more.
But, for the purposes of this article, I’ll focus on how we can write recommendations for fellow product managers.
When a fellow product manager reaches out to you to ask for a recommendation, take the time to support their career. By professionally supporting others who are doing good work, you create more positive impact in the world.
Of course, only do so if you truly would recommend that colleague. If they’re not someone that you genuinely enjoyed working with, you should politely turn them down. A false recommendation will hurt your colleague in the long run, and it’ll also permanently reduce your own credibility.
Here’s how you can drive the most impact:
- Establish the context for the recommendation
- Structure the recommendation thoughtfully
- Deliver the recommendation for iteration
Establishing the context for the recommendation
First, ask your colleague what specific aspects they’d like you to focus on within the recommendation.
For example, is there a particular initiative that they’d like you to highlight? Are there particular personality traits or skill sets that they want you to focus on? By understanding what will provide your colleague with the most value, you’ll be able to fine-tune your recommendation accordingly.
Second, gain an understanding of what their future career goals are. Are they aiming at a specific role, company, or industry? You’ll want to target the LinkedIn recommendation that you’re writing towards those future career goals.
The thing is, product managers could be recommended on a nearly infinite set of traits and strengths. After all, we fill the white space; we close gaps and we execute relentlessly to bring products to market.
So, you need to have a clear idea of where you’re going to focus as you write this recommendation.
You don’t want to emphasize technical skills if your colleague is asking for your help to highlight their soft skills. And similarly, you don’t want to focus on soft skills if your colleague is looking for more firepower around their technical skills.
How to structure a LinkedIn recommendation
Let’s talk about how to structure a LinkedIn recommendation. The three key components are:
- Context in which you worked together
- Two to three key points on what makes this person stand out
- Closing sentence that reaffirms your recommendation
First, you need to provide the context of how you and your colleague worked together. When a reader is reviewing a LinkedIn recommendation, they don’t know how you and your colleague relate to one another.
This introductory context is where you can provide details about key initiatives or partnerships that you drove together. Try to keep it short and sweet. Limit your intro to just 1 or 2 sentences.
Then, you’ll dive into the meat of your recommendation. Focus on two or three key points on why this person stands out. Remember to refer back to your colleague’s needs and objectives.
As you flesh out this section, be sure to provide tangible examples to bring the recommendation to life. It’s not enough for you to simply provide adjectives, such as “smart” or “thoughtful” or “resilient.” You have to provide verbs.
Don’t say something like this: “Sandra is a warm and personable product manager.” It’s unclear what Sandra does that makes her warm and personable.
Say something like this instead.
“Sandra drives impact as a product manager by quickly establishing deep rapport across a variety of stakeholders. When she was tasked with spinning up a new business line, Sandra led with confident humility; she simultaneously kicked off quantitative market assessments and conducted empathetic 1:1 interviews with department heads to ensure she captured their needs and priorities. Sandra’s thoughtful approach enabled her to grow the business to a seven-figure powerhouse within just a few months.”
Notice how I lean on the verbs in my sentences, and how few adjectives I use to describe Sandra as a person. The verb “conducted interviews” is much more powerful than the adjective “warm.”
Once you’ve covered the main points, reaffirm your recommendation, and be explicit about what roles this person is best suited to tackle.
Here’s an example: “I strongly recommend Sandra for any fast-paced startup that needs a thoughtful, driven, humble, and flexible leader to rapidly spin up a market-leading new business line.”
Note that this recommendation is targeted to “fast-paced startup”; you’ll want to reflect your colleague’s desired role and industry here. For example, if your colleague is excited about working at a Fortune 500 company, you should replace “startup” with “Fortune 500 company.”
Similarly, this recommendation is clearly meant for the colleague to act in a new business initiatives product management role, rather than a vague recommendation for any possible product role.
After all, if Sandra has told you that she wants to spin up new business lines, you’re not doing her any favors by being vague about what she’s good at, right?
The more clarity you can provide to a recruiter in your LinkedIn recommendation, the more likely your colleague will be able to secure the role that they’re targeting.
Delivering the LinkedIn recommendation
Now that you’ve written the recommendation, send it to your colleague and ask them for their feedback.
Does the wording and the structure make sense to them? Do they want you to emphasize something else instead? Are there any typos or grammatical errors?
The reason you want them to provide their feedback is because the recommendation will be posted on both their LinkedIn profile and your LinkedIn profile. You want to make sure this is something that you’re both proud of.
The great thing about LinkedIn is that you can always edit the recommendation before making it public - and, even after it goes live, you can make more edits afterwards too. So, be sure to take advantage of feedback and iteration!
Now we know what it takes to craft a powerful LinkedIn recommendation for product managers.
First, we need to understand what the candidate wants us to emphasize, and why they want us to emphasize it.
Then, we should structure the recommendation to be crisp yet powerful. We should lean on verbs instead of adjectives, and we should focus on specific examples rather than sweeping general statements.
Finally, we should run the recommendation by the candidate to see whether it meets their needs, or whether we can fine-tune it further on their behalf.
When you support outstanding talent, you become a force for good in the world. Don’t hesitate to help good people - as a product manager, it’s your duty to advocate for a better world, and part of that duty is to empower talented people to step up into higher-impact roles.
In our next article, we’ll tackle how to obtain a powerful recommendation for our own LinkedIn profiles.
Want to learn more about how to write a recommendation? Chat with other product managers around the world in our PMHQ Community!
Clement Kao is Co-Founder of Product Manager HQ. He was previously a Principal Product Manager at Blend, an enterprise technology company that is inventing a simpler and more transparent consumer lending experience while ensuring broader access for all types of borrowers.