A/E Professionals: Should You Really Write That Recommendation?

May 11, 2010 at 2:26 pm 7 comments

By Carol A. Metzner
President, The Metzner Group, LLC and
Managing Partner, A/E/P Central, LLC home of CivilEngineeringCentral.com

Since the growth of LinkedIn, I find that I often am asked in an “inmail” to write an online endorsement for one of my connections. As an executive recruiter for 20+ years and as Co-Manager of the Civil Engineering Central Group on LinkedIn, I have many connections – many of whom I know better than others. For several of these recommendation requests, I have accepted and tried to write an honest evaluation of the person. Many, I have decided against writing. Why am I uncomfortable rejecting requests? Why did they ask me in the first place?

Before writing a recommendation you should ask yourself: Do I want my name attached to this person? Am I really able to write something that would help this person be a standout? Are they a talented architect, civil engineer, marketer or planner? Would I want them on my team? Would I want them to oversee one of my designs, plans or projects? Would I feel comfortable sending them out to a client? Would I refer someone to work for them on a daily basis? Did I really learn anything from working with them? Do I respect them enough that I would want them to evaluate my abilities? And, again: Do I want my name attached to this person!

Who should you select to write on your behalf? One should choose their recommendation writer carefully. This person should be knowledgeable of you and be able to describe several strengths you possess. They should be able to discuss specific situations in which they have worked with you and seen your performance. Notable anecdotes they can provide are of interest. It is helpful for you to choose people who know you in a variety of different roles. Recommendations from clients, colleagues, supervisors and subordinates are preferred. Friends’ letters are of little interest. Community and religious leaders are OK but many employers tend to not weigh their feedback as strongly as those from your “business” life.

Should you write a recommendation for everyone who asks you? Of course not. If you have an uncomfortable “twinge” when you read the request to write the recommendation, don’t feel you know the person well enough to comment or don’t have the time to write something of use to a reader, then DON’T write! Be polite and professional and tell the requester that while you appreciate their asking, you will be unable to write an assessment that would be valuable.

Social networking makes it as easy as a “click” to send out requests for recommendations to each and every person with whom you are connected. Think before you ask someone to write a recommendation for you and think before you write one!


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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. aepcentral  |  May 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks for your comments. It seems that online recommendations, perhaps, should be read as just another part of a person’s bio. Some are detailed, some void of any real information. Verbal recommendations when given in response to specific questions and situations are going to be of most use.

  • 2. Mike Yarrow.  |  May 14, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Good blog.

    An awful lot of the recommendations posted are obviously worthless, simply added for mutual undeserved self esteem.
    This has cheapened the value of many others recommendations unfairly I’m afraid. If someone is festooned with recommendations, I would give them a wide berth.
    Recommendations are best offered, and by reciprocation accepted when the recipients actions\service has affected several individuals, not one.

  • 3. Brandon Lee  |  May 14, 2010 at 2:11 am

    I already find it hard to say much when someone lists me as a reference on their resume and I get called by the interviewer. Who is asking for written recommendations??

  • 4. Tracy Black  |  May 12, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Some excellent points have been made, and maybe it is just me but for all of the reasons mentioned above I never write a recommendation unless I know that person in a variety of business situations and I see how they respond. I look back many years when honor and reputation were everything. And if I called you my friend that meant you had earned my respect professionally.

  • 5. Brent Probasco  |  May 12, 2010 at 8:04 pm

    I’ve only recommended one person so far and looking back now I realize I’ve been quite conservative for all the reasons mentioned above.

    Another risk to consider is recommending a high level talent that brings great value to your organization only to find that they were hired somewhere else partly based on your excellent recommendation!

  • 6. aepcentral  |  May 11, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Once again Kerry adds excellent insight and comment!

  • 7. Kerry Harding  |  May 11, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    At its very heart, the purpose of a recommendation is to improve the applicant’s stature in the marketplace by linking him/her to that of someone more well known, more respected or more experienced in the marketplace, in hope that a more favorable opinion will result on the part of some third party. I believe there are distinct differences between willing to serve as a reference for someone who is pursuing a particular career opportunity and the blanket endorsements that occur in the “Linked-in” environment. The first require an indepth knowledge of the person’s skills, abilities and personality to make an educated assessment of their fit with the job at hand. The second expresses to the world at large “For he’s a jolly good fellow which nobody can deny” with the hope that enough of these general endorsements will eliminate the need to probe too deeply for specific ones.

    On many occasions, I have asked to write specific recommendations on someone’s behalf because I am willing to share a little of my marketplace capital to help them out because I believe in them. In a handful of others, I have declined to either recommend or serve as a reference for others because I either didn’t know them well enough to take the risk or I knew them too well and didn’t feel they were worth the investment. I had one candidate asked me to write a Linked-in recommendation for him simply because he had sent me an unsolicited resume at one point in time in response to a job posting. We had never met or even spoken before and I knew little about him, other than he had been laid off from his job. Though I was angered by his request, I responded, “I think it would be best if you asked someone who knew you better than I do.” He never called again.

    I am now at the stage of my professional life when many young college age students ask me to write recommendations on their behalf because, in their eyes, I am the most important person they know. For people with outstanding skills and bright futures, I am always happy to comply, knowing that, someday, I will be asking them to help someone else get their start.


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