LinkedIn's Experience Section Has a New Look! Multiple Job Titles at the Same Company!

At 3:12 p.m. today, August 2, 2018, I popped by my LinkedIn profile and nearly spilled my iced tea all over my keyboard.

Behold!

Forgive my pitiful highlighting and drawing skills. This is BIG NEWS! At last! 

Forgive my pitiful highlighting and drawing skills. This is BIG NEWS! At last! 

I haven't taken time to investigate, just a moment to grab a screenshot of my Experience Section so folks can see now what it is I'm rejoicing about. This feature has been years ... years ... YEARS in the making and I'm so geeked I could jump from the rafters. (Except it's too hot. And I don't have rafters.)

Could it be that the workarounds my clients and I have endured for eons are a thing of the past?

To understand my joy, let's rewind to 2012.

In early-2012 (or was it late-2011?), LinkedIn approached me saying I was on their short-list of people to interview about things they could do to make LinkedIn a better user experience.

Not sure how I got on that list, but I surely had a long list of features, and indeed, the one-hour interview with two developers and a consultant (perhaps a mildly interesting TV sitcom title) turned into a three-hour pseudo-career advising session. All three wrote furiously in their notebooks, but their questions and their scribbles seemed more in response to career development concepts than feature improvements. 

Anyway, one of the most important improvements I saw for "a new LinkedIn experience" was the LinkedIn user's ability to tuck multiple job titles under the same company entry. As it stood, the company name field and job title field were a one-to-one experience, which mean creating a completely new company entry for every job title.

Subpar experience, particularly because doing so created the at-a-glance impression that the profile owner was a job hopper. A kiss-of-death term concept in recruiting that has only recently begun to be more acceptable as the gig economy rushes toward us. 

Indeed, most of my clients hold more than one job title at the same company, with a few outliers having held as many as 16 job titles at the same company over 15-20 years! 

When LinkedIn released its bold new UI in late-2012, we finally got to include ... wah-waaah ... corporate logos. Which kind of inched the needle toward a better sense of at-a-glance career cohesion, but still looked a trifling mess when you listed every last job in a row.

It had the impression that these fresh-faced developers hadn't been in the workforce long enough to realize the complexities around staying at a company for more than a minute. 

I'll admit I was kind of delighted that a "Projects Section" had been included. An idea that wasn't executed how I'd envisioned it, but I kind of loved it anyway and still use that section to highlight some of my speaking and training engagements.

Enough history. Let's celebrate the moment.

Also, it has taken me far too long to write this blog post. So enough blathering about the backstory. Let's all move into everything this could mean to tidying up our LinkedIn profiles and truly demonstrating our stories as they truly happened. 

I'll be letting my clients know about the good news, and working with incoming clients to tinker with the new feature. 

Anyone have experience with LinkedIn's new Experience Section? More than a fabulous look, it's an important way to demonstrate career stability and value. 

Now let's see if LinkedIn will finally fold into a future release the other 2.75 hours of suggestions I gave them! #notholdingmybreath #thankyoulinkedin #atyourmercy #themoreyouknow 

CFA INSTITUTE EVENT: Diversity & Inclusion: Strategies for Success

Jared Redick is delighted to again join the CFA Institute in its ongoing commitment to the career success of its CFA charterholders.

Hosted by the CFA Society of San Francisco and sponsored by the CFA Institute Women in Investment Management Initiative, the "Diversity & Inclusion 2018: Strategies for Success" conference is scheduled for September 20-12, 2018 at The Westin St. Francisco on Union Square, San Francisco, CA, USA.

A former search consultant for two nationally retained search firms, Jared Redick first presented on résumé writing to CFA Society of San Francisco members in 2008, and soon after, at the CFA Society of Minnesota 2010 Professional & Career Development Conference. His ensuing work with the CFA Institute and regional / state chapters expanded into LinkedIn profile development alongside his work as one of the early LinkedIn ProFinder providers. In the summery of 2012, Jared presented two global webinars to CFA charterholders, including "Advanced Writing Strategies for Your LinkedIn Profile."

Visit the Institute's Career Development Sessions page to register for the event, and for information about Jared's upcoming "Reverse-Engineering Your Long-Term Career Goals" talk.

Presentation highlights:

  • Planning ahead for new jobs, promotions, and board appointments
  • Writing a game-changing résumé, LinkedIn profile, and executive bio
  • Cautiously tell your career story to your public and private audiences
  • Message your value without hyperbole or understatement

MORE ABOUT JARED REDICK

Jared’s career development ideas have appeared in articles and reprints presented by the American Bar Association, CFA Institute, Legal Career Journal; BusinessInsider.com; Dynamic Search Solutions, UK; Forbes Coaches Council; Mental Floss; National Association of Women Lawyers; The Times of India; and RD.com.

Recent conferences, symposia, corporate trainings, and webinars include Beyond Academia, CFA Institute, University of California, Moss Adams, LLP, National Resume Writers’ Association, and The Harvard Club of Washington, D.C.

In 2009, he published Jared Redick's Job Description Analysis, an insightful career discovery exercise that helps people evaluate and set realistic next steps using their own collection of ordinary job descriptions. His use of the tool with the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) inspired tutorials by the Modern Languages Association (MLA).

Connect with Jared at linkedin.com/in/jaredredick.

I Accidentally Connected with My Boss on LinkedIn. Should I Disconnect?

Photo by  Patrick Perkins  on  Unsplash

I can't tell you the number of times clients have asked me a variation of this question:

Jared,

I'm not sure how it happened, but it appears that my [current boss] is a first-degree connection on LinkedIn. I usually don't accept connections from people I'm currently working with. Let alone, my boss!

Is there a way to remove him without any notice?

Jane

Here was my email response to this tricky matter; edited for confidentiality.

Hi Jane,

Ah, the conundrum of removing a connection, and what it all means. Let's think it out.

As a member of the C-suite, yourself, what's the harm? Does it really hurt to be connected to your CEO? Here's a somewhat long-winded reason why it might not matter.

For starters, remember to always think of LinkedIn as a tool for business, not an online résumé. Even though LinkedIn fancies itself as just that—an online résumé (and then wonders why more people don't engage)—executives should not treat LinkedIn as an online résumé. This fundamental misconception will continue to dog LinkedIn until they realize the inherent problems with people, especially senior professionals, treating their profiles as online résumés. Too many potential serious pitfalls.

That said, I'm increasingly writing LinkedIn profiles for executive suites—meaning the entire C-suite contracts me to write profiles that complement each other, while demonstrating the collective credibility to customers, stakeholders, and other key external audiences.

While a simple 4-6 paragraph executive bio on a company's website is common and perfectly fine, a LinkedIn profile—perfectly conceived in concert with other members of a team—is like an executive bio on steroids.

"LinkedIn for Business" profiles can outline company priorities and initiatives (so long as they're okay to share publicly), champion a workforce, reinforce a company's culture and values, and a host of other beneficial non-self-serving purposes. (Because if they were self-serving, we'd expect that the profile owner was looking for a job, no?) 

"LinkedIn for Business" profiles can also help unify employees around their leadership, which has become critically important in a social-sharing age when employees can anonymously champion or anonymously trash their employer with a few keystrokes.

Keep in mind that we wrote your profile so it "champions the business and demonstrates your credibility at [Company Name]." Right? But remember that there's a byproduct to that approach, especially as you're looking to conduct a stealth job search.

It just so happens that retained search firms—the ones who hold the keys to the best and most interesting executive leadership roles—love that kind of approach because they want to imagine that they're "finding and plucking happy people" into roles that those people might see as a good next step in their career. (Also, they won't likely realize your "LinkedIn for Business" profile was written with them in mind, even though we wrote it to appear as if you are happy at CompanyX.)

You might even suggest that you take it a step further and truly change the way you think about and use LinkedIn, so it actually becomes a tool for business. This might mean, then, that you'd connect with other senior leadership—and even champion the "LinkedIn for Business" idea to peer leaders. (Just omit the "positioning for recruiters" idea. They don't need to now that part, and the profiles will still serve everyone very well.) 

Maybe the whole leadership team models their profiles after yours and creates a complementary story? It's where I see LinkedIn going, whether LinkedIn knows it or not. They'll figure it out someday.

If you still want to remove the connection.

So, if you're still intent on severing the connection, here's LinkedIn's help page. (Better to let them do the talking.)

There, LinkedIn states that removing a connection won't notify that person that they've been removed. However, circling back to the technical glitch issue, you just never know. A client experienced a pretty miserable event in 2007, and when he reached out to LinkedIn their response was "technical glitch." Alas, that "technical glitch" caused all sorts of awkwardness for him. Ever since I've used LinkedIn as if something could go awry at any moment.

Which all makes me wonder. What if your CEO already knows that you're connected, and then somehow notices that you've severed the connection. Would that plant a seed of doubt? Or open up more of an awkward conversation than if you left it alone?

Final thoughts.

Only you can make the decision, but I hope these ideas will help you work through the pros and cons. As for the C-suites starting to use LinkedIn as a credibility builder / tool for business, they're looking at what their profiles say to all of the audiences I discuss in my various tutorials. How will regulators view the material? Will the press find it helpful? Will analysts read between lines and make predictions? Are any of the profile accidentally giving away competitive information? How will the many potential readers regard a leadership team's profiles as a set? You remember all of my many warnings, no doubt.

Take care!

Jared 

Can You Introduce Me to Your Recruiter Friends?

From time to time, clients ask if I would consider introducing them to my friends who are still recruiting. 

It's a logical question because we've usually just spent a solid 1-4 months aiming for an upcoming job search, whether imminent or a year from now—which may involve recruiters.

There's nothing I'd rather do than make those connections, but I've never made one that I can remember. Even when I was still in retained executive search and moonlighting as a résumé writer, I never crossed the two audiences.

Here's why.

My connections are in the retained executive search world, which means they are looking externally for ideal candidates. They generally don't announce positions, and if they do, it's usually after an exhaustive search has already been conducted and come up empty. They also don't list the client name. Retained executive search firms are hired to find people through their own sophisticated research and outbound headhunting efforts.

Retained executive search:

Retained executive search consultants are looking for people who are happy in their current positions, and for whom something new might be of interest. In fact, those happy potential candidates are often so happy where they are, that they're not expecting the call, and the art of recruiting becomes essential in engaging them in the first place. As the retained search recruiter, you have to demonstrate the match because your candidate is likely not looking to move.

Retained executive search represents a fairly narrow band of recruiters, and frankly they're in a unique world. Their databases often contain their own research, that research is often generated anew for each search, and the engagements are exclusive with a premium client company for a very senior, well-pedigreed, and sometimes hard-to-find candidate.

Imagine filling the shoes of someone like Richard Branson, Janet Yellen, Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Sergey Brin, Angela Ahrendts, Larry Page, Bill Gates, or Anna Wintour when they decide to move.

Who's going to replace them? 

Those searches are complex, take a long time to complete, are often part of a known succession plan, and frequently require a highly specific blend of education, experience, and skills. You can imagine why it's unlikely that simple job postings would suffice in identifying the right candidate. 

You can also move the lesson to lesser-known, but equally important leadership roles across the Fortune 500, and you see my point. 

From there, it's helpful to know that by definition, an inbound résumé—no matter where it comes from and no matter how senior or experienced the person—represents someone who is potentially unhappy, and thus, not an ideal candidate.

Why? Because it's an overt expression of someone wanting a change, which means there could be a pain point somewhere and you (the search firm) don't know if that pain is coming from the company or the candidate, and in any event, you can't risk placing the wrong person. 

The inbound résumé might not even be entered in the database. (This is changing slightly in recent years. Stay tuned.)

From every angle, an inbound executive résumé can have diminishing returns with the retained search firm colleagues I know.

Contingency recruiting:

But there's another side to the recruiting world called contingency recruiting. (Wikipedia has a great page on distinctions you'll want to know about.)

Contingency recruiting is a bit more knock-about by nature. It's faster. It's usually not exclusive, meaning that a company needing to find an employee can hire multiple contingency recruiters or firms to conduct a search. The firm that presents the right candidate gets the fee.

Real estate agent comes to mind as a good example of how this works. They don't get paid unless they sell the house, so they're trying to beat every other agent in making a match.

This means that contingency recruiters may be more willing to have a peek at your unsolicited résumé. Even if they simply add you to their database, at least you're there.

How to distinguish retained executive search from contingency recruiting firms:

Retained search will often use the phrase "retained search" in their communications. Visit the firm's website. If it says "retained search," or some variation of the word "retained" and you'll know.

Contingency firms, however, won't generally mention the distinction, which may indicate that they're contingency, which means that they may be more open to receiving your inbound résumé.

I highly recommend subscribing to Nick Corcodilos' "Ask The Headhunter" newsletter. His straightforward style and insights about working with recruiters is superb, not only in his e-newsletter, but also in his book: "How to Work With Headhunters." (I don't know Nick, I'm just a fan.) Some time back, ExecuNet interviewed Nick and published this timeline advice: "Whose Side of the Table is the Recruiter On?"

As with everything, there are exceptions to the rule, and norms are ever-changing.

Take LinkedIn, for instance.

LinkedIn has become an ideal way to get on the radar of both retained and contingency search firms.

Build your LinkedIn summary (heck, the entire profile) around the keywords and phrases that a recruiter might input to find you, and you'll have a much better chance of being found passively. Present material as if you're happy where you are—in fact, use your profile to truly do business—and recruiters of all stripes should be able to translate and still view you as a possible target of acquisition. (They usually need only a handful of questions answered to decide if they should keep talking, so be flexible and kind, and avoid feeling like you're being used or not respected. They have a job to do, and there's little chance that you'll know or could even surmise the details of the spec or the motivations of the company, so don't try.)

Side note: some recruiters will be abrupt, some recruiters will ask why you haven't "placed your accomplishments" on your LinkedIn profile. Those folks don't understand that LinkedIn profiles might give away trade secrets, so don't try reasoning with them. Trust your decision not to place competitive information online and let them move on.

Never before has such a virtuous cycle existed: you put yourself there, you have a stronger chance that the right people will find you. If you look like a possible fit, they may reach out. Now, or in ten years. I've had more than one "purple squirrel" client who was found via LinkedIn, precisely because of the odd blend of education, experience, and skills they possessed. (And those stories were all told within the framework of their current jobs, so we didn't tip off their boards, bosses, employees, partners, etc.)

LinkedIn is among the best ways right now to be found passively by a recruiter. There are also a host of other important, career-related uses. These two concepts along represent the reason I've shifted from LinkedIn-phobic to cautious LinkedIn champion. 

Retained executive search firms:

For our purposes here, it's helpful to know that most of the big search firms, and many of the smaller ones, have a Twitter presence.

Here are a few you might start with:

Twitter

I can't believe I'm writing this, since I was so Twitter-phobic for so long, but there are entire Twitter accounts dedicated to specific industries, their standards, and best practices, niche pockets of intelligence, and areas where you can get or give targeted advice. I follow several through my own Twitter account, @TheResumeStudio, and I'm amazed at how many opportunities (and how much good intelligence) flow through my Twitter feed.

Research and find your own opportunities, and develop careful strategies to reach your long-term goals. It takes some elbow grease. You'll also gain tremendous insights simply because you paid attention.

Should You Call Yourself a "Thought Leader" on LinkedIn?

Imagine that Miss USA had a LinkedIn profile. Now imagine that somewhere in that profile she included the phrase, "I’m beautiful." Why? Because she believed it was a keyword or phrase by which others would find a beauty queen.

Now imagine that the late Steve Jobs had a LinkedIn profile, and somewhere in his profile he said, "I'm an innovator." Why? Because he had a hunch that someone might enter “innovator” into LinkedIn’s Advanced Search tool to find someone like him.

Do either of the above scenarios sound right? 

These people simply are those things, and to say so—out loud or in writing—might leave the reader to conclude that person's arrogance or question their professional judgement. The reader might even rightfully question the claim’s veracity.

I even raise an eyebrow when someone in finance makes a point of saying they are ethical. Really? The fact that one is explicitly stating such a hopefully obvious point makes me question its truth. Especially if one is a CFA or a CPA or has a FINRA license. The notion of ethics is embedded in the very make up of those designations.

I mention it because a phrase my clients frequently want layered into their stories has increasingly become some form of:"I am a thought leader."

When clients ask me about its inclusion, I share with them the examples above and then we decide how we can "show" instead of "tell" the reader that they are thought leaders.

The challenges with explicitly saying you are a thought leader:

  • If you have to say it, then you probably aren't. (It's never too late to start.)
  • If you say it, you might come across in a way that contradicts your carefully curated brand.
  • If you say it, you may one day have to defend the claim.

Ways to frame thought leadership when you are a thought leader:

  • Through another lens. For instance, you can discuss your team's thought leadership, which then shines favorably back onto you.
  • Through the eyes of others. Ask others to explicitly use/discuss/mention the phrase in a LinkedIn Recommendation. Only if you are truly a thought leader, of course. No need to make your friend squirm. (This LinkedIn post will help them with the task of writing your LinkedIn Recommendation.)
  • Through various LinkedIn profile sections. LinkedIn offers a way to present yourself as a thought leader via  "Publications," "Projects," "Patents," and other credibility-confirming sections.

More showing. Less telling.

Garbage In, Garbage Out: Two Keystrokes that will Transform Your "Advanced Search" Results on LinkedIn

Yesterday, I hung up the phone with a client—a well-known, recent retiree from one of the world's largest investment banking institutions—and immediately drafted this blog post.

The experience was like many others before, and served as the perfect example of how a few keystrokes can transform search results when using LinkedIn's "Advanced Search" feature.

I'm guessing a lot of LinkedIn users don't even know Advanced Search exists, let alone how to use it effectively. Hence this post.

So, my client is in the trenches at the moment—developing the strategy and story needed to position himself for a public board director role.

One seemingly simple, but not-so-straightforward, task is to settle not only on the job title he'll use in a new consulting practice, but also to decide on the professional headline he'll use on LinkedIn.

Professional Headline on LinkedIn: The field immediately following your name on your LinkedIn profile—just below or to the right of your profile photo.

Also: One of LinkedIn's most important fields with respect to being passively found (based on my own LinkedIn user experience).

Do this: Infuse the keywords you believe others will use to find someone like you when querying LinkedIn's Advanced Search function. (As well as Google Search and other public search engines.)

After all, formerly timeless job titles like "Principal" and "Consultant" don't necessarily help tremendously (at least as keywords) when an executive search recruiter is looking for the right public board director and their first step is to type job titles and other defining content into a search bar.

Enter "Principal" into LinkedIn's Advanced Search tool, and you'll get everything from "high school principal," to "principal, eminent domain," to master cupcake baker who uses agave nectar as a principal ingredient.

Remember, this whole thing came up because my client's assignment was to research LinkedIn to identify how he might position himself going forward—not only in his new practice as an advisor, but also as a passive(ly findable) board candidate.

Unfortunately, he hadn't had much luck navigating LinkedIn's Advanced Search function.

Sharing screens, so he could follow along, I entered, "board director [industry]." (Board director wasn't in quotes, by the way. They're included here for clarity.)

What we ended up with was a list of people who are on the employee side of his industry, or who presently hold nonprofit board leadership roles at professional associations within the same industry.

The results weren't helpful for his purposes, so instead, I entered, "board director [industry] -association" (again, not in quotes).

Notice that we included a minus symbol before the word "association."

For good measure, I selected "Harvard Business School" to refine the search. 

Suddenly, our LinkedIn Advanced Search results were transformed, and we were seeing people closer to his peer set.

While our original intention was to see how others in similar circumstances had, and are, presently using LinkedIn, the minor refinements unlocked the value of the search results. The experience underscored the "garbage in, garbage out" adage, and made me think, again, about the many millions of users who complain, but don't look beneath LinkedIn's surface.

By the way, this is a bright guy, recognized for his intellect, intuition, and industry intelligence. His opinion can make or break markets. At least if investor behaviors have any influence on markets. He's a top-performer who has reached what many would consider to be the pinnacle of a professional career in the United States—maybe the world. And if he had an aha moment (after all, who sits around thinking about LinkedIn all day long), what does it say about the average LinkedIn user?

If you haven't discovered the wonders of the minus symbol when querying LinkedIn search, or the benefits of incrementally refining search parameters using other query features, take a moment to tinker and see if LinkedIn doesn't finally become the business tool you can't live without.

Overlooking the Obvious After Taking a New Job

Sometime things are so obvious we miss them entirely. 

That's what happened this year when a client's new job was mentioned on Fortune.com. His LinkedIn profile had worked like a charm, and his executive résumé and other materials were there to support his candidacy for the right company.

Ready for a new step in your career? Are you sure? Start finding out using Jared Redick's Job Description Analysis.

Ready for a new step in your career? Are you sure? Start finding out using Jared Redick's Job Description Analysis.

Turns out, he was that company's purple squirrel.

But when Fortune announced his new role, guess who was still championing his OLD company on LinkedIn! 

Noticing all of this while vacationing, I emailed him and said, "Pull down your summary ASAP!" 

I know he was swamped with interviews, negotiations, press, and the whirlwind of settling into a new high profile role. But imagine what people thought when they cross-references him between the Fortune article and his LinkedIn profile. 

When you get a new job—especially if you've been conducting a long, intentional stealth job search—be sure your entire online brand quickly aligns with your new role before it's announced.

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for doing business. Yes, LinkedIn serves your long-term stealth job search, but don't forget that it also serves your every day work life.

Yes, I Loathe the Term "Elevator Pitch"

Rajat Taneja's recent LinkedIn post, Rethinking the Elevator Pitch. Rajat is EVP of Technology at Visa, and his post illustrates what so many executives seem to think about the elevator pitch.

A highlight for me was this from Rajat: "I don't believe there is anything a candidate or even [an] existing employee can say in 60 seconds that would compel me to offer them a job or new position immediately."

Is it important to be able to talk about yourself at a high level? Yes. That's the purpose of developing an aggregate understanding about yourself and your career, which is really what an "elevator pitch" is. But that should lead to an in-depth conversation, in which you should be equally skilled. 

It's a short, worthwhile post, and it struck a chord. Look at all those likes and comments! Click the link above or the screen-snip below to read Rajat's original post.

Giving Up On Writing a Friend's LinkedIn Recommendation? Try These Ideas First!

Let's face it. Writing a LinkedIn recommendation—even a really good one—isn't going to win you any literary awards. In fact, your beautifully crafted copy will these days be cemented to the absolute bottom of your subject's LinkedIn profile. No fame for you today.

So why try to write a great LinkedIn recommendation? Why not just dash off a few lines of well-trodden, risk-free copy used by so many others? Examples (stifle your yawns):

  • John is a proven leader who is passionate about his work."
  • Jane is a go-getter who gets things done."

Yeah. Basically, this kind of copy tells us zilch about John and Jane. 

Sure, a recommendation like the above bullets and their ilk will technically add one more recommendation to your subject's recommendation pile. LinkedIn likes high recommendation counts, according to a Bay Area LinkedIn pilot of which I'm a part right now.

In spite of the profile basement location of today's LinkedIn recommendation, I still think it's worth writing copy that feels more like a human being and less like a beaten up job description.

So, What to Do

Theoretically, writing a LinkedIn recommendation should be a simple enough task. More privilege than chore.

Unfortunately, many—myself included—struggle with uncertainty and utter blankness when finally sitting down to write one.

In this post, I try to unravel a few of my own approaches so the next Sunday morning you're sitting at your laptop wondering what the heck to say publicly about your nearest and dearest, you'll have a few ideas to jump start the effort. 

Start With Who They Are

Several of the (wonderful, amazing, worthy) people I've recommended show up in the below screenshot. Notice how each starts with a teaser, hopefully prompting the reader to click for more. But I like to think there's actually a bit more behind each opening line.

Have a gander....

What do you notice? Each leads with what the subject brings to the world, professionally.

I'll explain the trickiest as an example.

Victoria Ahlén and I went to school together. I’ve admired her work from afar, but since we've never officially worked together, I can’t speak directly about her work today.

However, I remember Victoria from school as a smart woman with deep core values. She cares intensely about things that matter to her. She's also a person of immense integrity. Born and raised in Gothenburg, Sweden, Victoria's international perspective helped me see beyond my own backyard all those years ago.

So it took time to develop a strategy for Victoria’s LinkedIn recommendation, but I finally led with “even before she was a branding guru,” which gets who she is out the gate fast. By framing it this way, I acknowledged her now, in a way that lets me speak authentically about Victoria as I knew her.

While closer chronologically to my life today than Victoria, you’ll notice the same approach when I wrote recommendations for my colleagues / friends, Shauna Bryce of Bryce Legal and Jennifer Quinton of Quinton Design Studio. In each example, the reader knows who the subject is without having to click for more.

And perhaps that approach breathes a bit of life into the reader experience. After all, professional writing doesn't mean stale writing.

Be Honest

There are two ideas under the honesty category.

First, be honest when asked to write a recommendation: 

  • If a friend or colleague asks you for a recommendation—and it’s easy to say yes—by all means, do it. If you’re less than eager, or uncomfortable, say it! Evaluate why and take a bit of care in explaining why you might not be the right person to make a recommendation. It can be especially tricky if the person has written a recommendation for you. But in this case, it doesn’t have to be quid pro quo. It must be genuine.
  • If you’re at all concerned, be resolute. Say no thank you now, nicely, before you write a recommendation out of obligation and proceed to live with something the world can read for the rest of time. Being honest with yourself and your contact—no matter how awkward—is always better in the long run.

Second, be honest when writing a recommendation:

  • Choose something you know for certain about your subject. Don’t invent anything and don't be vague. Don’t misrepresent anything because you’ll have to live with it.
  • Write something interesting and meaningful from your unique perspective as a friend or colleague. Be appropriate and make it interesting. It’s a recommendation after all, not an obituary. Nor is it a vapid job description. Put some joy into it!

Be Strategic

Go ahead and talk about strategy with your subject before you get started. It makes everyone’s job easier.

If there’s something your subject would like you to focus on, you’re in a unique position to write something s/he alone can’t say without sounding braggadocios or goofy.

For instance, a client recently said he stays calm amidst chaos and that he always sees the big picture. These are important things for me to know as an executive résumé writer. They’re important traits for most professional positions, in fact. Certainly executive roles. But they’re overused in résumé writing and can lose their impact. They begin feeling like filler unless backed up in some way.

But a third-party perspective can change everything. As a peer, former boss, employee, or board member, you can speak about calm-in-a-storm, big picture viewpoint and other over-arching strengths in a way that your subject can’t. Especially if you tie in a strong example or two.

Let’s say your friend wants to stress the international part of his or her career. Consider starting with something like, “John is no stranger to the international arena.” Get it out there. “John is a citizen of the world” is a great opener when it’s true, genuine, and written from a third party.

Say your friend wants to emphasize her start-up experience. How about, “Susan’s start-up growth strategies are unmatched,” and build from there.

Build a great recommendation from a strong strategy. Have fun with it!

Be Specific (And Genuine)

So many businesses and product lines enjoy success because they serve a niche audience. By definition, niching means that some people will be drawn in and others will walk away. That’s called being real about what you bring to the table. Borrow the niching concept when writing about your subject. Be specific. Your colleague or friend doesn’t have to be all things to all people, and your recommendation doesn’t have to be either.

You’re not obligated to write “Everything I ever knew about Jack.” Focus on one or two things you know about Jack and get it out there. Keep it short. A terse, genuine, lively, well-written recommendation stands a better chance of being read. A big, fat block of unfocused copy will be overlooked.

In all things, brevity.

Which is a great signal to wrap this article. What do you think about writing recommendations? Do you squirm a little? Do you excel? Have you struggled through them, but discovered a principle that might help others? Please, do share!

●●●●●

San Francisco-based corporate copywriter, executive résumé writer, and career transition coach, Jared Redick, works with senior leaders at Fortune 50 companies and beyond. He draws on early experience in retained executive search and nearly two decades of résumé writing to help stealth job seekers re-imagine the marketable intersection between their background, interests, audience expectations, and career goals.

Jared's strategic “purpose, content, design” approach to writing helps companies and executives understand their value, develop their unique professional brand, and position themselves online and on paper.

Reach him at info@theresumestudio.com or 415-397-6640. Follow @TheResumeStudio.

Graceful, Shrewd & "Deceptively Simple" Hiring Advice from Apple's Angela Ahrednts

Recently, I followed Angela Ahrendts on LinkedIn. As former CEO of Burberry and current senior vice president of retail and online stores at Apple (also #25 on Forbes' 2015 list of the most powerful women in the world), she clearly serves a role model for people wanting to become better leaders and hire better teams. 

Angela's three LinkedIn Pulse posts, as of today's date, reflect a professional who is in possession of her strengths. Her June 23, 2014 "Starting Anew" post is particularly reflective, as she offers insights into the first 30-90 days of her own new job at Apple. 

Then on September 2, 2015, LinkedIn's Talent Blog posted "What One of the World's Most Powerful (and Richest) Businesswomen Looks for When Hiring," featuring more insights into how Angela thinks about hiring. 

Photo of Angela Ahrendt from a Talent Blog post on LinkedIn by Paul Petrone.

Photo of Angela Ahrendt from a Talent Blog post on LinkedIn by Paul Petrone.

The simplicity is astounding, and perhaps deceptive, because in addition to being smart, experienced, and caring, she is also clearly shrewd. 

What lessons can today and tomorrow's leaders learn from Angela? Look her up on LinkedIn and follow her to get insights that will either confirm what you're already doing, or perhaps steer you in a new direction. 

Humanities Students & Graduates: You're Needed in Silicon Valley

Now here's a not-to-miss data report from LinkedIn for the PhD and MA students with whom I've been working at the University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI). 

Turns out, the LinkedIn deep diving and keyword searching we discussed in San Diego might just pay off. And certainly Alice Ma's LinkedIn blog post, You Don't Need to Know How to Code to Make it in Silicon Valley, offers a glimpse into some of the job titles you'll want to consider. 

Important quote: "Liberal arts majors take on a wide range of roles." Of interest, fourth on the list is folks in project managers. When I reflect on the swath of project management professionals with whom I work up and down the west coast, a lot of them have degrees in the humanities. 

Article screenshot depicting Jared from the HBO series Silicon Valley from Alice Ma's recent LinkedIn blog post.