01/31/2012 10:33 am ET Updated Apr 01, 2012

Converting Letters of Reference to LinkedIn Endorsements


I agree that a recommendation note on Linkedin is far more valuable than a standalone physical letter, but how can you make that happen if the person providing the recommendation isn't on (and has no desire to be) LinkedIn? Is there a way to develop a recommendation letter from them (without them having an account) doing a cut and paste from their hard copy letter (or even electronic letter via email) in your own Linkedin profile?


Dear Triche,

That's exactly what you do. You've got a physical letter of recommendation, and a recommender who doesn't want to join LinkedIn. You cut & paste a paragraph from the physical letter into your own LinkedIn Summary. In that case, I'd use a frame like "Here's a comment from my boss at Acme Explosives" versus including the recommender's name in the Summary.

However, before I'd settle for that solution, I'd try to get the recommender onto LinkedIn. Lots of people, many of them older folks, don't understand how LinkedIn works and are intimidated by it. You can say "You're so kind to recommend me. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. I'm very grateful that you've also agreed to be one of my references* too, but I feel badly that you may be getting deluged with calls once I hit the job search with gusto. Perhaps I could talk you into putting that recommendation onto LinkedIn, which should reduce the number of calls to you by one-half, or more?"

You could create the guy's LinkedIn profile for him. All you need is his or her permission, an email account and a password.

We can often feel "Gee, I hate to ask for anything more than I've already got, in the form of this letter" but think about it. Did you do incredible work for this person? Did this person then lay you off? Don't they owe you a bit more than a boilerplate two-paragraph letter, really?

I used to be shy about gently nudging people to join LinkedIn, but of course I'm not shy about that now. When folks start to grasp the ways that LinkedIn can help them:
  • it's a free billboard for their brand, and very often the most prominent branding they'll have anywhere (especially if they're buried deep in the org chart of some company, unknown and undiscoverable)
  • it's a safe, Baby-Boomer-friendly introduction to social networking, and who doesn't need to know more about that?
  • it's an incredible way to meet people, be exposed to new ideas, pick up on and understand trends in an industry, and collaborate with strangers-until-one-minute-ago, in the process finding your voice
  • plus, it's a powerful research tool.
  • The world is changing. My 85-year-old dad is on LinkedIn. We don't want to use a 'help me please' frame like "Oh please, join LinkedIn so you can endorse me" but we can say "Not on LinkedIn? Oh my gosh Stan, here's the universe showing me what I can do to partially repay your incredible kindness to me. I'm going to give you your LinkedIn profile, this weekend. All I need is your chrono resume. Next week or whenever you have time, we'll sit down together and I'll give you a LinkedIn tutorial." Be silent. Beam. It's an offer of help, free consulting and free branding counsel. Who could turn you down?

    One last note. If you're going to excerpt a physical recommendation letter in your LinkedIn Summary, and if you're going to do that without using the recommender's name (as I suggested above) go ahead and scan the physical letter and append that to your LinkedIn profile using the Box.Net application (free). Then, in your Summary, add a note after the recommendation excerpt that says "You can see the full text of the letter with its author's identity in the Documents file at the bottom of my profile."

    Enjoy your Sunday!



    Liz Ryan

    Anyone who writes you a letter of recommendation is signing up to be one of your references. To test that, as you are handed the letter, ask "Oh, Stan! How kind of you. I'm so grateful. You've said here in the letter 'Please feel free contact me directly for more information.' Shall I include you on my list of references, therefore?"

    Stan is nearly certain to say "Yes!" If he doesn't, stand there and look at him in a pleasant/puzzled/expectant way while he tries to figure out how writing "Please feel free to contact me" somehow doesn't oblige him to be one of your listed references. Let him squirm for a moment until he says "Yes, of course I'll be one of your references." That's when you make your LinkedIn pitch, to save him from getting all those calls.