“What did people do before Google and LinkedIn? This is like cheating.” – Conversation with a friend earlier today
I happened back to LinkedIn today for the first time in a couple months to 40+ recommendation requests.
Requests for LinkedIn recommendations are a pretty frequent occurrence. I do explain to people who ask me for them why I won’t be recommending them, but that ends up not happening more often than it does.
I genuinely do like most of the people that I’ve worked with in the past, and would work with many of them again. Whether it’s with me or not, the vast majority have a realistic position out there they’d be a perfect fit for. Nothing would make me happier than to see them find their perfect job.
To those with whom I haven’t had this conversation: In my mind, I’m actually doing you a favor. I wrote a few recommendations in the past, and I did mean every word that I typed. Then I realized how I was making use of the site after mapping hires (of both mine and others) to their recommendations - LinkedIn turned into a filter of which pieces of information to discard instead of what to take seriously, especially after seeing how many recommendations were mutual.
Skill at the social game that is LinkedIn does not map to utility in the workplace.
This is doubly so when there’s a mutual recommendation in place. A LinkedIn recommendation swap doesn’t have any value - It’s two people agreeing to say nice things about each other, true or not, to increase an artifical count. Whether intended or not, that’s what the system has turned into.
Make no mistake - LinkedIn is an online, social game. The domain just happens to be people and their careers instead of avatars with swords, sorcery, or spaceships.
As a hiring manager/team builder I have a simple rule about LinkedIn recommendations: If you give me a reference who is also recommending you there, I’m not going to call them. I’m going to look for someone else who might say something that I can’t already read in public. Someone you’ve worked for or someone who’s worked for you, or ideally both. The fact that the games industry is as connected as it is tends to make this a fairly trivial exercise. This is the backchannel reference.
If I’m the one doing the evaluating (assuming you’re not still employed, since I would never knowingly break someone’s “cover” - confidence remains crucially important), I know that those are infinitely more useful in making sure that we’re a good match than what someone is willing to scream from the hilltops about you.
That’s the real goal here - Ensuring that any relationship that occurs from here forward is genuinely mutually beneficial. If we aren’t going to be, in skill set or personality, it’s best if we both know that ahead of time so no one ends up with a disappointing career step as a result.
If you’re applying with me, I might just know someone else who has something you’d be perfect for — I’m always happy to make connections for people that way as well.
I have to assume that other hiring managers are as smart as me, or moreso.
Given that, by not putting up a public recommendation I’m increasing the chances that a smart potential hiring manager (the kind you probably want to work for in the first place) will get in touch with me to hear about you. Further, I can think of at least half a dozen nice things to say about any given person that I’ve worked with.
So far, this has proven out. It’s resulted in a number of highly positive, long-term placements with people who are thrilled in their new positions.
It seems like the smart way to play it.
If we worked together in the past, you’re trying to get a job somewhere, and want me to say the nicest things that I can - Let’s talk. Let me know. We can talk positives and negatives, and use me as a reference.
Or let me know where you’re aiming to go. As quite a few people can attest to, I’m happy to make phone calls and say genuinely nice things ahead of time for people who’ve done well in the past.
In terms of not recommending you — If I like you, I still believe I’m doing you a favor by abstaining from the game. Please don’t take it as an insult.
Instead, let’s talk.