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Are LinkedIn Recommendations Replacing Reference Letters?

If you scroll to the bottom of LinkedIn profile pages, you’ll notice a section dedicated to Recommendations. This is a dedicated space for you to collect your online kudos from colleagues, peers, managers and supervisors who can substantiate many of your strengths, skills and abilities.

The conventional reference letter still has a solid place in the job search process and employers will likely ask you for it. As a best practice, have a list of references handy and assume you will be asked to provide them as you advance through the job search process. That said, employers typically call references during the later stages of interviewing rounds once they’ve already narrowed down their choices to the final few. So while digital recommendations are not replacing reference letters at this time, it is a good idea to have a Recommendations section on your profile.

Start with three recommendations and try to update annually or regularly. If you are at a leadership-level, try to have a mix of recommendations from individuals that have worked for you and above you for a more well-rounded representation. Here are a few more benefits of having a Recommendations section on your profile:

  • It’s a great way for employers to learn more about you during the early exploratory process, rather than the later stages when they are calling your references.

  • As consumers, we rely on user-generated online reviews and other individuals’ experiences with products, services and people as part of our decision-making process. During this phase, you’re doing everything you can to persuade employers you are the best choice, so it’s important to use as many platforms as possible to verify your skills.

  • It further supports your digital brand.

  • Combined, our resumes and digital professional profiles focus heavily on technical skills and capabilities. When you are highly regarded by colleagues and peers, many will also write about you from a more approachable perspective, including personality traits that made you great to work with. That helps emphasize why you’d also fit well with the team or company culture.


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