Unlike traditional letter or phone recommendations, LinkedIn recommendations are public. That means anyone who goes on your profile can see what you wrote about your boss, coworker, employee, or client.
What's more, the person you're giving the recommendation to is relying on you to give a powerful statement on their qualifications — one that may or may not help them land their dream job.
And if you nail it, the recommendation you write could even end up helping you in the long run. "If you write a great recommendation, great recommendations are gonna come back to you," LinkedIn consultant Loribeth Pierson told Business Insider.
No pressure, though.
Luckily, career experts shared with us tips and samples for writing a stellar recommendation on LinkedIn.
"Recommendations should be authentic and truthful," Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster, told Business Insider. "Your name is on it. You don't want to endorse people who could be a poor performer."
If you're comfortable taking a direct approach, you could respond to a request with the following:
"Hello, X. I hope all is well. As you know, there were performance issues while you were an employee here. I don't think I'm the best person to be your advocate. Thank you for reaching out, and best of luck during your job search."
Or, to simply side-step the request without mentioning rough patches from the past:
"I'm sorry, but I don't have the time right now. I think you should ask someone who can put the attention to this that it deserves."
Your former employee, coworker, or boss probably has an idea for what they want to see in the recommendation.
If you didn't speak to them directly, you should send them a note like this to make sure your testimonial fits their needs:
"Hi, X. I would be happy to write you a LinkedIn recommendation. Is there anything in particular you want me to include? I want to make sure I'm writing the best recommendation for your LinkedIn profile."
Defining how you two worked together gives the context that the reader will need to understand the rest of your recommendation.
Begin by explaining how you know the person:
"Anna was my boss for three years at Software Corp., where her leadership, communication, and creative ideas always motivated our team."
"I was lucky to be one of Jordan's clients when he was a salesperson at Cute Pants, Inc."
"A great recommendation tells a story," wrote Liz Ryan, founder of consultancy Human Workplace, in Forbes.
Rather than simply say they were a smart employee, explain a smart decision they made for your company.
Keep in mind that you may need to keep it a little vague, since LinkedIn recommendations are public, and your employer may not be thrilled about your revealing company secrets and figures.
Give examples like:
"Under Anna, we had record-high sales numbers. She created specific divisions within our team that allowed us to become experts within certain industries and build excellent networks there."
"Jordan listened to my concerns and business needs, and tailored a comprehensive, economic package for my company."
It's possible that whoever is reading your colleague's LinkedIn has never met him or her, so give them a sense of what they're like beyond the résumé bullet points.
Hiring managers want to see your technical skillset, Salemi said, but "it's more difficult to teach someone these soft skills, which are integral to what makes up your character."
Highlight their soft skills with something like:
"Anna also helped make the office cheerful. Every other Monday, she brought in donuts for the whole department, and it helped us all get to know each other a bit better."
"He checked in with me regularly and made me feel like his only client, though I knew he had dozens."
"It doesn't need to be a book," Salemi said. "If it's too long, it's going to get lost."
End on a high note: "Overall, Anna was one of the best bosses I've ever had, and I know she would be an excellent addition to any company."
"Jordan was an excellent supplier. I highly recommend his services."