1. Giving recommendations - If you're asked to give a recommendation by someone you barely know, let them know how limited your comments would be and that it would be worse than having no recommendation at all. Giving a recommendation in response to a request from a respected business contact about whom you could say many good things requires input from them on the areas that they want to focus on. You want to reinforce their profile. They may be looking for a job that you can support with specific, relevant knowledge. Consider two things - Are you telling potential employers truthful information that has meaning for them and are you keeping it to supportable facts that prevent damage to your own reputation.
2. Asking for recommendations - The recruiters who look for viable candidates on LinkedIn will pay more attention to a profile with meaningful recommendations. While many companies insist on references for the candidates they interview, they are likely to prevent their own employees from giving references. It seems like a Catch 22. You need them but you'd better not be caught giving them. Building your network and finding people who know the quality of your work and your character gives you an opportunity to have people speak for you, especially if they are not at the same company you were at together. Don't be shy about asking for recommendations from people who can speak for you and do let them know what you want them to emphasize.
3. Recommendations that resonate - For comments to have value, they need to be sincere, specific, and focused. Be honest and tell a story that illustrates the strength of the person's character. Consider one excellent manager's guideline - all you need to know when hiring someone is can they do the job and can you stand them while they do it. When you write or ask for a recommendation, try to include both of those elements. Tell people who read your contact's profile something about how they work and how they relate to team members. For people whose work you know and respect, an unsolicited recommendation is a service they are not expecting. It can strengthen your business relationship.
Conclusion: Your online reputation will depend, to a degree, on relevant, clear, concise communication in your recommendations - those you get from others and those you give to others. LinkedIn can enhance career development for you and for those you respect. Mutual recommendations shouldn't be a problem if they're honest and meaningful.
Joy Montgomery converts business requirements to system specifications, presentations, and documents in a way that strengthens teams - a friendly way. Joy is a communication coach. She puts you in a position to succeed in business and in your career. For her clients, Joy shows how social networking works for you and your network.