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References: How to improve your reputation on LinkedIn and Xing

Melanie Pölking 22.05.2013
Persönliche Referenzen helfen dir bei der Jobsuche.
Lass in Sachen Jobsuche ruhig mal andere für dich sprechen.
Do you care what other people say about you? When it comes to looking for a job, you should sometimes let others speak for you. 

Recruiters are increasingly using social media to look for staff. So, it would be great if they found more than just impersonal data on past stations in your career, and instead found assessments of your past performance. Xing and LinkedIn have introduced “References” to make this possible. 

In principle, these references are similar to what used to be letters of recommendation. In your online profile, they serve approximately the same function as credentials in your job application documentation. However, in contrast to credentials, references are an added bonus  rather than a “must.” Because they are given voluntarily, they also express a certain degree of appreciation.

Assessments such as these are of course also highly credible since the reference giver essentially guarantees the veracity of the information by adding his or her name to the reference. It is for this very reason that employers in Germany are increasingly asking for references instead of credentials – in other countries such as Switzerland or the USA, this has long been the norm.

How to get references

You can find the option to enhance your profile on Xing in the lower half of your profile – although this is only available if you are a Premium Member. In the section “References and awards,” click on the link “Request and administer references.” For every career point, you will see a button that you can use to start a reference request.

For LinkedIn, the link to “Recommendations” is under the tab “Profile.” Here you can ask individuals from your contact list to provide a reference for you, as is the case for Xing. This function is possible under LinkedIn without the cost of Premium Membership. Although this is a great advantage, the reach of LinkedIn in Germany is currently still more limited than that of Xing. 

You now need to select the person from your network who you’d like to provide you with a reference and send them a message with your request. Since you’re asking a favor, you should try to use your own words and not just rely on the default text on the platforms. 

Mit persönlichen Referenzen in Social Media punkten
Mach mit persönlichen Referenzen auf dich aufmerksam!

Who is suitable as a reference giver?

References express personal appreciation. The reference giver acknowledges your work performance and your social skills by means of a personal statement. This reference is not linked to formal specifications, as is the case with an employment reference letter. As a result, there are no hidden codes.

Think carefully in advance whom you would like to ask for a reference. The person’s opinion should actually be of value. This primarily applies to former employers, managers or personnel officers. You could also ask friends – but therein lies the problem: Recommendations done as a favor are not worth anything, because your employer can also see whether the reference provider is a manager or a peer.

So, entry-level employees have a disadvantage here, as they simply haven’t yet had the opportunity to convince many employers with their performance’.

The good news is you can still score points with references by:

  • Asking your college professor to provide a reference for you as an assistant or for your special achievements in a      project workshop.
  • Asking the personnel officers or heads of department from the companies where you did an internship for a reference. If they are not yet part of your list of contacts, you should add them to your network as soon as possible.
  • Ask the manager at your student job if he or she can confirm your achievements. However, the job should be at least somewhat related to the activity that you will be performing in the future, so that the reference doesn’t backfire on you. The manager at the copy-shop or the bar owner might not be particularly suitable. 

And always bear in mind: Quality is better than quantity. It’s better to have a small number of good references that are really positive, rather than a whole lot of average ones. 

How should a reference be structured? 

To ensure that the assessment has meaning, it should –  like an employment reference letter – contain statements about:

  • The activities that you performed in the position
  • The duration of your employment and its significance for the project
  • What you did or the successes you achieved
  • Your specialist knowledge and soft skills
  • Your suitability for certain positions and activities 

You should remember that recruiters then make direct contact with the reference giver via Xing or LinkedIn. Lying, pimping and maneuvering are really not worth it and will lead to your immediate exclusion.

Melanie Pölking with Career Guide