LinkedIn Endorsements: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

By Tony Restell

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Updated 5 October

LinkedIn has starting rolling out LinkedIn Endorsements. If you've yet to see this feature in action, our impression is that it's a great idea that's been poorly executed - but that has the potential to impact your professional life and / or job search quite extensively. Read this article and you will learn:

- Why LinkedIn has introduced the LinkedIn Endorsements feature

- The steps you can take to ensure LinkedIn Endorsements raise your professional standing

- Why LinkedIn may undermine its professional standing with this initiative

LinkedIn Endorsements

Why LinkedIn has introduced the LinkedIn Endorsements feature

The LinkedIn Endorsements feature has initially been launched to English-language users in the United States, India, New Zealand and Australia - with the intention it'll be rolled out more widely in the coming weeks. If you haven't seen it yet, it's a cross between a Facebook Like and a Klout +K... giving users the ability to click a button and endorse that other LinkedIn members do have the skills and expertise that they claim to have.

Of course it's a matter of conjecture why LinkedIn has launched this new feature, but we would make two observations. Firstly, to drive advertising revenues LinkedIn needs to increase the frequency with which members visit the site and the engagement levels between members. The video, slide deck and articles below all show that this is likely to be achieved given the way the feature has been implemented.

The second reason we'd hypothesise, is a function of LinkedIn's reliance on recruitment services as its key revenue stream. The more data LinkedIn can collect about users - and the more it can validate the claims professionals make about their professional credentials - the more targeted they can make their recruitment advertising services and the higher the yields they will secure for these services. If member scoring allows recruiters to identify the most highly regarded experts in a particular field, the value of LinkedIn to a recruiter goes up.

LinkedIn Endorsements - A Video Overview

The following short video will help you understand how LinkedIn Endorsements work - and how they've been implemented on the site.

Source: Lynn Brown

The steps you can take to ensure LinkedIn Endorsements raise your professional standing

The LinkedIn Endorsements feature has the potential to become an important differentiator for professionals seeking a career move. It could also sway business people when it comes to deciding which service providers to engage for a new contract. Take two individuals who claim to be social media experts. One has endorsements cascading across their profile page; the other's skills claims are devoid of endorsements. Which one would you hire? Which one would you award a contract to?

The following article describes in depth the steps you can take to ensure you attract endorsements on your profile and don't get left behind by the launch of this new initiative:

5 Ways to Get More LinkedIn Endorsements

The suggestions in the above article are spot on. However, the more observant amongst you will have noticed that LinkedIn users are prompted to endorse people when they first hit their profile page by way of an intrusive prompt. This may or may not remain on the site longer term - our suspicion is it will not (it's just too detrimental to the user experience).

So our view is that the biggest winners from this initiative will be those people who are able to drive the most visits to their profile page in the time window that this prompt remains live. Now ask yourself what are some things you could do to ensure you get good volumes of visits to your profile page during this window of opportunity?

- Work your way through your network and endorse members of your network wherever it's appropriate to do so. Each person you endorse will receive an email + LinkedIn notification that you've done so, prompting them to visit your profile and potentially return the favour.

- Suggest skills your network members ought to be being endorsed for that aren't currently on their profile, again increasing the goodwill you're generating within your network.

- Be more active in your LinkedIn groups, particularly in helping to answer people's pressing questions and in addressing the problems they are facing. This will drive visits to your profile page - from people who are naturally inclined to show their gratitude to you.

- Update your profile, as your network are alerted to the changes you have made and so are prompted to visit your profile page.

- Invest time in optimising your LinkedIn profile so that you appear more regularly in search results - and are more frequently clicked upon when you appear in those search results.

- Use status updates to share relevant content with your network, again putting you on their radar.

- Invite contacts into your LinkedIn network by allowing LinkedIn to search your email address contacts list.


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Why LinkedIn may undermine its professional standing with this Endorsements initiative

The real danger for LinkedIn is that the end result actually undermines LinkedIn's standing as the definitive source of quality hires. The very fact there are ways you can seek to gain a disproportionate number of endorsements suggests the final endorsement rankings will be nothing like a real validation of people's relative skills. Rather it'll be those people who achieve the highest profile views during this launch phase - and who are most proactive in seeking endorsements - who stand to have the highest scores.

The LinkedIn spammer accounts could also have a field day here cross-populating each others' profiles with endorsements and potentially featuring more highly in future search results (should LinkedIn ever go down that route, heaven forbid)

Worse still, the following excellent article details how the implementation of this new feature is actually encouraging people to give endorsements without pausing to consider who merits them - and luring people to spread their endorsements too widely. All of which sounds pretty ugly if LinkedIn wanted to actually add robust qualitative data to the candidate profile information they already sell to recruiters.

3 reasons LinkedIn Endorsements misses the mark, and what you can do about it

Update: I have two further experiences of LinkedIn Endorsements that provide cause for concern, now that the feature has been up and running for some days. The first concern relates to who I am being prompted to endorse. This has the potential to massively influence who ends up with the most endorsements.

Given the number of candidates and recruiters I come into contact with, I have amassed approaching 10,000 first degree contacts on LinkedIn. Yet LinkedIn has been cycling through endorsement suggestions and is continually proposing to me only 30-40 of my LinkedIn contacts. Each time I am provided with suggestions from the same small pool. Asides from my wife (!), there seems to be no rationale for why this small group of people were being proposed - totally at the expense of all my other connections.

There are people I'm in very regular contact with through LinkedIn Groups. There are people I've recommended or had recommendations from over the years. There are loads of past colleagues LinkedIn could suggest I endorse, or people I attended university with. All would seem like people I'd be well qualified to endorse. So I'm mystified both by who is being proposed - and by the fact that LinkedIn is cycling through the same small set of people.

The other concern - which has to impact on quality - is that I'm seeing LinkedIn auto-generate skills for profiles where the LinkedIn user has added none themselves.

I can only assume this is aimed at increasing take-up of the endorsements initiative and maximising the activity spike that is generated by the roll-out of the service. This would be less of a concern if other users then genuinely policed which skills are and are not endorsed. But as described in the article above, the implementation encourages people to endorse multiple skills at once - and so many auto-generated skills are likely to end up being endorsed when the LinkedIn user themself might have wanted to put forward an entirely different skillset for endorsement. 

Concluding Remarks

For the jobseeking candidates and the professionals amongst us, the main divide that we can see developing here will be to separate those who can attract endorsements for their claimed skills - and those who cannot. At the basic level, this function may therefore provide a useful differentiator between candidates and service providers. In the process, it's likely to drive up engagement and activity levels on the site - and so probably will fulfil one of the two objectives we've surmised LinkedIn have set out to achieve with this initiative.

What it is highly unlikely to do - and what is ugliest about the way this has been implemented - is to provide a truly meaningful scoring of candidates and service providers upon which credible targeting decisions could be made. In this respect, we expect it to fall well short of Klout as a means of assessing reputations.


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Related Resources:

Introducing LinkedIn Endorsements from LinkedIn


LinkedIn rolls out skill endorsements, and it's as easy as one-click


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