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Do you think LinkedIn’s Endorsement feature is less credible
than real recommendations?

LinkedIn is one of the greatest networking tools in history. By and large, its networking, research, sharing, employment opportunities, security, thought leadership and other features have changed the way the world does business. But how many times have you endorsed someone on LinkedIn for skills you really weren’t familiar with? It’s ok. Most of us have done it (though we might not admit it). But what does that say about the value of the endorsement feature of LinkedIn?

It seems that when you accept an endorsement from anyone, the next time you login you’re greeted (or assaulted, depending on your perspective) by a large endorsement panel featuring profile blocks with the smiling faces of people you know. I’m sure you’ve been through this: You see one of your close business buds in the first group of endorsement blocks and you want to support him or her, so you click the Endorse button. But it doesn’t stop there. The endorsement panel continuously reloads, going through your entire contact network soliciting every possible endorsement for each contact until you just give up and run.

Does it look legit?

How does it look to legitimate employers or prospective business partners and clients when they see one person endorse you for every skill set listed? It can look like a love fest or reciprocal pay-off, but probably not an earned endorsement for highly developed skills, right? I don’t know about you, but I’ve rarely–if ever—tapped all of the skills of any single contact. So how could I legitimately endorse them all? The endorsement generator asks, “Does (fill in the name) know about (fill in the skill)? Even if the answer is yes, there’s a big difference between awareness and expertise.

In my opinion, the most credible endorsement blocks show a bell curve with the most endorsements in core skill areas and fewer in peripheral skills. Theoretically, the graphical layout of the endorsement section could be used as a credibility gauge for each of one’s skill sets. In reality, however, LinkedIn endorsements have turned into a popularity contest, spiraling out of control, diverting the original intent and undermining its own credibility. LinkedIn is classified as social media, but unlike Facebook “likes,” LinkedIn endorsements can build an erroneous profile of an individual that is less likely to be scrutinized in an open forum. Imagine if people were able to comment on the validity of the endorsements!

Credibility isn’t the only thing potentially undermined. Security can be at risk as well. Recently I experienced an incident where a virus caused a former client’s LinkedIn account to endorse my skills every day for two weeks! Creepy.

Remember real recommendations?

Remember the pre-endorsement days of LinkedIn, when there were real recommendations? People had to actually write an original statement of tribute and confidence.  It may have been difficult to get people to devote the time and energy to provide recommendations, but that’s what gave them real value. Today’s endorsements are just too easy to click off, cheapening the currency of real, thoughtful recommendations. Why?

  • They have no QA process
  • They’re too easy to create and distribute
  • They’re not discerning
  • They are “suggested” by LinkedIn rather than “originated” by the contact

Maren Hogan on Recruiter.com wrote a good article on how to use endorsements to your best advantage (http://www.recruiter.com/i/6-ways-to-make-linkedin-endorsements-worthwhile/). She suggests the following ways to create value with LinkedIn endorsements.

  • Add strengths to your profile
  • Skip endorsements that don’t speak to your best strengths
  • Accept the LinkedIn endorsements only from people you know
  • Endorse selectively
  • Start using and providing ‘old fashioned’ recommendations

Do you feel LinkedIn’s endorsement tool is credible? Could it actually harm your reputation? Share your comments by clicking the link at the head of this post.

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