Do LinkedIn’s Endorsements Have Measurable Value?

Two recent op-ed pieces featured by Mashable presented opposing opinions on the value of LinkedIn’s relatively new endorsement feature. One article, written by Todd Wasserman, called it “meaningless,” while David Berkowitz’s rebuttal article argued that it is “…one of the best uses of game mechanics online…” So which is true?

Our agency strongly embraces the potential of LinkedIn as a recruiting tool. We spend considerable resources educating our clients on the prospective business development powers stemming from a strategic use of their LinkedIn accounts and the importance of properly maintaining, updating and enhancing them.

We love, and highly tout, the recommendation feature. What better way to show your abilities than to have a client, coworker, supervisor or other valued connection speak out on your behalf? This gives credibility to the self-written praise that makes up the majority of our LinkedIn profiles.

Why then, do endorsements not get the same kudos? Do they threaten the likelihood of the highly successful LinkedIn recommendations? Are they too similar to the once popular and coveted but now slightly less impressive, Facebook like function? Did it take our professional networking platform to an uncomfortable “social” level of activity? Or is it LinkedIn’s transparent attempt to increase user interaction that turns our stomachs?

These fears are not unfounded. Mashable published an article titled “LinkedIn Makes it Easier to Recommend Your Friends and Colleagues for Skills” immediately following the introduction of the new feature and basically explained the feature in exactly those terms.

Some argue against the arbitrary nature of the endorsements after receiving them from folks they barely know, on skills they have minimal experience performing. LinkedIn presents them to us when we log into our account – at the top of the page, four at a time. Users have the ability to endorse all of them with one click and move on to the next. That may be the reason for the arbitrary endorsement trend we are seeing. You don’t have to seek out a connection’s profile to do it. The action takes on more of a spur-of-the-moment exercise with very little thought invested.

But the second part of that complaint isn’t all LinkedIn’s fault. If you are being endorsed by someone you barely know, should they be in your connection sphere? That is up for debate considering how you manage your LinkedIn account and how selective you are with your connection process. If they are knowledgeable enough for you to connect with them, perhaps they should be knowledgeable enough to endorse your skills.

We all are guilty of listing skills that we are only minimally experienced in and would not identify ourselves as experts in that particular area. Does this mean that we should be more selective when adding skills to our profile? Maybe, considering that once someone endorses your skill, you do not have the option to remove that endorsement without deleting the skill altogether.

According to LinkedIn you are able to hide an unwanted endorsement. “Go to the pull-down menu at the top of the screen and under “profile,” click “edit profile.” When you scroll to the “skills and expertise” section, you will see a pencil icon. Click that and you will see an option to “manage endorsements.” If you have an endorsement from, say, a family friend who has never worked with you, hide it.” (Forbes)

Another concern shared amongst our team was the lack the details and context of the work being endorsed. Recommendations include the roles performed by the recommender and the recommended and allow for a more thorough explanation of the relationship.

When LinkedIn introduced the feature in September the debate began in our office, amongst our clients and peer groups, and in many trade publications other than Mashable. Initially the opinions in our office were overwhelmingly underwhelming regarding the validity, credibility and value of unsolicited endorsements. After a few months of thoughtful observation, some of our initial speculation still hangs around, but we’ve begun to see the silver lining of this feature.

Macworld suggests having these endorsements increases the search-ability of your profile and therefore could help distinguish your unique skill set for recruiters at a glance. This is the theory supported by LinkedIn based on their statements to Forbes last month.

Endorsements also encourage participants to complete their profiles. The ability to add specific skills to your profile was introduced almost two years ago, but not everyone embraced it. This next level of engagement opportunity has created a heightened awareness of this feature. If you have no skills listed, you have nothing for folks to endorse. As this feature gains popularity a lack of endorsed skills will stand out to employers and may decrease your chances of being contacted.

There’s no doubt endorsements are not as detailed and credible as recommendations on LinkedIn, but perhaps they have their place when given with thoughtful consideration. According to LinkedIn, 550 million endorsements were given out between the launch of the feature on September 24 to December 18. Clearly they are not going away anytime soon. We certainly hope they do not negatively impact the frequency of recommendations because they truly do not carry the same weight. It is similar to the difference between writing a thorough customer service or product review on Facebook, as opposed to simply liking the company’s status.

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