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Professional Networking: The Unexpected Value of LinkedIn Endorsements
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Professional Networking: The Unexpected Value of LinkedIn Endorsements - Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: The Unexpected Value of LinkedIn Endorsements

Executive Leadership Articles

Professional Networking: The Unexpected Value of LinkedIn Endorsements

When LinkedIn rolled out its endorsements feature five years ago, it became instant fodder for social media mockery. People sent screenshots of received endorsements for such skills as “hot dogs,” “underwear,” and “punching.” Less outrageous but a use perhaps unintended by developers continues all these years later: endorsements for skills never actually practiced by the recipient, sometimes by people who don’t even know the people they’re endorsing. The weird result is that the lower section of a LinkedIn profile, where endorsements are listed, tag-like, seems pretty useless.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. The crowd-sourced skills tags made it easy—perhaps too easy—for users to quickly endorse members of their networks with a wide range of talents. At best, it provided a nice list of the many abilities we have, some of which can’t gracefully be articulated in our online résumés. At worst, it was a bloated misrepresentation of our true profiles. Most times, it was somewhere in between: useless but harmless. The hope was also that companies paying for the website’s recruiter packages (at $60 to $80 per month) could execute better searches with these tags.

A website providing users with real-world tech interview advice and practice ran some numbers comparing skills listed on interviewees’ LinkedIn profiles with the skills they actually displayed in their interviews, and found pretty reliably that there was no connection between the two, that the most skilled candidates (as rated by interviewers in the sector) were often endorsed the fewest times on LinkedIn. Even a look at any endorsements at all, compared to demonstrated skills, proved the tags completely meaningless.

Another probably unintended misuse of the endorsements feature, endorsement-begging, continues today, although not nearly as much as shortly after the roll-out. “Please endorse me for…” messages infiltrated our (usually ignored) LinkedIn mailboxes, sometimes flavored with hints of guilt-trips (“I just endorsed you; please endorse me back”), threats (“I’ll take back my endorsements if you don’t endorse me…”) and the bizarre (“I know you don’t know me and we’ve never worked together, but let’s trade endorsements…”). There’s been a strange shame attached to our use of LinkedIn anyway, since the early days when the website contacted people in our address books without our knowledge or say-so, but with the weird first wave of endorsement gaming, that shame was amplified to the point of almost no going back.

Then, in the fall of 2016, LinkedIn did something weird: it added an algorithm to its endorsements function that made it ever-so-slightly less useless. If it’s been a while since you looked at your list of endorsements, you’re not alone and definitely not to be blamed, but take a look at it now. In addition to the endorsement tags, you’ll see notes like “...endorsed by six colleagues at ____ company.”

All the other somewhat abhorrent and icky side-effects linger, but this new elaboration of endorsements makes things interesting. It’s unclear whether they actually help recruiters find good talent, or make potential candidates more appealing in a meaningful way, but that teensy bit of extra credibility has at least one positive effect: they can really make people feel good.

We can’t think of a better reason for the existence of any feature on the professional networking site. If we can easily, credibly add a few ticks to someone else’s list of skills, maybe it won’t have any real-world effect on our connections, but if the gesture serves as an expression of appreciation for the people in our circles, why not take advantage of it? We often go far too long between specific, sincere words of gratitude for the people we’ve worked with, and to be praised by our peers for work they’ve actually seen us do can be a real boost. This may not be what LinkedIn had in mind, but for nurturing and strengthening connections in our network, we’re all aboard.


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Professional Networking: The Unexpected Value of LinkedIn Endorsements - Executive Leadership Articles

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