LinkedIn Endorsements vs. Recommendations

As I might have said before, although I’m generally a supporter of LinkedIn as a strong online resource, I’m not wild about their addition of endorsements, which I suspect was done to benefit them more than their members. On the other hand, I do like their recommendations feature, which allows you to share complimentary remarks about your professional value and achievements without sounding conceited. In a way, comparing the two features is like comparing apples to oranges. Unfortunately, there’s more at stake here than that.

A couple of days ago, I read an editorial in the Netshare member newsletter (by Netshare CEO Katherine Simmons) that reinforced my own thoughts about LinkedIn’s changes over the past several years–and, in particular, the past several months. Simmons makes a few comments I agree with 100%, including one about the endorsements:

“Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all of my connections who took the time to endorse me. But frankly, I’ve been getting a lot of endorsements from people I don’t know for things I don’t do! For my part, I know I’ve hit that endorse button a few times when I really didn’t have the slightest idea whether that person knew anything about Change Management. It has become sort of a game – the career version of Facebook’s ‘Like’ button.”

What Can Endorsements Do or Not Do?

I’m not an expert on all the ins and outs, but my understanding is that one thing endorsements do is make it easier for employers to search LinkedIn for people who have particular skills they’re looking for. That doesn’t sound negative on the face of it, but think a moment or two. You might throw in all the relevant terms you can think of to take advantage of the 50 skills-and-expertise items you’re allowed to use; but is that really what you most want employers to know about you?

Endorsements might peg selected things about you, but what they can’t do is give potential employers a really strong sense of the value you can bring to them, by offering a solid, third-party indication of that value. For one thing, as Simmons points out, it’s all too easy to click a skill for people without giving any serious thought to whether they actually have that skill and have used it successfully in their professional life.

I’ve had a similar experience to hers with regard to people I know little or not at all, which makes me wonder what they were thinking when they endorsed me! I try never to endorse anyone for something I’m not sure they do, and I certainly don’t want to endorse someone I don’t know well.

LinkedIn Recommendations Do What Endorsements Can’t

It used to be that you needed at least 3 recommendations in your profile to reach 100%. I’m not sure when that requirement was dropped, but it’s no longer in force. However, I continue to encourage clients to seek recommendations from people who are qualified to rate their performance–former bosses, colleagues/peers, customers, etc.

There are at least 3 reasons for this:

  • You don’t feel as if you’re bragging about yourself if someone else describes your contributions in strongly favorable terms. Correspondingly, people reading your profile don’t get the impression that you’re full of self-importance.
  • Sometimes companies frown on employees’ providing letters of recommendation for a former employee. However, a brief comment in a LinkedIn recommendation might be viewed somewhat differently and be acceptable, especially since it has become so much a fact of life on LinkedIn.
  • Recommendations remain in your profile 24x7x365, without your having to do anything to keep them there. Unless you choose to hide a recommendation for some reason, it stays visible and working for you all the time.

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