LinkedIn Tip: Skills & Expertise Endorsements

Been on LinkedIn today?  Notice anything different?

In the latest of what seems to be an endless string of tweaks being made to the LinkedIn site, the latest functionality involves the ability to “endorse” the skills, qualifications, and expertise of the people with whom you’re connected.  To literally vote with your fingers and say: “Yes, I am willing to personally attest that Mergatroyd has strong technical writing skills!”

You can read about this new change on Linked’s corporate blog here if you’d like — which includes a short PowerPoint show describing the new functionality, as well.

Now granted, I’m a fairly change-resistant individual.  I admit it.  But even knowing this about myself, and factoring it into my analysis, I’m still struggling to understand why LinkedIn felt compelled to make this sudden adjustment to the site.  It not only adds a big, ugly, and awkward section to the profile as a whole — with these imposing blue button-like graphics they’ve now added —  but I guess I also don’t get the business reasons behind adding this new functionality.  What’s the harm in continuing to take people at face value in terms of letting people outline their strengths and tell the world what they’re good at?  Why is there the sudden need to add this “stamp of legitimacy” to each and every individual skill, given that we’ve already got a “Recommendations” feature in place that allows people to vouch for the people around them?

At any rate, perhaps the mysterious value proposition of this new feature will emerge, in time.  And if you see some useful or helpful angle I’m missing with regard to this new feature, please let me know.  For now, however, I think we’re all going to have to brace ourselves to get “bugged” constantly about endorsing the qualifications of our acquaintances.  And for those who DON’T take the time to do this, or solicit such endorsements, the day might come when a person’s profile, without such endorsements, will no long seem to hold much legitimacy.

That’s the part I really don’t like.  Until now, I’ve been assuring many potential users that LinkedIn doesn’t take much care, feeding, or babysitting once you get the hang of it and get your basic profile in place.  Now, there seems to be the expectation that we will all play a much more active role promoting the credentials of our professional contacts on the site.  Just being connected to an individual on the site, and submitting a nice Recommendation statement on their behalf, may not be perceived as being a strong enough “endorsement” of their capabilities.

C’est la vie, though.  The change has been made and I suspect it’s here to stay.  So I’m going to be monitoring it closely, making some occasional endorsements, myself, when the mood strikes, and we’ll see if this major adjustment changes my tune about how people should optimally configure their profiles on the system.  As always, I’ll keep you posted on my recommendations!



10 Responses to “LinkedIn Tip: Skills & Expertise Endorsements”

  1. I haven’t had a chance to read all the posts, so not sure if this has already been mentioned, but I think the new endorsements feature is dumb and pointless, since most of the people who have endorsed me so far don’t really know anything about the particular skill they’ve endorsed me for. A few are from people I barely know at all. The only reason these people have endorsed me is because my name and pic randomly came up in a grid and they decided to go “click-click-click!” Wheee! Gamification indeed. But by gamifying, they’ve also rendered endorsements meaningless, and brought LinkedIn’s credibility down a notch.

  2. Phillip: Thanks for the comments and glad you enjoyed my post — and wrote up your own piece with some counterpoints to it! The new feature is definitely one that will polarize the LinkedIn membership, both ways, and time will tell whether it was a great move or a dumb move on the company’s part. I guess my one main argument against the “legitimation of skill claims” angle is that if most people STILL haven’t really gotten the hang of basic Recommendations on the system, or taken the time to write them for people, it seems unlikely they’ll now get involved in something requiring 10x more time and effort. For example, I’m connected to over 2,000 people on the system (virtually all of whom are people I know personally) and there’s just no way I’m going to go in and selectively “endorse” them, granular skill by granular skill. So I think there are going to end up being some terrific people on the site that just don’t get carried away with this feature, along with some mediocre folks, potentially, who go to town on it. Without widespread adoption, it just doesn’t seem that the feature will deliver effectively on its promise. Again, though, I guess time will tell and we’ll just have to wait and see! Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts…

  3. Hi Matt, you make a great point about this change potentially shifting LinkedIn away from a “set it and forget it” service to one which requires more constant tinkering and care. It turns LinkedIn into more of a numbers game than it once was, shepherding users toward sustained interaction to maintain what is recognized as a complete profile.

    I like the idea, in that it aims to suss out people who might be inclined to falsify their skills. You do make a great point in suggesting that this system might create more of a “numbers game” and reward people who go the extra mile to harvest clicks from their connections. It will definitely be interesting to see how aggressively users pursue these endorsements.

    We wrote up LinkedIn’s new endorsement feature on our blog and provided a link to your post as a counterpoint to our argument. Thanks for the great read.

  4. To off my own further elaboration on Victoria’s gamification theory, endorsing skills looks a LOT like Klout’s +K’s on topics. I can see where LinkedIn might have thought that combining this type of peer-given “thumbs up” to various skills might feel more relevant to users than Klout, since theoretically a person’s connections in LinkedIn probably have better first-hand knowledge of such. I’m not saying I think it’s a great idea, but I can see the logic behind it.

    That said, I agree that it does add yet another layer of clutter to people’s profiles. Work history, accomplishments, and well-thought out written recommendations are all fine. Much more than that, and the important content gets lost.

  5. Hey Matt!
    Ugh, you are right; this is awkward functionality and the way that LinkedIn has introduced the feature is very “in your face”. I liked Victoria’s theory, above – this does seem to be a way to increase engagement by asking users to endorse someone’s skills every time they visit the profile of a contact. It is also possible that the “recommendations” feature has become underutilized so LinkedIn was looking for a way to increase methods of providing feedback on contacts — ways that were more quantifiable and less time consuming. In our metrics-oriented social media world, the “endorsements” are very measurable. Whether they mean anything more than a thumbs up on a Facebook post is the big question. We always enjoy your blog!

  6. Victoria: That’s a very interesting perspective — hadn’t thought of that possibility. And while I’d still be somewhat surprised if that was the real motive, versus instead it being some sort of offering aimed at helping recruiters (their primary paid audience) sort/select candidates more reliably, hey, one never knows. I totally agree, though. The extra element of “competition” or “oneupmanship” added to the site isn’t something I welcome. Much thanks for chiming in! 🙂

  7. Matt, I am going to take a stab at what I believe may be the “business reasons” behind the endorsements.

    You may or may not be familiar with gamification – the concept of using game design elements in non-game situations. One of the driving forces in game design is keeping users engaged and motivated to participate. A method in doing this is to have badges, points, and leader boards as certain levels are mastered or achieved. LinkedIn already employs several of these concepts for example by tracking how many people have viewed your profile, by ranking answer responses, and offering “expert” rankings for answering questions.

    It is my guess that while most of us use LinkedIn as a professional marketing tool, their business model is built around making the site fun and keeping users motivated to return. Adding the skills and expertise endorsement is another competitive teaser to challenge users to stay active.

    Personally, I find it a huge detractor because of the new competitive atmosphere it now creates. From a professional marketing perspective believe it has, for lack of a better word, cluttered the sight. Unfortunately, it is probably here to stay. Hopefully they will come up with a more sophisticated look.

  8. Hi Matt, call me old fashioned but I have a problem with the cheapening of the concept of recommendations. “Vote for me,” “Like Me,” “recommend me,” seem to take shameless self promotion to a new low. I always cherished when someone who knew me would step up and give a personal recommendation. I would not ask for it often, for fear of taking advantage of their good intentions. I put less credibility in on line recommendations. If someone requires a recommendation, consider developing it, protecting it and really earning it.

  9. Matt, I am struggling to find the value as well! One endorsement request I received asked me to vouch for someone’s knowledge of their place of employment. Hopefully this is only a functionality test and not permanent.


  1. The New LinkedIn Skills & Expertise Section: A Visual Tour - September 28, 2012

    […] you with an interesting read from the other side of the coin. Matt Youngquist at Career Horizons claims the new Endorsements feature is unnecessary, arguing it could surface unwanted annoyances and cheapen the existing Recommendations system. […]

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