by Paula on October 18, 2012

I have been asked by a number of clients recently to advise on the introduction of Endorsements to Linkedin. Do I think they are worthwhile? Are they a waste of time? Should we use them? As with all these things, it is a “time will tell” approach as to whether they will be useful or not but here are my initial thoughts:

1.What are Linkedin Endorsements?

Depending on how much time and attention you give your Linkedin profile, you may or may not be aware that key words count. In headlines, text, skills and experience, the words you use to describe your experience and skills are searchable when people are looking for people with your skill-set. Ensuring you use the words that you would expect people to use when searching for what you offer, means your chances of being found are higher.

Linkedin added the “Skills and Expertise” section a while ago where you could select from commonly used phrases as well as add your own, to list your key skills. The endorsements section is an add on to this, allowing people to click to endorse that you do indeed have the skills you are listing.

2. Being searchable

By selecting key words and adding them to your Skills and Experience you were allowing yourself to be in the pool of people that could be found when people were searching for your specific skills. However given that so many of the key words are generic e.g. “Project Management”, “Social Media”, it would appear that the endorsement of these skills allows your contacts to weight your ability, and while not yet confirmed, it is assumed that an algorithm will put Joe Bloggs with 50 endorsements for Project Management, higher up a search list than John Smith with 10 endorsements for Project Management.

3. It’s Quality rather than Quantity that counts…isn’t it?

One of the areas where I see this not working so well is that there is no way to take into account the level of expertise brought to that skill, the time taken on that piece of work or the calibre of the client. It is purely a numbers game. For example:

I have two areas that I work in. My main work is Management Training or Project / Interim Management on a number of private and public sector contracts. It would be usual to have 2 or 3 of these contracts ongoing at any one time and they could last between 3 months and a year. Hence in a 12 month period I may have 8-10 potential referees who could endorse me.

I also offer short Social Media surgery type sessions to small local businesses. These are generally one-off sessions lasting no more than 2-3 hours, specifically focusing on a social media strategy and activity plan tailored to the client. I could have on average 6-8 of these clients per month, so could have approx 80 reference clients per year.

If we assume that all of these clients click to endorse me I would have a heavily weighted Social Media skill and anyone looking at my profile or searching for me would clearly see this as my main area of expertise. However it’s not my main income, it’s not the way my business is developing, and it’s the work I enjoy but fit round my main contracts, which is where I am far more interested in being recognised.

In this scenario the current endorsements system does not work for me.

4. Is easy always good?

It is currently very easy to endorse people! Whenever I go into Linkedin it throws up a list of 4 people, attaches one of their skills to their picture and gives me the option to “Endorse All”. How easy it would be to just click, and then again at the next 4 and the next…. But to use this properly I should be looking at the individuals offered, assessing whether I actually can endorse that skill because I have experienced it and can recommend their ability, and only clicking to endorse if those criteria are met. I have had a number of clients saying they have been endorsed by people they’ve never worked with, thus showing that people are taking the easy rather than accurate and credible option.

5. Are the written Recommendations still valuable?

Yes! To me, a written testimonial by a person I can look at and see their own credibility carries a lot of weight. Details describing what the person achieved, how they approached their work, and their character from one person to another is still very valuable. If an endorsements search led me to someone this would still need to be backed up by a strong profile and good references. The fact that someone took the time to write about you and publicly commend you for your work still carries weight.

6. How do I get people to endorse me?

In an ideal world we shouldn’t have to but yes, it is natural that we will see people asking for endorsements as a) they realise that this can benefit their search ranking and b) people love numbers! We know from the “please follow me”, “please like me” tweets and posts we regularly see, and from the number of Linkedin connections we get from people we’ve never heard of, that people like to collect numbers and this is all good for Linkedin. Their rate of new subscribers is increasing fast.

So what should you do? Well my advice currently is:

  • – Make sure your Linkedin profile is up to date and professional.
  • – Continue to request references from those you have worked with.
  • – Make sure you have your professional skills listed so that people can endorse against them.
  • – Offer endorsements to those people you have worked with and whose skills you can verify. There’s definitely a “make someone feel good and they’ll reciprocate” feeling about this.

If you have any other thoughts or observations about this feature, please do share them below.



Kevin Leighton October 22, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Thanks for this well thought out discussion.

My own view was that the traditional written endorsements carry so much more weight because these are written by people who have been provided a service and who have been delighted enough to sit down and write about their experience.

My fear was that a simple ‘like’ button for a service you offer adds an almost random element to the actual service people endorse you for and are just as easily clicked by people who know of your service because they’ve worked with you or heard about it but haven’t experienced it first hand.

Having said that there’s a lot to be said for the grapevine especially for passing on good news.

Paula October 22, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Hi Kevin. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

I definitely agree that written recommendations by people who have used your services carry much more weight. And yes, it’s very easy to click to endorse someone because you know someone offers that service rather than because you have experienced it directly.

One hopes that when making decisions about purchases, while this may become of influence, those people in those decision-making roles will also recognise the importance of the other variables.

I guess time will tell where this one goes.

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