What’s the worth of LinkedIn endorsements?

When the topic of the worth of LinkedIn endorsements came up recently in a conversation with a couple of my co-working mates, we all ended up laughing. Essentially, none of us found any value in them.

At one time, it took some work for anyone to publicly share that they recommended your work. They needed to write a short description that explained their recommendation. They were tough to get. People seemed to be reluctant to go on the public record recommending others. Most viewed it as a serious step and they rarely gave them even when they liked you and your work. They were considered to be like references for a job seeker.

LinkedIn valued them. It required three recommendations for your profile to be considered 100% complete. But they must have realized the reluctance to give recommendations existed because they decided to bring in endorsements.

Endorsements are recommendations made easy

Endorsing someone’s skills became easy and promoted by LinkedIn frequently.

With a single click, your contacts can endorse you for four or more skills at a time when they look at your profile. Or when you go to your profile, you’re asked to endorse four different people for skills. Endorse any one of them and you’re given a new choice.

endorsement

In a  discussion in a LinkedIn group, the latter experience was compared to Whack-a-mole. I agreed though since you could make weak endorsements for as long as you want, the real game was to see how many valid endorsements you could make until you couldn’t make any more.

We’ve gone to the other end of the spectrum. It’s now too easy to recommend people’s skills. While some still prefer to give endorsements based on first-hand knowledge, not everyone does. And LinkedIn encourages that behaviour by so liberally suggesting endorsing skills.

People now err on the side of being nice. They’re thinking something like: “If LinkedIn is suggesting the skill and others are endorsing it, it must be true so I’ll help them out.”

As I got more and more endorsements, I realized that I was getting them from people that could only assume I had a certain skill. The questionable worth of LinkedIn endorsements was emphasized when I was endorsed for a skill by someone I had not been in touch with since I was about 11.

I’ve also been getting endorsed for a lot of new skills. I had trouble understanding why people who didn’t know if speech witting was a skill were suddenly suggesting it as a new skill for me when I hadn’t listed it. Then I discovered that’s because LinkedIn is suggesting the new skills.

Manage your LinkedIn endorsements

I’ve learned that you can manage your endorsements and delete ones that are inappropriate. But whose going to do that? Not many I suspect.

You can also hide or mover the endorsements but you can’t opt out of the feature;.

So there are ways to manage your LinkedIn endorsements if you want to try to maintain the integrity of those you receive. To learn more, check out this post by Courtney Hunt.

Although not a fan of endorsements, Hunt would like to get even more control over them especially those that are “duplicate skills” i.e. those that are similar but not worded exactly the same. She’d like to be able to consolidate them. She’d also like to have more control over which skills are shown and in what order.

For me, this feature reinforces the importance of knowing your LinkedIn contacts. If warm contacts can make “blind endorsements” how could there be any worth to a LinkedIn endorsement from someone you don’t know?

Eliminate or improve LinkedIn endorsements

As they stand now, what’s the worth of LinkedIn endorsements in my opinion? Not much if anything.

Even if you manage the endorsements you receive and give, the feature lacks any value if the vast majority of people do not do the same. All endorsements will be viewed skeptically.

So why continue to have the endorsement feature on LinkedIn? My preference is to eliminate it.

But if it is to continue, LinkedIn must give users more control over this feature and make the kinds of changes Hunt proposes. I’d also suggest that we be given the choice on whether an endorsement is shown so that we can validate it’s integrity (just as we can decide if recommendations are shown) rather than forcing us to do it afterwards. Better yet might be to require folks to link a skill endorsement to a position on your profile. That might cause people to give more importance to giving an endorsement.

So if LinkedIn wants to avoid endorsements being a feature that is laughed at, it needs to act.

Wbat do you think is the worth of LinkedIn endorsements?