Are your LinkedIn endorsements actually working against you?
Some people collect endorsements and recommendations on LinkedIn as if it was a contest to see who can amass the most. Who can blame them? The social network encourages and rewards this behaviour. How many times have you been confronted with a rogue’s gallery of your contacts only to be asked, “Does Mike Smith know about Advertising?”
Most of us happily click the “endorse” button based on little more than a passing knowledge of which skills our connections actually possess. Doing so gives us a super-easy hit of dopamine as we convince ourselves that we’re doing this person a solid that they will appreciate and possibly reciprocate. It’s win-win, right?
Unfortunately this approach can backfire. We spoke to some recruiters and hiring managers to ask them what they think of endorsements and recommendations on a LinkedIn profile for a prospective employee.
“I take LinkedIn endorsements with a grain of salt,” says Michelle Brammer, marketing and PR manager for eZanga.com. Brammer, who hires for her department as well as internship positions, points out that, “The concept of endorsing someone for their knowledge on a topic is great, but some users are quick to endorse everyone for everything, muddying the validity of the endorsement.”
Bruce Hurwitz, an executive recruiter at Hurwitz Strategic Staffing is even more strident in his opinion about endorsements, stating that, “People collect them like ‘awards’ or ‘badges’ on video games. They mean nothing.” For Hurwitz, however, the problem isn’t endorsements–which he ignores completely–it’s recommendations.
“Every week I receive requests for recommendations from strangers with a promise to reciprocate. So, sadly, the recommendations also mean nothing,” Hurwitz says. “As a recruiter I am not interested in online recommendations. The only thing that matters is the personal conversation with a reference.”
Not everyone is as quick to dismiss the value of these online testimonials. David Erickson, vice president of online marketing for PR firm, Karwoski & Courage, tries to keep an open mind: “I don’t dismiss LinkedIn Endorsements out of hand like I think a lot of people do. They’re part of the equation of a person’s overall LinkedIn presence,” he says, but he’s quick to point out that not all endorsements or recommendations carry equal weight. “I think endorsements from people who have already established themselves in their careers matter much more because it tends to remove the self-interested motivations from the endorser.”
Obviously people are split over the value of these profile enhancements, but have they ever lost someone a job opportunity? Hurwitz cites one particularly extreme example while interviewing a candidate with a lot of LinkedIn recommendations. “[He told me], repeatedly, that the recommendations on his profile were evidence of just how good he was at his job,” Hurwitz recalls. “I told him to send me the contact information for the most recent 10 (he had close to 100), I would choose three to contact and then, if the recommendations warranted, I would submit his candidacy to my client. I never heard back from him.”
So how does a job seeker looking to put their best foot forward with their LinkedIn profile handle recommendations and endorsements? Fortunately the platform lets users take control of both, through the “Edit Profile” function.
In the Skills section, you can choose whether you want to be suggested to your contacts for their endorsement and whether you want to be asked to endorse them. These can be checked or unchecked as you see fit. The important option is “Send me notifications via email when my connections endorse me,” this one should always be checked.
Next, use the Manage Endorsements function to comb through each skill you’ve been endorsed for and think carefully about each person who has endorsed you. Are they a current or former work colleague? Do they have direct experience with the skill they’ve endorsed? Are they or were they in a position to say one way or the other if you’re any good at the endorsed skill? If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” remove the checkmark next to their name. Don’t worry; they won’t receive a notification that you’ve done so and you can add them back at any time if you need to.
Then, use the Add & Remove function to get rid of any skills that you feel distract from your core competencies, add any that might be missing, and re-order the existing ones to put the most relevant at the top. Just because you have more endorsements for Project Management than Design doesn’t mean it should appear first if that’s not what you want people to see.
Finally, go to the Recommendations section and use the Manage function. Are there any recommendations from people who haven’t worked with you? Do you have any from family members or anyone else who is likely to be biased? Are the recommendations from people who you’d be uncomfortable offering as a reference to recruiter or hiring manager? If the answer is “yes,” give some serious thought to un-checking them so they no longer display publicly on your profile.
Don’t forget that as important as it is to do regular maintenance on your own profile, you should also resist the temptation to endorse or recommend your connections unless you meet the desired criteria. Endorsing someone for a skill that you’ve never personally witnessed says as much about you as it does about the person you’re endorsing.
Simon Cohen is one of Canada’s most experienced Consumer Tech voices. He created Sync.ca, an award-winning Canadian technology blog which had an audience of over 500,000 monthly visitors. He has appeared as a guest numerous times on national TV and radio programmes, including Canada AM, Sync Up (a weekly segment on CTV News Channel) and App Central. He is currently an independent writer and editor contributing to various publications, but you can always find his thoughts and musings on his blog at excitable.ca.
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