On September 24th, business networking website LinkedIn introduced Skill Endorsements – a new feature that allows users to endorse their connections for a skill they’re listed for. When a user logs in, they’ll see a blue box at the top of each of their connections’ profiles that recommends various skills to endorse. If you don’t see one that fits the individual professional capabilities, you can suggest a different endorsement and click the “X” to remove any of the ones that have been automatically suggested to you. Once you’ve confirmed that they’re great at project management, social media, sales or all of the above, your connection will be notified via e-mail and on LinkedIn itself. To find out which of your skills have been endorsed, you can scroll down to the bottom of your profile page under “Skills and Expertise” to see who’s been tooting your horn. Users also conveniently have the option of accepting or hiding endorsements they’ve received on their profile page.

Skepticism Amongst LinkedIn’s Users

While this new endorsement feature is beneficial to professionals who’d like an automatic overview about a connection’s skill set and qualifications, it’s been met with criticism in the blogosphere and amongst LinkedIn users. User Ron H recently wrote the following comment on the website’s “Endorsements: What value, if any, do these offer?” message board:

“In my opinion, the addition of endorsements is indicative of the overall decline in the quality and usefulness of LinkedIn as a professional resource. According to the headline, all LinkedIn subscribers are professionals, regardless of their actual position. An internationally recognized expert has essentially the same access and endorsement capability as a freshman student”.

Steve B, another user on the same message board, writes:

“As an example, I have gotten endorsements from my relatives who have no idea of my qualifications or even what project management or business analysis means. Also, strangely, I have been getting the same endorsement a dozen times from the same person, and my wife is getting the same thing. It certainly does not seem to have any value. My wife asked a friend why the endorsement was made, and received the response: “It seemed like a nice thing to do”.

The general consensus amongst LinkedIn Endorsement naysayers is that just about anybody can endorse a user’s skill set. In other words, it’s difficult to verify an endorser’s credibility. How will future employers or clients know for sure that you’re an all star digital media strategist if you asked your friends to endorse your skill set to amp up your profile? Those friends may have never worked with you in a professional setting and their actions could falsely mislead anyone viewing your profile to believe that you’re more qualified than you actually are.

Endorsement Benefits

While there’s a chance that users could easily be endorsed without merit by their connections, there’s also a chance that they do possess a valuable skill set that warrants attention. For talented and experienced professionals, endorsements are an efficient way to quickly give anyone browsing their page an idea of where their expertise lies. Take, for example, an employer looking for new talent. As opposed to scrolling through dozens of LinkedIn profiles in their entirety, he or she can first take a glance at the skills for which the professionals are endorsed for. Coding abilities? Perfect, just what we’re looking for. Japanese language proficiency? Not so much.

Endorsements As Marketing Strategy

An interesting advantage that Endorsements could lend to LinkedIn is the constant stream of e-mails being sent out to users once their connections endorse them for a skill. Many professionals create a LinkedIn account then rarely log back into it, feeling comfortable with the fact that their profile is on the site and they don’t have to do anything further. Whether or not it was a purposeful move on the LinkedIn marketing team’s front, Endorsements e-mail notifications have definitely increased traffic to the site and have gotten users to log back into their accounts to check out who’s been e-complimenting them. On the other hand, the influx of e-mail notifications may be a turn off for users who could potentially choose to leave the site altogether.

In order to maintain LinkedIn’s professional quality and keep Endorsements from becoming overrun with users stroking each other’s egos without merit, it’d be a good idea to only endorse an individual you’ve worked with. Overall, we think that Recommendations are a more efficient way to highlight a connection or past employee’s skills. While one click of a button will endorse their professional attributes, a detailed recommendation will provide anyone reading with a comprehensive description of your relation to the LinkedIn user, adding to your credibility as a source and the proficiency of their skill set overall.

Tags: , , , ,