Linkedin Endorsements – Endorsing What, Exactly?

26 Comments 07 November 2012

In late September 2012, Linkedin rolled out Linkedin Endorsements. Think of it as “endorsements light” – with an emphasis on light. In essence, any one of your first-degree connections can “endorse”  a specific skill (or skill set) of yours with the click of a button. Endorsements are visible on any first or second-degree Linkedin connection profile. No explanation necessary, and more troubling, no commitment necessary. Nor is there any comment or explanation option available to clarify the endorsement.

A reasonable assumption is that your endorsers have first-hand knowledge of your expertise. The fact of the matter is that many endorsements are from connections who’ve read your presentations, and/or know of your work online, and/or have chatted with you, and then make the leap to endorsing a skill set. It leaves both the person being endorsed, and the person reading a Linkedin profile, in this awkward predicament of asking: are your endorsements real? To what extent does the person endorsing your skills have knowledge of your skill base and expertise? Conversely, how ethical is it for you to accept an endorsement from someone you haven’t worked with professionally, but who knows of your work?

I’m perplexed why Linkedin would water down its brand with endorsements, or why it uses the misnomer “endorsements.”

Many people use Linkedin to create connections, or loosely connect, not only to strengthen connections that a connection is better defined as just that: someone with whom you are connected. There are also the LIONs – Linkedin Open Networkers, who will accept a Linkedin connection request from anyone who asks.  A first degree connection doesn’t imply that you know someone’s work or expertise well.

I’ve received a number of Linkedin endorsements. With each endorsement received, I wonder if there is a similar expectation: do I endorse him or her in return? Linkedin encourages this with Linkedin recommendations, in fact; every time I receive an endorsement, Linkedin asks if I want to return the favor by endorsing that person back. The culture of social media encourages sharing unconditionally, sharing good data/connections/photos/etc through a million free channels. The culture of reciprocity is hitting up ethical questions for me in this scenario.

Until Linkedin clarifies what an endorsement means, it means very little. One might have received an endorsement due to social pressure to return an endorsement, or from an acquaintance. It may be, in fact, an actual endorsement of skills from someone who shares knowledge of one’s professional skills in the industry. I don’t have the information to sort through the legitimacy of the endorsement.

There is a difference between Endorsements and Recommendations: every Linkedin profile lists who that person has recommended, along with a short excerpt of the recommendation. Recommendations come with transparency and accountability. Not so with endorsements.

With this move, in my mind, Linkedin has moved from a credible marketplace of skills, resumes, and profiles, to a popularity workplace. I wouldn’t be surprised if Linkedin changes its search algorithms to allow search by number of endorsements. Then I guess you’ll be inundated with endorsement requests.

How will you respond?


Your Comments

26 Comments so far

  1. Carolyn Edsell-Vetter says:

    I had similar questions/concerns with endorsements. I have had people (RL friends who don’t know much about my work life) endorse me for skill sets that are not really in my area, possibly hoping for a mutual endorsement in return. But I don’t think this watering down on line due to reciprocity ettiquitte is new to Linked In.There seems to be a lot of commenting and twitter conversation aimed at furthering ones own”brand”, rather than really engaging the content. When people are reduced to”thought leaders” and “influencers”, the substance of what they are saying (which arguably made them influential to begin with) gets lost.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     Carolyn, I alluded to this in my post, but you said it so much better about furthering one’s own “brand.” Couldn’t agree more with the mutual endorsement idea not being unique to
    Linkedin, or even new. I see it on
    Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram, etc. I chalk it up to the “who do I
    know and who can I possibly influence?” factor that creeps into social
    media channels. And, as you put it, furthering one’s own brand.

    Seems like LI endorsements is tailor-made to do just this, without any kind of checks on it. Ugh.


  2.  I thought this was a pretty sloppy implementation, too.  A real mixed blessing for someone like me, as I’m job-hunting.  I did get a lot of endorsements (and they’re still coming in), and I gave a whole bunch, too, although I passed on suggested endorsements if I wasn’t very confident that the suggestion had merit.  But what I noticed was, as flattering as all of these endorsements are, they’re characterizing my skill set in ways that I don’t think are accurate, and I do think that’s because the endorsements are coming more from professional colleagues than co-workers.  My co-workers have a better sense of what I’m actually good at, but most of them aren’t jumping on LinkedIn every day.  My profile now suggests that I’m a strong project manager and strategic planner, which is great and, I like to think, accurate.  But when it gets to my technical skills and knowledge, it’s horribly skewed.  I did a few Drupal web sites years ago and wrote a few articles for Idealware about Drupal, and I now have a bunch of endorsements for a CMS that I am only moderately good with, but little or nothing for technologies like VOIP and virtualization, which I know really well.  That could actually hurt me in my job search, because I’m not looking for a job as a CIO, not a Drupal developer…


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     Peter – fabulous point. I noticed this a few weeks ago when people were endorsing me for skills that I hadn’t prioritized. I also suspect that Linkedin is using previous endorsements to generate the list of suggested skills a connection could endorse, which just perpetrates the vicious cycle of unwanted skill set endorsements.


    dawnbaird Reply:

    Actually, people are tying these in themselves, and then clicking Endorse. I’ve had to delete a few as they were patently untrue. 

    My advice is, take it at face value. What does the word endorsement mean in any other context? If you can honestly endorse someone, then do. If not, decline and explain why, as I have had to on more than a few occasions.

    My thoughts are here:


  3. Alan Berkson says:

    Looks like a response to Klout +K’s. I agree it waters down Linkedin’s brand (and yours). 
    It’s also a way to draw people back onto the site. They’ve made it very easy to endorse (as opposed to recommendations) and that brings people back to the site to check their “score.” Gamification strikes again.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Alan, you totally hit the nail on the head, here. Yes, now that you mention it, the endorsements *feel* a lot like +Ks from Klout, which never really had proof of knowledgeable value other than popularity.

    I wonder if it will bring people back to check their “score” on endorsements, so to speak. The “count” of endorsements is definitely gamification at play, possibly with some subtle inference that not having “enough” endorsements means your profile isn’t good enough. I hope this will die down just as +Ks have died down as well.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and adding your thoughts.


    CHopeMurray Reply:

    Unfortunately LinkedIn has always offered the opportunity for gamification, whether it is the number of connections, the self determined skill and expertise tabs, recommendations or even group memberships.  To a certain extent that gamification has been kept in check by a tacit understanding by most members that LinkedIn serves professionals and professionalism.  I have often described LinkedIn as my “resume on steroids”, as each word and option is selected to be viewed by other professionals and especially other potential employers.

    Over the past year or so LinkedIn has tried to grow its social media value in ways that are, in my mind, counterproductive to what I want from an online resume. As LinkedIn became chattier (whether through linked tweets, the “share an update” feature or group discussions) it sought to compete with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ as the preferred base for current information and social community. 

    But it also provided additional opportunities for members to contribute information that may not be that beneficial in professional face to face encounters (especially interviews).  For example I am an advocate of open standards, transparency and open source, but these opinions do not obscure my knowledge and ability to perform in proprietary and secured environments. 

    I use Twitter for my dialogues and conversations because I don’t need to fine hone every word, sentence and paragraph or worry too much about filtering of the content surrounding my on-line resume.  Besides any diligent recruiter can easily find my contributions on the network and I would prefer their discoveries to be viewed in context of a business casual community like twitter (aka the social media coffee machine) than misrepresented or filtered on LinkedIn.

    Hope the above is not too far off topic but it is related to your post on endorsements because it represents another step in the wrong direction for LinkedIn.  As Alan Berkson points out this is a dilution of LinkedIn’s value not an extension of it as they intended.  I would also point out that so far the endorsements I have received have almost all been provided by esteemed and earnest colleagues.  What I have noticed, however, is that those that have made those endorsements appear to be less aware of Social Media channels, the difference between them and gamification.   Thanks to this article I will now respond to each as professionally as possible, expressing gratitude for their kind assertion, but explaining why LinkedIn’s endorsement feature dilutes the value of a very useful platform.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     Thanks for such a thoughtful comment – not too long or off subject in my opinion. I too believe Linkedin is doing its darnedest to compete with other social networks (becoming chattier, gamification), and as you point out, this is the next step. Interesting that you find a correlation between the endorsements from people who really can speak to your skills and their lack of awareness of other social media channels – not sure what that points to, but not the case for me.

    Love the concept of my “resume on steroids” – !

  4. “with the emphasis on light” is right! :)


    Mazarine Reply:


    Thanks for talking about endorsements. I feel that this is the further “Facebookification” of LinkedIn (when they added flags and the “inbox” feature at the top, I just thought, Oh No, and now endorsements?) to keep you on the site longer, and give you more “positive feedback loops” when you look at your profile.

    You’re right, endorsements don’t mean anything. People can endorse you for things that they have no idea if you’re actually good at or not. lately when LinkedIn comes up with endorsements for me to do, I just scroll through to find one I can honestly comment on. And if your skill is “nonprofits?” What sort of skill is that? It doesn’t make any sense. Maybe “nonprofit management” would be a skill, or “fundraising” but just “nonprofits?” Sigh.

    When I teach Linkedin social media classes to businesses and nonprofits, this “endorsements, how do they work?” question comes up a lot. People say, “What’s the point of these?”
    “How do I get rid of them?” Etc. I find my time being spent trying to get people to undo the damage in their LinkedIn profile rather than connecting with people.

    FYI, You can delete your skills section entirely, and that gets rid of the darn things.


    Author, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Social Media


  5. Thought provoking post Debra- and now that I’ve read the comments, I see I have to “defend” +K’s as well :) (but not here)
    I actually like endorsements- many of my contacts cannot recommend me because we haven’t had the chance to work together. BUT through the magic of social media and other avenues, they have the opportunity to at least see my skill-set and determine if an endorsement of a specific skill (as opposed to something overall) is warranted.
    Yes, it means less than a recommendation. But it can be useful for an employer to look at my profile and see what my peers think are my most valuable skills and assets.
    Can someone game the system and get 500 contacts to endorse certain skills by asking them to do so (and maybe “returning the favor”)? Of course. But again, I trust the business nature and professional air that LinkedIn has created and therefore endorsements can maintain a semblance of seriousness.
    Naive? Maybe. But I think it’s a great addition to their profile package!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     Ephraim, I hear where you’re coming from with your support of endorsement. I understand that it does give connections an opportunity to support your skill set, but I think the potential negatives outweigh this opportunity: that they aren’t endorsing the right skills you want others to see, and that they don’t know enough about your skills. One “fix” so to speak, would be to have people approve the endorsements, or send them back for edits, as Linkedin allows for its recommendations.

    To your second point: I trust the business nature and professional air that Linkedin has created, too, and because of that, I think the endorsements are mostly coming for a place of wanting to help others professionally. In other words, connections are endorsing skills because they want to help others succeed professionally. It is just that the way they are helping others succeed may not, in fact, be in anyone’s primary interest.


  6. I think the feature is fine.  I have endorsed several  contacts – all people I know well,  have worked with or retained services from.  Likewise, I’ve been endorsed by people who know me and my work first hand.  It’s all subjective to the endorser’s experience and beliefs… how can you argue with that?


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     Patricia, if the endorsements you’ve received are echoing your genuine skill set in the way that you want others to perceive them, and they are from people who know your work first-hand, I cannot argue with that at all. Indeed, that is what I’d hope endorsements would be. However, I’ve seen too many instances where that is not the case, so the endorsement becomes more of a popularity contest or an unqualified endorsement.


  7. The endorsement feature on Linked In is fine, imo.  I was wary at first, but when I started getting endorsements from colleagues  – all  know me well, I was pleased to reciprocate.  Recognition and affirmation is a good thing. As far as whether you can trust the endorsement,  I wouldn’t expect or trust Linked In to do any further vetting… that’s MY job to do if I want to know more.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     Great point about it being one’s own job to vet the endorsements.


  8.  I notice that quite a few have endorsed your proficiency in “Star Wars.” 😉 Thanks for dropping by and adding your thoughts here. I’m curious – what will you do after your Star Wars skills experiment has ended: keep the skill up there or delete the endorsements?


  9. I have mixed feelings about the endorsement feature because the endorsements I have gotten do not focus on the skills I want to highlight most on my profile.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

     Kat, yes, that echoes my sentiment as well.


  10. Completely agree. I’ve been “endorsed” by people for certain skills that those people actually don’t know me. If someone never works in the computer industry, and never worked with me in particular, how much of the endorsement for my Unix skill is worth?



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Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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