Before we get down to the nitty-gritty of LinkedIn endorsements, for those of you who aren’t 100% familiar, LinkedIn is a social network for professionals which allows you to connect with people who have similar professional interests to yourself. Think of it as a kind of Facebook for your career. By making connections (rather than friends) with people you have some level of professional relationship with, you increase your online visibility and also open up channels of communication for further career development. But of the greatest interest to TheEmployable is how LinkedIn can aid you in your job search and provide a platform from which your skills, attributes, experience and above all your employability can be displayed for all to see. For some top tips on optimising your usage of the site in your job search, check out our recent post ‘5 ways to use LinkedIn to find a job’.
What are LinkedIn skill endorsements?
This feature was originally designed to help give credibility to your profile and the skills which you claim to have, allowing others (including potential employers) to gain a rough idea of your level of competency in a particular area. Endorsements come from other LinkedIn users who have some experience of your professional skills and consider themselves qualified to make a judgement which may influence the opinions of others, in turn you also have the opportunity to endorse the skills of others…
The problem with Endorsements
It sounds like a brilliant system with some potentially useful features, but as with many aspects of social media the reality when it’s put into practical use can differ greatly from the theory. The biggest issue that we (and many many others) take with LinkedIn endorsements is that they have become something of a victim of their own success. They were the fastest growing and most successful feature ever introduced on the site, with 1 billion endorsements made within the first 6 months – but so popular are they (and so easy are they to give) that you have to ask the question ‘what value do they really add to your profile?’.
Skill endorsements were certainly a clever idea on the part of LinkedIn, a great way of encouraging people to use the site as a networking tool rather than only returning when they were on the lookout for a new job. But it’s fair to say they have turned into something of a mindless click-fest, with users thoughtlessly endorsing one another with the hope of reciprocation, removing the credibility of any genuine and informed endorsements. Employers know this, and will most likely place very little relevance on the level of skill endorsements you have, but rather search elsewhere in your profile for evidence of the claims you make. Herein lies the real problem – if you have very high levels of endorsement you may become complacent and neglect the other areas of your profile, believing that your endorsements will be taken seriously by potential employers.
How can you make sure you are using endorsements properly?
Don’t get us wrong, we are not suggesting that you abandon all thought of skills endorsements – or LinkedIn (which we happen to think is a pretty fabulous site) but rather we are suggesting that you approach LinkedIn endorsements with a level of caution and make sure that you (at least) are using them correctly. Some things you might want to consider are:
Keep an eye on who you make connections with, LinkedIn isn’t a popularity contest and you should try and only connect with people who you have had some professional contact with, or are likely to have some with in the future.
Manage your endorsements – You have the ability to hide endorsements so if you receive one from a person whose opinion of your skills does not hold any particular weight (such as a family member or an old school friend) you don’t need to have it publicly accessible. By being selective about the endorsements you display, you will give prominence to the ones you were proud to receive and are genuine testimonials.
Be selective of who you endorse and don’t feel that because someone has endorsed you that you must reciprocate. Be grateful when someone relevant adds their good opinion of you to your profile, use it as an opportunity to open up a dialogue or simply send them a short message of thanks.
Make sure that the skills you have listed in your profile are relevant to you and are the ones that you would like others to endorse, having too many skills listed can give the impression that you are ‘a jack of all trades and master of none’.
You may now be thinking to yourself ‘why would I do all of this if potential employers place such little significant on LinkedIn endorsements?’. We would answer that if history has taught us anything, its’ that when something on a social media site isn’t performing as planned, it gets changed. It’s safe to say that LinkedIn endorsements aren’t going anywhere, but it’s unlikely that they will stay in their current form for any length of time, so by getting your head around them now, you will be very well placed if they ever become the reliable skill indicator they were intended to be.
If you are interested in using social media in your job search why not check out these other articles for some more handy tips!