LinkedIn Endorsements: Why They’re Important and How To Use Them

by Sharlyn Lauby on September 29, 2013

I’ve read my fair share of articles hating on LinkedIn endorsements. Honestly, I think LinkedIn endorsements are a pretty good feature. They allow people to provide positive information about their connections quickly and easily. Because let’s face it, it’s hard to get recommendations. They take time to write and we struggle to come up with the exact right words to say. Endorsements give us those words.

LinkedIn, profile, endorsement, endorsements, recommendations, skill, skills, recruiter, logo

But like many new things, we have to understand how they work in order to really benefit from them. So I reached out to Brad Mauney, group product manager at LinkedIn, to get some education and insight about endorsements. Brad is the resident guru on endorsements and I really learned a lot during our conversation.

Give us a brief description of LinkedIn endorsements.

LinkedIn, profile, endorsement, endorsements, recommendations, skill, skills, recruiter, Brad Mauney[Brad] Skill endorsements, which were introduced in 2012, are a simple and effective way to build your professional brand and engage your professional network. Not only are they a great way to recognize your first-degree connections’ skills and expertise with one click, they also let your connections validate the strengths found on your own profile.

How do they differ from LinkedIn recommendations?

[Brad] An endorsement is a one-click way for a member to endorse a first-degree connection’s specific skill, whereas a recommendation is a written statement from a connection.

I’ve seen some articles that say LinkedIn endorsements don’t mean anything. What value does a LinkedIn endorsement provide?

[Brad] Endorsements have quickly become a popular feature on LinkedIn. In fact, more than two billion endorsements have been given on LinkedIn to-date. This feature allows anyone who is viewing your profile to quickly see your top skills based on how many endorsements you have for each. While a single endorsement taken in isolation may not provide a ton of insight, if someone is endorsed for a single skill 99 times, that becomes a very powerful way to understand their key strengths and the strength of their network.

Are endorsements searchable?

[Brad] Not exactly. Users can’t do a direct search for a single endorsement. But LinkedIn’s algorithms do take your skills and endorsements into account. Let’s say you’re a human resources professional located the Southeast U.S. with 99+ HR skill endorsements. And your profile indicates that you’re looking for a new opportunity. The LinkedIn algorithm will use that combination of factors to share jobs you might be interested in.

It’s also worth noting that if a user is out there putting humorous skills in their profile – like ‘tractor’ or ‘footprints’ – it has the opposite effect. The algorithm may have a harder time helping users the way it’s intended to.

One thing I look at are the specific skills a person is being endorsed in. For example, I’m a training and organizational development consultant. So I want training and OD related skills at the top of my endorsements. Only makes sense. But I don’t want to game the endorsement process to get those skills at the top. What can users can do to make sure the skills that best reflect their expertise are at the top of their endorsements?

[Brad] Members have full control of what appears on their profile, including which endorsements and endorsers are listed.

Just to confirm, if someone endorses me and I don’t want that endorsement on my profile, I can delete it?

[Brad] Yes.

Okay, I gotta ask. Why would someone want to be connected to a person and not want their endorsement?

[Brad] It’s a great question and I can see where it might seem counter-intuitive. But it does happen. The feedback we’ve received indicates that perceptions about the endorser’s professionalism and personal brand factor greatly into the decision. Some users have told us that they view endorsements as very personal (like recommendations).

We also have discovered that users who are very liberal regarding who they connect with may not want to receive endorsements from these weak connections and decide to remove them But that being said, we are really talking about a very small number of people who delete endorsements.

The other situation, which must be tough, is when I see a profile that has no endorsements. Obviously, no one wants to go begging for endorsements. How can a user start getting endorsements?

[Brad] A great way to start building your professional brand is to add the skills and expertise to your profile that best represent you, so your first degree connections can endorse you for the skills you’ve listed.  The number of endorsements you receive is also related to the size of your network and the degree to which others are interacting with your profile.

I’ve noticed some people have a very large number of endorsed skills. Is there a good number of skills to display on your profile?

[Brad] The average member on LinkedIn lists about 10 skills on their profile. The top ten ‘endorsed’ skills are what show up at the top.  I would recommend focusing on the smaller set of skills that are most important to you and your job, instead of trying to catalog everything possible skill you have.

Where’s the best place to show endorsements on your profile – before or after experience?

[Brad] We’re starting to see some trends in this area. Job seekers are starting to place their endorsements immediately after the SUMMARY. The rationale being they want recruiters to see those endorsements right away and hopefully it will compel the recruiter to read the rest of the profile.

On the flip side, recruiters are telling us that when they visit a profile, they search for the endorsements section even if it’s after the EXPERIENCE section. They use endorsements almost as a first-pass filter. If the user looks interesting, they read the profile from the bottom up.

Last question, what other things do recruiters look for when viewing endorsements on a user profile?

[Brad] Recruiters don’t just look at the skills you’re being endorsed for, they also evaluate who is doing the endorsing – in terms of the endorser’s title, experience and shared connections. For example, your pet sitter endorsing you for ‘project management’ may offer less valuable insight than your current boss or a colleague endorsing you for “project management.”

My thanks to Brad and the LinkedIn team for giving us the scoop on endorsements. I hope you found the information as interesting as I did. Be sure to stay current on using Linked by reading the LinkedIn blog.

What’s your experience been with LinkedIn endorsements? Let us know your thoughts!

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{ 14 comments }

Cathy Shanes September 30, 2013 at 3:29 am

Good review of endorsement system on LinkedIn. I have been endorsed by a handful of people, who I’m sure had not a single chance to assess that particular skill. I understand it as people are either endorsing because they expect me to return the favor or because they think they are doing me a favor.

Sharlyn Lauby September 30, 2013 at 9:16 am

Hi Cathy. Thanks for the comment. That’s exactly the point. Endorsements are a good tool when used the way they were intended.

I believe many people endorse someone because they see a level of mastery and accomplishment. That’s flattering and a nice thing to do. I’m careful not to view it as a form of evaluation or assessment – there are other ways for individuals to have their skills assessed. This isn’t one of those ways.

I also feel it’s a shame the perception has been created that the only people who give endorsements are the ones who expect to get them in return. Why can’t someone recognize a person’s good work without an obligation of reciprocity?

Ratkovic September 30, 2013 at 12:41 pm

This was needed to be explained indeed. I am using endorsements for a while now, but I see lot of people still don’t know what that is and how to use it. Some Linkedin members are maybe even unaware of that feature, still.

Karla Porter September 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I was incensed when the feature first launched and then quickly realized that it’s a great feedback tool on one’s profile. Whether you have worked with the person or not – there is a public perception about your formed by your LI network. Endorsements are a way to know if your professional brand perception is what you want it to be.
Karla Porter recently posted..A Creative Strategy for Local Candidate Generation

Glennon Reidler September 30, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Nice job Sharlyn in helping others understand how endorsements can be selected and used in LinkedIn. As always, you are “out there” in the Social Media world getting all of the information the rest of us usually only ask ourselves :-)

Sharlyn Lauby October 1, 2013 at 11:23 am

@Karla – I agree. At first glance, LinkedIn endorsements didn’t make a lot of sense. But now that they’ve been around for a while…totally makes sense. Thanks for the comment.

@Glennon – Thanks for the comment. That’s how blog posts get started. I ask the same questions as everyone else. ;-)

Steve Risner October 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I believe the endorsements are a positive but being asked continually by LinkedIn to endorse contacts is too much. We do not know all of our contacts well enough to make most of the recommendations suggested. LinkedIn has virtually watered down the endorsement process so much that it has become somewhat incredulous.

Warren White October 1, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Sharlyn,

I can’t say that I agree on the topic of LinkedIn endorsements. One thing that I found interesting is that you asked Brad to explain the value of endorsements, and his response indicated that endorsements were popular. ‘Popularity’ and ‘value’ are not the same thing. I was an early LinkedIn user and continue to be a big fan, but in my opinion the endorsements are like an invasive species of shrubs. You can keep pruning them, as you point out, but they keep growing back. I think they could’ve been valuable with some adjustments, but the way they currently work, I don’t see the real value add.

Sharlyn Lauby October 2, 2013 at 8:59 am

@Steve – Thanks for the comment. I can see how being constantly asked to endorse others can be a nuisance. But just because we are asked, doesn’t mean we have to do it. I don’t feel the request diminishes my endorsement, since I only give endorsements I’m comfortable providing.

@Warren – Good point about value and popularity. But I think Brad more than adequately explained the value of endorsements through the rest of the interview – particularly in the recruiting process. Again, I think it comes down to using the tool properly. Thanks for the comment.

Courtney Hunt October 2, 2013 at 9:35 am

Thanks for sharing this post with the Denovati LI group, Sharlyn. My biggest issue with endorsements, which you didn’t address with Brad, is the fact that users don’t have more control over them. Specifically, there’s no way to consolidate similar skills and the related endorsements (e.g., Strategy and Business Strategy). I wrote a post about what you can and can’t manage. Here’s the title and link:

LinkedIn Endorsements: What You Can and Can’t Manage
http://denovati.com/2013/08/linkedin-endorsements
Courtney Hunt recently posted..SMW13 in Chicago: Reflections from an (Atypical) Attendee

Shankar October 3, 2013 at 10:01 am

LinkedIn could be lot better without endorsements. I don’t have a problem with endorsements. The problem is how LinkedIn forces people to give endorsements to others. You open a new page or someone profile, a popup with four different people’s skill pop’s up. I am bugged to make an endorsement, which may not lead to right measurement.

I have written a blog detailing the problems that I faced with LinkedIn… http://www.huntshire.com/Pointers/32/the-problem-with-linkedin

Joel Don October 10, 2013 at 12:08 pm

I would expect that LinkedIn is still bullish on Endorsements; that’s to be expected. But they are still an “instant coffee” approach to connection recognition. It’s just one quick click/poke to say “you’re good” and far less friction than composing a recommendation (though the active practice of soliciting recommendations makes some read like crafted public relations). The best recommendation or endorsement, IMO, actually would come from someone you don’t know. Third-party recognition has always been the ultimate accolade, though LinkedIn hasn’t enabled that potentially potent idea.

Jay Lindsey October 13, 2013 at 5:59 pm

From what I’ve found on Linkedin is that mainly people I already know, that works in entirely different industries endorse me, just from what they may have heard over the years. The people I seem to communicate with in the same industry are mainly out of state where our laws and regulations seem to vary somewhat. I’ve only had a small percent from the forums to make endorsements. The job suggestions are usually out of town with the exception of a few I really wasn’t interested in at all, like the food industry.

Jonathan October 14, 2013 at 5:48 pm

I have received many endorsements from friends who work in other industries for my work in my industry and it seemed puzzling to me at first. I’ve asked some of them about this and most stated they haven’t given any endorsements and had similar experiences. Less than 1/3 were real (in my unscientific polling) and said they gave the endorsements because they assumed I’m good at what I do since I’ve been doing it for many years. This makes me think the whole system is questionable. Perhaps LinkedIn just did this to get people started using the feature and didn’t count on people actually talking to their friends but anything based on fraud is worthless to me.

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