LinkedIn Endorsements? Are They Valuable?

There are two questions I am frequently asked about LinkedIn. One, what is more valuable, endorsements or recommendations, and, second, do people really pay attention to endorsements?

Endorsements vs. Recommendations
Endorsements are a LinkedIn feature, which allows those in your network to confirm your talents when it comes to a specific skill or area of expertise. You probably see them at the top of your LinkedIn page when you log into your account. There are typically four photos of your connections and a question asking you to endorse them for a default skill that’s been auto-selected by LinkedIn.

For example, Susie Smith may be appearing with an option to select her for a job skill, let’s say, “tax preparation.” So you check the box thinking that you can’t go further into your use of your account if you don’t complete that step first. (You don’t have to do that, by the way, you can simply ignore it or hide that feature in your settings.)

Recommendations, however, are one of the most effective tools incorporated into LinkedIn. According to a colleague of mine who is an independent recruiter and head-hunter, it’s one of the first places she goes to learn about a potential candidate. When a colleague, former co-worker or boss, or even a client writes a recommendation for your skills, it’s of significant value.

Not only does it confirm your skills and talents for what you do but it also helps increase search engine rankings for you both in Google and in LinkedIn search.

Is more value placed on endorsements or recommendations?
LinkedIn will tell you it’s a combination of both. My experience and opinion differs somewhat from theirs, however. Here’s why: Endorsements, to me, are a gimmick. I compare it somewhat to Facebook’s “Like” button. It’s an easy way to interact with someone to show some effort to network but it doesn’t go any deeper than that. “Liking” someone’s page may get their posts in your Facebook newsfeed but you may not really care about that product or service. You may have “liked” it out of some sense of virtual obligation to a friend’s request.

Let’s go back to our example of Susie Smith. In that auto-selected skill (tax preparation) that defaulted near her photo, which you selected; the reality is that that may not even be a primary skill of what Susie actually does in her current job. It may relate, of course, but if Susie’s a CFO for a company, it’s unlikely she wants to be known for tax preparation (even if she knows how to do that). It is not one of her primary skill sets in her current position nor does she likely want to be endorsed for that skill. If LinkedIn had auto-selected another skill of hers, for example, “financial management”, she’d be more than happy to have that show in the Endorsements section of her profile page.

But if you dig deeper into Susie’s profile page, you’ll start to see that she has several recommendations from current and past co-workers, colleagues, industry peers and even friends. Those recommendations offer a great deal of value to her page, her profile and her expertise.

First, the person writing the recommendation takes the time to write a thoughtful reference for Susie’s skills, experience, work ethic, and more. They may write specifically about a project where her expertise helped their company exceed expectations. That will be well regarded by a recruiter, a future employer, and by other industry peers in Susie’s network for which she wants to be known.

Are endorsements worth it?
Yes. To a point. My recruiter friend says she skims the Endorsements section. If you have several key skills noted there and many have endorsed you for that skill, then it’s an affirmation in her vetting process that let’s her know you obviously know your stuff.

However, there are far more important aspects of your LinkedIn profile for which you should spend more of your time and effort. Those include the headline (the description of what you do), your summary, and work experience.

Recommendations: Ask for them!
Place more of your energy into asking your colleagues if they’ll write a recommendation on your behalf. You’ll help the person you ask even more if you narrow it down and ask them if they’d consider writing a recommendation on a specific project or speak to a specific talent you have – something that made you stand out in the position you held. Now that can serve you well on your profile page.

I am grateful for the endorsements I receive on my page and I pay regular attention to them. One skill I am frequently endorsed for is “newsletters.” It’s one of the auto-selected skills that sometimes appears next to my headshot in one of my connections’ profile feed. While I know how to write, produce and create newsletters, it’s not a service I offer any longer. I’m grateful to be endorsed for that skill but when I manage my endorsements, I’m pleased that LinkedIn now allows you to order the skills in a hierarchy so that the primary skills for which you do want to be noted for in your profile are at the top of the list. “Public relations” is one of the skills for which I most want to be known, so I’ve moved it to the top of my skills list and relocated the “newsletters” skill near the bottom.

Having some endorsements has some value but it’s not a place to spend a lot of your time or energy when it comes to having a powerful LinkedIn profile. And if you want to endorse friends, colleagues and peers for one of their skills, do them a favor by endorsing them for a skill of which you know they excel and is relevant.

Bottom line for an effective LinkedIn profile?
Go for the recommendations. They will serve you well in your career development or job search.

Navigating today’s world isn’t at all cut and dry, but there is still an audience that needs what you offer and there is still a meaningful way to share your message. If you’re ready to leverage LinkedIn, reach out. I’d be happy to discuss ways I can help.


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