Why Soliciting LinkedIn Endorsements Is A Bad Idea

LinkedIn's nagging automated requests to endorse others' skills are too generic to be useful to anyone. You're better served by staying in personal touch with your network.

David Nour

February 4, 2013

5 Min Read
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Facebook's 2012 Highs And Lows
Facebook's 2012 Highs And Lows (click image for larger view and for slideshow)

Have you noticed that every time you log into LinkedIn now it keeps pestering you to endorse the skills and knowledge of your network? It's another classic case of LinkedIn trying to abdicate the care and nurturing of your relationships to technology -- and it doesn't work.

I've been a LinkedIn Business Pro user for several years and have written extensively about all that's positive about the site's focus to become the prevailing professional social networking platform. But when you have a hammer, you begin to treat every challenge or an opportunity as a nail.

LinkedIn launched Skills and Knowledge as a functionality that few knew about, much less paid attention to or used. After all, shouldn't you be able to ascertain my skills or knowledge from my bio, background, experiences, education and recommendations?

[ Have you adapted to LinkedIn's changes? Read 5 Ways To Improve Your New LinkedIn Profile .]

By asking you to endorse the skills and knowledge of your network, it is trying to bring this new functionality front and center. Here are three fundamental problems with that:

1. Contextual Irrelevance.

Let's say I worked with Steve on a social media strategy-consulting project and am aware of his specific skills or knowledge around an influencer campaign. But what LinkedIn keeps prompting me to endorse is his graphic design skills, which I wasn't privy to in our work together and not really relevant to the context of our relationship. Does that mean that I don't have a relationship with Steve or can't endorse a skill or knowledge of his? No. It simply means that LinkedIn is taking our relationship out of context. Can I keep scrolling for his other skills? Sure, but who has the time or patience?

2. Degrees Of Competency.

Let's further say that Steve did a decent job on the above consulting engagement, but there were some areas where I thought he should have been more knowledgeable or competent. There is no way to rate the degrees of his competency or recommend areas for Steve to grow professionally in this area. Any competency metric I've always seen or have found effective gives you a range, such as a 1 to 10 or 4 out of 5 stars.

3. Weighted Endorsements. Did I work with Steve only once and experience his skills or knowledge in a very limited scope, or have we worked together on multiple projects, allowing me to see him deliver results across a spectrum of challenging scenarios? Anyone who has ever endorsed someone else knows that not all endorsements are created equal. There is no way for me to comment on each endorsement or give it more credence or credibility as to the frequency of our interactions.

Are these the endorsements you really want?

I don't know about you, but here are two other problems that give me quid pro quo heartburn:

-- I feel guilty for all these people and their skills that pop up that I have no idea they were capable of (am I the only one who keeps asking "seriously?" to many of these skills or knowledge?) Does that mean I don't really know them that well or have a strong enough relationship with them to be connected on LinkedIn? Or that they've done a poor job in branding themselves for me to realize that particular knowledge or skill was a part of their repertoire?-- I also feel guilty that others have endorsed me and, although appreciative, I'm uncomfortable endorsing them back. They might be in the insurance or commercial real estate business, and I have no idea how competent they might be in their particular field. Because I believe your endorsement or recommendation of others is a reflection of you, and because LinkedIn feels compelled to email the world with regular blasts that, "Steve, Nancy, Beth, John, Tom, Sue and Linda have all been endorsed by me," I'm put in an uncomfortable position. I don't want to endorse others with whom I haven't had a direct working experience.

Bottom line: Here is why this silly functionality is detrimental to your efforts to genuinely nurture your biggest asset: your portfolio of relationships. Relationships take regular feeding and care. Regardless of how competent we become in using tools like LinkedIn (keeping in mind that they're all simply that -- tools), nothing will ever replace face-to-face interactions. Instead of mindless endorsing skills and knowledge of your relationships, why not reach out to them for a conversation or a cup of coffee and get caught up on both sides?

"I didn't know you had business development expertise; give me some context of the results you've created for others so that I may be able to intelligently talk to my network about you and your skills or knowledge." I would submit that conversation is a lot more productive than presenting me with that "Endorse" button every time I log into LinkedIn.

As always, I welcome your opinion or perspective.

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