Do LinkedIn Endorsements Really Matter?



I am really tickled pink that so many people have been endorsing me lately on LinkedIn.

A few are close colleagues and friends I work with and I appreciate them for their gesture. Some endorsers haven’t seen me in forever; a few are simply connections of connections; and others, I do question if they really know exactly what I do. There’s no doubt it has probably been a while since many of us have connected in person…some, if ever.

If I understand correctly how LinkedIn is functioning, first, you are notified you have a new endorsement. At first this all seems pretty cool. I’ve been endorsed!!

LinkedIn then cues you up with the idea of paying it forward. A populated feed shows up of several of your followers and asks you whether each individual knows anything about “marketing”, or whatever expertise, drawn from their profile content. You’re asked simply, “What skills or expertise do your connections have?” Then by the click of a button you can hit “endorsed”, or type in alternate areas of expertise before endorsing, endorse all four contacts that appear at one time, or if this doesn’t appeal to you just click “X” to remove this feature.

What seemed like a nice gesture from your friendly contact now has been systematized and plagiarized by rule bound logic for you to endorse them back, which can make you feel pretty guilty if you don’t reciprocate right away.

Perhaps it is the choice of wording that LinkedIn has sabotaged by using the term “endorsement”.

Remember when an endorsement used to be a big deal? It really means receiving someone’s strong approval and their explicit sanctioning of your work and livelihood. A person’s name was known as their word and bond and they would stand by their endorsement as a seal of approval.

A person’s name was known as their word and bond and they would stand by their endorsement as a seal of approval.

Even today we endorse the back of a cheque to place one’s signature and name on it to validate who we are and to show we are the rightful recipient of the monies received. The word endorsement has a lot of weight and importance to it in my mind. Yes, occasionally, you would solicit a personal endorsement. You knew very well how important it was to be ever so respectful of the relationship you had created and the value implied by having your colleague or friend give you their personal endorsement for your own personal, marketing, political or whatever significant purpose.

I remember sending out chapters of my book with a personal letter to specific people with expertise and name recognition asking for an endorsement testimonial. The people I selected were known to me and I had met them at least once. Only two people declined – one because of a personal crisis and the other not feeling their focus was aligned with the subject of my book. Well enough said and each endorsement for my book was gratefully received.

However, as I consider the Linkedin endorsement setup every time I view my page, I think we have trivialized the term “endorsement” by making it a click away. Are gamification rules pushing us to do things we wouldn’t normally do on a regular basis? Is “endorsed” in one social media platform no better than a “like” in another?

I think we have trivialized the term “endorsement” by making it a click away.

Please know I truly I appreciate the endorsements from those people who with transparent authenticity are fully aware of what I do. I always send a personal thank you out to them for making the time to send it. But to all the others who may not know me well and seem less to know exactly what I do, thanks for the endorsement, but I don’t think I am obligated to endorse you back. Let’s be very careful not to minimize the value attributed to important words like “endorsement” and special actions that should mean so much more.

Why do you endorse certain individuals over others? Do you think we have devalued the meaning behind the term “endorsed”?

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Image credit: burakowski / 123RF Stock Photo

Roy Saunderson has spent most of his career showing people how to give others “real recognition”. He really is the Get Recognition Right® Guy. He is an author, consultant and speaker to organizations around the world from North America, Europe, Middle East and India. He serves as the Chief Learning Officer of Rideau’s Recognition Management Institute and has personally worked with Boeing, Credit Suisse, Disney, Intel, Johnson and Johnson, and the Canadian Federal Government leaders in getting recognition right. And the best recognition for Roy to get right is being a happy family man and being married to his lovely wife, Irene, for over 35 years and enjoying their five children and 11 grandchildren.

  • As a company that has a technology product in the employee engagement and recognition space, its pretty easy to see how linkedin has reduced value of endorsements. I frequently get endorsed for things I don’t do by people I have never done them for.

  • Roy – GREAT post that addresses something that has been bugging me for months. Yes, yes, yes LinkedIn is trivializing endorsement. It’s the silliest “feature” LinkedIn has added to date. They add this while not allowing me to see my own post feed? Doesn’t make any sense at all.

    While I’m blessed with ample endorsements, I’m intrigued with the number of endorsement attempts I get for subject areas that I’m FAR from being proficient in. It’s as though LinkedIn puts a set of skills together and then promote that set to people who don’t know whether I’m proficient in that area or not but, because they trust me or like me or apply some other decision criteria, they click. I keep removing those skills from my profile and they keep coming back! It’s the oddest thing and emblematic of how superficial “endorsements” have become. It’s become a bit of a personality contest without regard to actual proficiency.

    I don’t know what the solution is but I know that this direction isn’t healthy. The saving grace is that every single colleague I’ve spoken shakes their head about LinkedIn’s approach and mentions how their view about LinkedIn has changed since they began this silly practice. So I think LinkedIn’s future will shed the brightest light on how successful the “endorsement program” has been.

    Thank you for airing this issue.

  • Like others, I get a lot if endorsements for skills that I haven’t listed on my profile by people that wouldn’t have any idea–people from jobs 15 years ago, college classmates, etc.

    Recommendations, on the other hand, are valuable. They’re harder for people to provide and, as far as I know, LinkedIn doesn’t do anything to prompt people to write them. They therefore have much more value and are much rarer.

  • Tom Haak

    See also my recent blog post: “Can you please endorse me?”

  • Pingback: Can you please endorse me? | The Future of HR()

  • Margaret Page

    Great post, Roy! And I’m in agreement with you that with this new feature on LinkedIn, we have trivialized the term “endorsements.” There isn’t much value in an endorsement from someone that I have never done business with, in my opinion. I believe it muddies the waters and devalues true recommendations from people who have enjoyed working with me.

    I’ve written about the topic as well on the Etiquette. blog.

  • Holli Brown

    Great post, I totally agree that LinkedIn endorsements seem to have lost their validation. I often get endorsed by people who have no idea who I am or what I do. As nice as it seems to have lots of endorsements, I think it looks unprofessional to have endorsements from random people who haven’t done business with you or haven’t used your services and skills. I’d much prefer to have a nice recommendation from someone you’ve personally done business with or worked for.

  • coolpillows

    Thanks for the writeup! I hate endorsements. They’re meaningless, especially when half of my endorsements are from friends on LinkedIn that I’ve never worked with. One of these friends I actually completely faked out when I wrote back to him saying something like, “OMG, how can you endorse me for User Experience!?! Dude, do you realize how many people will see that!? …” and so on. To which he responded sincerely apologetic that he didn’t mean it and didn’t know what he was doing. (I later explained I was just pulling his chain.)

    But that points up the flaw in the whole thing. I guess maybe the whole recommendation thing was more of an effort and the LinkedIn folks wanted to provide a fast and easy way to do something similar. Frankly, I’m circumspect of recommendations too, especially when I see some people with dozens of recommendations who are not exactly ‘players’ and some people who really ARE with zero recommendations. My feeling is your work should speak for itself. LinkedIn is a network, but it’s not everything. It’s the work itself and the depth of personal connections that matter more than anything. And so far, there’s no technology platform that takes the place of that.

  • Absolutely Roy…

  • Mary Jane Roy

    Roy I’m entering this discussion late. Just catching up on emails in my inbox. Thank you for posting this one. It too has been on my mind. I’m repeating many of the comments of the others but here goes!
    People who have never done business with me endorse me for things they couldn’t possibly know about me. Also LinkedIn makes their own suggestions for descriptions which I wouldn’t ever attribute to myself. Yet people endorse me on these also.
    I do seriously look at what people would like to be endorsed for. I’ve even written a few to ask them about what they do. If I feel that I can’t honestly honor the endorsement, I don’t endorse back.
    Something that does seem to be appreciated by connections is when I respond with a thank you to their endorsement. It gives me an opportunity to reach out to connections with whom I’ve had little or no contact. It also puts my name ‘out there’. So in these ways, I do feel it’s a positive service. However, I question if potential clients will place much value on the endorsements.

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