On September 24th, LinkedIn announced Skill Endorsements. As they would describe this, the range of your activities in the professional network included an option to “give kudos to people with one click”. In reality, we can now endorse a couple of skills of a certain individual, similar to a ‘Like’ button. And people started giving “professional” kudos like crazy…
So, here I am sitting in my comfortable work chair at 9 AM sharp (it was 10:30, off course), drinking my morning coffee, thinking about what activity should ignite my to work enthusiasm. After a short visit to my Tweet deck timelines (and viewing a couple of X-Factor auditions on YouTube, and talking on the phone for 10 minutes, but who counts), my attention was taken by force to focus on something…absolutely not acceptable…
Legolas, what do your elf eyes see?
Come on, HTML!? You got to be kidding me…
How it all began?
A million years ago, LinkedIn introduced skills as a standard feature and this was a good move, since it enabled users to point out their advantages. On the other side, head hunters could now refine their search criteria. Everyone was happy with the feature, one would say, but this one was not flawless.
When software engineers want to describe their programming skills, they often use a quality or quantity factor to point out their actual level of knowledge, understanding and practical usage of technologies. For example, if I would want to point out Java and PHP as my programming languages, I would say:
Programming Languages: Java (advanced), PHP (expert)
I could always go for the quantity factor and say:
Programming Languages: Java (2,5 years), PHP (5 years)
With LinkedIn skills, you can list your skills, but there is no way to ponder them. Although the skills did expand the professional profile and enabled it to display more data from the paper resume, the absence of pondering made it impossible to highlight certain skills.
All in all, skill list did help, at least in positioning our profiles in searches. Although people always emphasize their knowledge and competences in their resumes, and that clearly reflected on LinkedIn skills, this artificial know-it-all “professionals” were easily busted by considering recommendations they (do not) have.
This article is not about LinkedIn recommendations, since this is a big subject and will definitely be a part of one of my future articles. For now, we can focus on the present state that emerged after the introduction of the endorsement feature.
What did we get?
HTML is my best rated skill!? How is it that people even think about clicking on ‘HTML’ without clicking on…anything else? There is a perfect explanation, and it comes down to the following:
- LinkedIn prompts you to endorse a person’s skills when you visit their profile
When I saw my skills are growing numbers on their left and some people photos on the right, I instinctively clicked on their profile links. A dialog box appeared prompting me to endorse someone’s skills. I don’t know what algorithm outputs the proposed skills, but I instantly noticed they are not in sync with the person’s profile.
So, what does an average LinkedIn user do? They click the “Endorse” button (a self-taught move backed up by years of experience in clicking “Next” during software installations) and you end up with a completely random endorsement.
- We are endorsed for skills we did not list in our profile
I listed so much skills on my profile and thus stopped people from guessing and thinking what skills can they endorse. But, I’ve talked to other people and they informed me that they are getting endorsed for skills they did not list.
- People endorse their acquaintances they never worked with
Not a lot time passed, I started noticing endorsements from people that know me, but never worked with me. I can almost picture them thinking: “Yes, I think he is good with Java – click!” Based on a feeling or a pale memory, people “like” my skillset with all the good intentions, but obviously without credit.
Being used to sharing, liking, favoring, and re-tweeting stuff all around the internet, we are instinctively drawn to use this feature in an irresponsible manner. This makes the information we produce invalid.
- Skill endorsements are no match for recommendations
When we recommend people on LinkedIn, we can expect that people will actually read what we wrote about a person’s professionalism or work ethics. The recommendation itself can say a lot about us too. That forces us to put extra effort in maintaining honesty, professionalism and style. And this is exactly what skill endorsements lack.
So, It’s only logical how my skillset leader turned out to be HTML, the “Highly Technical Must Laugh” of my entire IT career. This isn’t fair, right?
Is there a good side?
LinkedIn actually allows you to hide an endorsement if you consider it wrong or you just don’t want an individual to appear on your profile with his/her smiling, kudos giving face as one of your skill supporters. This makes it more plausible because we can undo the wrong simply by refusing to display endorsements we don’t want. This is a good practice already in effect with LinkedIn recommendations.
A Q&A thread on LikedIn states: “Your connection will have to approve endorsements for suggested skills not yet listed on their profile before this happens.” I would guess this protects us from unwanted skills appearing on our profile.
I would have to agree with some points laid out from different LinkedIn users, one of them being that they benefit (college) students. Students can be endorsed by their mentors and teachers and that could actually help in their pursue for a good start of a professional career. However, LinkedIn is a place for professionals and I think a different approach should be used when it comes to student profiles. However, this is a story for itself.
Personally, I would not pay too much attention to my skills being endorsed or not. I will continue to do my best to maintain a good level of communication and stick with recommendations, as they’ve proved to be an irreplaceable way for people to be endorsed for their work, enthusiasm and contribution.
A suggestion for LinkedIn would be to add skill endorsements to recommendations. Since LinkedIn recommendations are already widely accepted as relevant, they could only be enhanced with an option to point out specific skills a person has demonstrated during a project or a long-term engagement. That would be my two cents for the subject.
LinkedIn community is buzzing about a complete redesign of LinkedIn profiles, and I had the chance to take a sneak peek at the new design. I sincerely hope the team behind the professional network will consider upgrading skills and skill endorsements along with the improved UI.
If you think skill endorsements are going to help you, you can and visit the following links:
These should actually help you use this feature in an optimal manner.
I would also recommend the following article: How to make the most out of LinkedIn. This is a fresh article from August, written before skill endorsements were started, and I consider it relevant for people who would like to unlock their full LinkedIn potential.
What do you think about skill endorsements in LinkedIn?