25 Oct

Endorsing skills on LinkedIn, a fail?

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.

Now what?

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?

6 thoughts on “Endorsing skills on LinkedIn, a fail?

  1. Hello again Miloš! 🙂 This is a rather interesting subject to be discussed. When linkedin introduced this endorsing system, I have to say that I found it somewhat exciting , and naively thought that it could boost my profile in terms of professional knowledge, experience and practical use of technologies on the job. But alas, as my poethic side bursts to come out in these late hours of the night… well, at least where I am it’s late now 😉 , this has proved to be incorrect as I have found myself in a similar situation, being endorsed for the set of skills that are not my primary strength, thereby giving the false impression about my expertise , so to speak. Generally I agree with you about the recommendation system, and it’s validity, however, let’s consider the situation where a person has a considerable amount of personal friends who are willing to vouch for their friend’s knowledge and efficiency, despite the fact that in real situation it may not be entirely true. I know that in professional world people stand by what they have said or written, but for a friend you would go a little further. On the other hand we could have a hard-worker who may not be a people’s person, and therefore have less recommendations in his portfolio. How do you rank those two, if we imagine they both have about the same amount of working experience? Maybe I’m going off the subject here, I don’t know, I’m a bit tired… These are my two cents on the subject ( if I am wrong can I get a refund 😛 ). Anyway, the good side of the story is that I have another html guru master that I can consider hiring if the need for making a website arises. Just kidding…please don’t hit me with a Highly Threatening Metal Lantern xD Well, it’s getting pretty late now, so I will go to dream about the new linkedin’s ranking system… Cheers guys 😀


    You’ve said faulty skill endorsements give false impression about your expertise. Since everyone is aware of this, it makes the endorsements irrelevant – no one is going to take them as important when they navigate trough people’s profiles.

    You’ve also said that “for a friend you would go a little further”. Well, yes, but by giving wrong endorsements, you are not helping the person, and, not only that. you are degrading yourself in the matter of professional honesty.

    If someone is not a “people person”, then he has bigger issues than skill endorsements and recommendations, since he/she lacks the most important online trait – the ability to connect to people.

    Tnx for commenting and expressing your opinion. 🙂

  3. The author has a good point when he says that endorsements will never be like recommendations – recommendations are simply better and they have a bigger impact.
    I look upon the endorsement as a logical evolution when it comes to LI features. Basically, this is “Like my Skill”, LinkedIn style. I also agree that the potential problem lies in the fact that anyone, even people you do not know at all, or you have never worked with (but still are in your connection lists) can endorse you for this or that.
    However, much bigger problem than this is the amount of crap and straightforward bullshit that people tend to write in their LinkedIn resumes. Pimping up work resumes is nothing new – but I’ve seen many examples where this went completely out of control. Scott Hanselman recently had a good comment about this – that too many people have ‘visionary’ in their resumes, without anything to back that up. This is a good example of what I’m talking about – but sadly, it’s only one of many examples out there.

  4. Hi Milos,
    I agree with you that LinkedIn endorsements are not as valuable as recommendation.
    What has been interesting to me is that endorsements are about how other people see you rather than the you just listing skills. I have been surprised by some of the skills that people I know have listed.
    Thank you very much for thinking that my post was sharing even if you are not a fan of endorsements.



    Hi Nicky,

    I couldn’t agree more. The idea behind skills is pure and reveals LinkedIn’s efforts to evolve the business platform. Skills endorsements really make it possible for us to endorse people in detail, but considering the way people do it kills their true value.

    This is why I’ve suggested merging standard LinkedIn recommendations with skill endorsements, making it possible to point out some key elements of a true and honest recommendation by highlighting skills a person has shown during a project or a full-time engagement.

    Thank you very much for your insight and useful articles on your blog.

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Copyright: Miloš Đekić