Recently, LinkedIn launched its endorsements feature, which is essentially a simplified version of the LinkedIn recommendation.  But do these endorsements hold any value?  I think they do, but I don’t believe they’re as useful for social proof of skills as they are for the indirect messages they convey to others.

Infinitely easier to offer than a recommendation, a LinkedIn endorsement takes one click to bestow.  As a result, it’s likely that endorsements aren’t taken nearly as seriously by those who offer them as recommendations… and if recommendations aren’t all 100% sincere, you can imagine what that means for endorsements.

That being said, there is still some useful information that can be picked from them:

1)      They serve as a check and balance.

Moving forward, endorsements will likely serve as another item on the checklist for recruiters and employers.  Rather than give additional credit to those who have them, individuals who do not may send up red flags.  In other words, just like old-fashioned references, endorsements become the norm.

2)      They act as evidence of soft skills not listed on one’s profile.

A great example of this is amiability.  Very few people will openly brag about how well-liked they are by their peers on LinkedIn – and those who do are probably dirty rotten liars, or are otherwise oblivious to how wrong they are.  But because endorsements are given by others (who probably like you at least a little!), they can serve as a handy indicator of how easy to get along with a person is.  The only exception to this is with recruiters, which in some cases receive endorsements from people who are only seeking to push their agenda and land a job.  While these endorsements might very well be true, they also come from individuals who have little to no relationship with the recruiter, suggesting an ulterior motive.

3)      They typically offer insight into who the person’s closest connections really are.

Again, you can exclude recruiters from this category entirely.  Apart from them though, I believe endorsements to be a great indicator of a person’s inner professional circle, and here’s why: you can’t solicit an endorsement formally like you can with recommendations.  Someone has to be thinking of you (or you must reach out to them informally) in order to endorse you, and for that to happen, you had to have some sort of meaningful interaction with them.

The Rule of Three

Like recommendations, it is possible to offer too many endorsements.  I would argue that the rule of three serves as an excellent guideline: when offering endorsements to another, endorse up to one third of their listed skills, to a maximum of three.  Anything more and your gesture won’t be taken seriously (the same as if you took a survey and rated every single question 10 out of 10 – it looks like you don’t actually care).

The Bottom Line

Endorsements should be seen more as a personal branding tool than as social proof of your skills. More than anything, they are an indicator of your professional likeability… which comes in handy when you’re trying to market yourself to others!

What’s your take on LinkedIn endorsements?  Leave me a comment and weigh in!

Jason Repovs is the blogger behind The Personal Professional. He is a professional marketer who share thoughts on marketing and leadership from a Generation Y perspective. Jason has a passion for relationship building, organization management, personal branding, and affecting change.