I’m an open-networker. I pretty literally will connect with anyone, anywhere for any reason. I’ve met new friends through LinkedIn and business contacts through Twitter. The Internet is an amazing place, and LinkedIn, good and bad, is the hub of professional networking online.
Last year LinkedIn introduced a new feature called “Skills,” whereby your connections can crowdsource-verify your expertise. Simple in theory and exciting at first. But then the inevitable happened… The internet found it. There is a bevy of reasons why I think the Skill Endorsements on LinkedIn are rubbish, but for brevity, I’ll list just three here.
1. People Make Assumptions
We all do it, we meet someone new and we find out what they do. But we only really know on a very basic level about their expertise. If we connect and you tell me you work in the financial industry, I could connect any number of dots to decide you work in derivatives. But perhaps you don’t. Perhaps you work in insurance, bond investments, or non-profit financial planning services.
I work in the technology industry, and it’s a big wonky place with thousands of different specialties. While I make my mark in Infrastructure Engineering, Middleware Systems Engineering, and DevOps support, many people assume I handle desk-side troubleshooting work… the kind where someone comes by and helps remove viruses or figure out why your email is acting funny.
The truth is, while LinkedIn Skill Endorsements held the hope and promise of shedding light on more granular expertise such as with specific technical products or services, it quickly devolved away from that. I’m certainly familiar with database technologies and how they work, but not well enough to design, construct, or support them. But on LinkedIn, you could be forgiven for thinking I did, based on how many people have endorsed me for those types of skills.
I only endorse people for skills I am 100% certain they’re a credible resource for.
2. It’s Always In Your Favor To Approve Skill Endorsements
Maybe this sounds counterintuitive, but it really is always in your favor to approve skill endorsements, even when you know they don’t apply very well to you. This is because doing so increases your visibility to others.
Initially, I made sure to reject endorsements for skills and technologies I wasn’t comfortable selling myself on in an interview. However, over time rejecting them became cumbersome as more and more people started using this feature on LinkedIn. When I stopped rejecting the endorsements I saw increases in both profile views and contact from recruiters. I’ve never made any false representations of my expertise to them, but while I don’t have all the skills I am endorsed for, I have most of them and I guarantee I know someone else who knows things I don’t.
Result: Expertise you’re endorsed for, but don’t possess can act as a catalyst for contact, and put you in a position to be a connector for others. Being a connector provides a valuable service to both the recruiter/employer value and your contacts who may be open to new positions value. However, it’s also wildly misleading about what you are capable of, which I think is a negative.
3. Skill Endorsements Distract From Your Career Direction Goals
The best practice with LinkedIn, like with traditional resumes, is to provide the details necessary for each position to illustrate why you’re a good candidate for the type of job you want. If you’re looking for data entry jobs, you play up your words per minute and the word processors you’re familiar with. If you want a management position you’d play up opportunities to collaborate with others and leadership roles and opportunities you took on showing some aptitude for that kind of role.
That kind of focus and control of direction starts to get diluted quickly when people you’ve encountered or worked with before start to endorse you for skills that don’t match that concentrated funnel. Sure, LinkedIn allows you to not approve skills, but then you dramatically reduce your visibility not just in your target focus, but across your entire professional network. This takes back to the point I made above where It’s Always In Your Favor to Approve Skill Endorsements.
This sort of counter-intuitive dependency can make a great resume seem to lack direction and make it seem like you don’t know where you want to go. Mine is certainly guilty of this as of the time of this post. It’s something I’ve been meaning to correct, but these critical flaws in LinkedIn’s Skill Endorsement feature provide plenty of clickbait for the profiles and I thrive on that visibility.