LinkedIn: If They Ask, Should You Endorse?

Having recently returned from a trip booked through Travelocity, I wasn’t surprised that they asked me to provide a review of my hotel. But also, in that same email in-basket, was a request for a personal endorsement on LinkedIn — from someone whose name I did not recognize.

OprahEndorsementsHaving recently returned from a trip booked through Travelocity, I wasn’t surprised that they asked me to provide a review of my hotel. After all, Travelocity recognizes that user-generated content is the best way to provide shoppers with product feedback and insight on their website.

But also, in that same email in-basket, was a request for a personal endorsement on LinkedIn — from someone whose name I did not recognize.

Curious, I read their profile to reacquaint myself with the individual. Funnily enough, I barely knew this person; I never actually met them, but their organization was one of our company’s clients. After chatting with my account team, none of them remembered this manager either and we concluded they were on the team, but not involved in our day-to-day activities (at least we think that’s who they were).

A little additional digging revealed that they had sent me a LinkedIn request only a few weeks earlier. I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t actually know this person, but because they worked at one of our clients companies, I wasn’t going to turn them down.

Next, they chose to endorse me for some of my skills (gee, thanks, although how did they know if we never actually worked together?).

Now, a few weeks later, they actually sent me an InMail asking me to click/endorse them on six specific skills because they are currently seeking a new leadership position. And here’s what’s really fascinating: When I looked at their LI profile, it seems the number of people who have endorsed them for the six skills they requested, has recently exploded to over 100. Some of those now endorsing don’t seem to have ever endorsed anyone else for these particular skills on LI, so is their profile really a marketing ploy for recruiters?

I know LinkedIn is an important business tool for networking and is used by many HR people to identify potential candidates. Plus, if you submit a resume for a position, the first place the hiring manager looks is to your LinkedIn profile. So by beefing up your profile with endorsement volume (possibly from people who don’t really know you), is that an authentic way to promote your personal brand?

Personally, I don’t give out recommendations lightly. If I know you and your work, I’m happy to be a reference — and can often help you find that next “right” job. I’m always networking and am thrilled when I can put somebody I’ve worked with and admired together with a similar marketing colleague who is looking to fill a slot. If I’m a personal reference, I want to be sincere and honest — because after all, it reflects my brand.

I admit that I often review dining experiences on Open Table; hotels and resorts on Travelocity, or other travel sites; or product reviews on Amazon; under an alias. I choose to do so because I don’t really want to mix my business brand with my personal life. But any kind of endorsement on LinkedIn is a direct reflection on me as a marketer.

Perhaps I’m the only one who feels this way; perhaps I’m being too harsh. But if I’m disingenuous with my endorsements, then what does that say about me?

I’m curious to know what other marketers think. Do you randomly endorse skill sets for colleagues/friends/associates on LinkedIn? Do those skill set endorsements really matter?

Author: Carolyn Goodman

A blog that challenges B-to-B marketers to learn, share, question, and focus on getting it right—the first time. Carolyn Goodman is President/Creative Director of Goodman Marketing Partners. An award-winning creative director, writer and in-demand speaker, Carolyn has spent her 30-year career helping both B-to-B and B-to-C clients cut through business challenges in order to deliver strategically sound, creatively brilliant marketing solutions that deliver on program objectives. To keep her mind sharp, Carolyn can be found most evenings in the boxing ring, practicing various combinations. You can find her at the Goodman Marketing website, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @CarolynGoodman.

10 thoughts on “LinkedIn: If They Ask, Should You Endorse?”

  1. Carolyn – I believe endorsements are much less valuable than recommendations. Nonetheless, I will not endorse anyone for something about which I do not have experience working with them. To me that would be disingenuous.

  2. I’m in the same boat, Carolyn. Endorsements reflect not only on the one receiving them, but also on the person giving them.

    For me, an endorsement is like saying, “yes, I verify this person is skilled at x,” and placing my reputation on it. If I have no experience with that person to know, then the endorsement means nothing.

    Hopefully this is not a trend that catches on any more than it has – after all, if too many endorsements are disingenuous, then they will all be perceived as disingenuous by anyone who does not already personally know you and your skillset.

    You’d think we, marketers as a whole, would have learned by now that attempting to trick or spam the system is not a good strategy.

    1. You’d think… but in this instance, the person asking me for the endorsement IS in marketing… which is what makes it even more awkward.

  3. Carolyn, I’m afraid it’s sometimes even worse than your column indicates. I’ve been endorsed, without having requested endorsements, for things for which I have little or no expertise. And I’ve yet to figure out how to get un-endorsed. Willy-nilly endorsements may make my endorsers look bad, but I think they also reflect unfavorably on me. Yet there’s no way to stop them.

    Part of the blame should plainly be placed on Linked-in, for regularly prompting people to make endorsements. How many times have you seen a prompt that essentially says something like, “Does Joe Blow know about data manipulation?” Ultimately, if we all live long enough, this kind of thing will undermine the credibility of Linked-In. Meanwhile, it’s undermining more than a few of its users.

    1. You’re so right, Peter. Blame should be on LinkedIn because every time you log in, they do ask about endorsing Joe Blow, and part of me feels guilty for NOT endorsing someone… because somehow, I fear that they’ll find out that I’m not endorsing them… especially after they seemingly took the time to endorse me (even though I didn’t ask them to!).

  4. I absolutely agree. I get asked to endorse people all the time who I only know tangentially through work. I consider LinkedIn a professional networking platform, in the same way that Facebook is a social networking platform. I will connect with many people on LI who I’ve had experience with (met at a conference, for example), but won’t endorse them if we haven’t actually worked together and I couldn’t defend my endorsement if called by a potential employer for that person. Likewise, when people who are social contacts contact me to connect on LI I turn them down — if we’ve never actually worked together. Including my own mother.

    1. I was nodding with you right up until your final sentence. Personally, I have no problem linking in with people I only know socially — if they are working adults, then why not?

      To your point, I’m not going to endorse them for a skill, since I don’t know their skill set, but in my mind, there is no problem in adding them to my business network — you never know when you might be able to leverage each other in a business setting.

      In fact, I do a lot of student mentoring and encourage them to reach out to family and friends and parents of friends, to build up their LI connections, so they can possibly leverage those relationships when there is a particular job they’re interested in. I’m curious, if a young person reached out to you because they saw you were connected to a hiring manager at a company they were pursuing, would you make the introduction to help them? Probably… but they won’t know you know them, unless you Link In and let them leverage that tool. Your thoughts?

      1. Yes, I see what you’re saying. I misspoke a bit; I don’t automatically refuse to LI with social connections, but there are people who have asked to connect with me who I went to high school with, but I couldn’t tell you anything about their adult careers or if they would be a good employee. My mother wants to connect with me, but I think our social relationship (outside of our familial one, obviously) is more appropriate on FB than LI. 🙂

        If a young person reached out to me re: putting them in touch with a connection of mine–and I knew that they were in the same industry or had the right skill set–I’d be happy to make the introduction. But I’ve had people ask to connect with me, and then immediately ask if I could get them a job at the University at which I work. That’s not professional networking, in my estimation.

  5. Coming at this from a career professional I have a bit of a different perspective. LinkedIn as you know is a marketing tool. Although it’s not known for sure, endorsements play a role in LinkedIn’s search algorithm. So when people are trying to beef up certain skills, I don’t see this in the same realm as black hat SEO tactics. I see it as an effort to get found more easily.

    Recruiters and hiring managers don’t pay much attention to the skills section for precisely the reason you are turned off by getting asked to endorse by people you don’t know well. And for what it’s worth, I’ve never heard of a hiring manager following up with an endorser to ask “Can you tell me about John’s skills in marketing?” Like others have said, endorsements are not anywhere near as valuable as a recommendation on LinkedIn.

    It’s the same kind of thing when you list a bunch of skills in a Core Competency section of your resume. It may help you get through an applicant tracking system, but you still may not get called for an interview if you can’t show enough proof of those skills throughout your resume. The same applies to your LinkedIn profile–it needs to support the endorsements with proof in your summary, experience sections and recommendations.

    For those totally annoyed with endorsements, you have the ability to turn them off for your profile (see screenshot). Go to the endorsement section of your profile in edit mode, and you’ll see that setting along with turning off the ability to have your profile show up in those endorsement suggestion boxes that pop up. If you don’t want to be endorsed for skills you don’t have, populate all 50 skills so people can’t add new ones. And if you don’t want to show someone that endorsed you for a skill because they never worked for you, you can hide that person from the list of endorsers.

    Hope this helps resolve some things about endorsements. Thanks for bringing up a good topic.

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