Why We Don’t Understand LinkedIn Endorsements

A couple of weeks ago, Linkedin rolled out a new feature which raised a few eyebrows around here – LinkedIn “Endorsements”.  The general idea here is that you can get your connections to validate (endorse) the skills that you lay claim to in your profile, proving that you are indeed what you say you are.  But after fiddling with it for a while, we’re not sure that we understand the point.

The feature itself is simple: you can – if you feel like it – endorse (i.e. validate) the skills of any one your LinkedIn connections.  As you’ve (ahem) worked with, met, known or collaborated with your connections, you are of course capable of verifying that someone exhibits the skill(s) that they claim to.

The number of endorsements you have received against each of the skills you list is displayed on your profile for all to see.  The net result is that people who find your profile no longer have to take your word for it that you’re a Jedi Grand Master, because they can see that other people have validated it. The more endorsements you have, the better a Jedi Grand Master you are.

On the face of it, this all seems a relatively neat idea – but we have one really sweeping concern: what does it mean if you don’t have any endorsements?

Before you go any further, let us answer that for you: it means absolutely nothing whatsoever, and that is the problem with it all.

This is because the primary reason for someone having more endorsements than someone else has nothing to do with their competency in that area.  Rather, the number of endorsements you have will be driven primarily by the number of connections you have.  The more connections you have, the more endorsements you will get. It is only possible to be endorsed by someone connected to you, so this is an absolute given of the system.

So a system (presumably) designed as a validation tool ends up being something that bears no bearing to your professional capabilities and is instead tied only to the number of connections you have (or – and this is another article – how hard you’ve tried to encourage others to endorse you, because – let’s be honest – we’ve been endorsed by people we don’t actually know and who are doing so in order to encourage us to return the favour, and so (probably) have you).

Or are we missing something here?

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