"Man Question" artwork by Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the past week, LinkedIn rolled out another unexpected feature, called Endorsements. Building on their skills section, where you can select and feature skills, you can now have others select and endorse your skills. In turn, you can go to another’s profile and endorse theirs.

The general idea is nothing new online. Klout and many other web services are built on the ability of users to endorse, vote, or plus articles, people, services, or articles. Almost any blog these days has a set of clickable links (yeah, I still have to enable that on my new blog) to Tweet, Update, Recommend, +G, and +K. (Did I miss +A, +B, +C?). This is a form of crowdsourcing. It works on a lot of sites, even some older, venerable ones like Delicious. The theory is that if you are looking for an article (or thing, or person), a quick way to see which resource is more valuable is to see how many people endorsed it (or him, or her). This often (but not always) works well and can help you find a valuable resource (or just something interesting to read) speedily.

So why might this be a bad idea on LinkedIn? You can already Like status updates, and people who pose questions can rate their fave answers.

The problem is that, by using endorsements for skills (and not posts, or profiles, or links), LinkedIn appears to have two people in mind for this feature: those looking for work and those looking for workers. The problem, in my opinion, is that it is TOO easy. Anybody could look at any connection’s profile, look at the skills list, and click on a skill to endorse it. LinkedIn will even prompt you to do it if you didn’t think about it. You can also add skills your connection didn’t even think of adding. Unlike, recommendations, there is no thought process involved other than the binary decision whether to click or not to click. Nor is there any way to rate whose click is more reliable than another’s. At least in a recommendation, some thought and effort goes into it, it’s not a random act. (I wonder what would happen if users tried to give their connections endorsements for “persnickety,” “obstinate,” “obtuse,” “uncharismatic,” or worse? Hey, after this post, I might get some from LinkedIn staffers.)

But HR people are often suspicious of LinkedIn recommendations. Why would they be less suspicious of endorsements? Is there an HR person or recruiter who is going to make a hiring decision on the basis of a crowdsourced popularity contest? When a wrong decision can cost thousands of dollars and their job? I certainly hope not.

If endorsements are supposed to make your profile more attractive to HR people (who you want to look at your profile to hire you), don’t be surprised when you get an email or popup message offering to sell you “hundreds or thousands of endorsement on LinkedIn, now for the low introductory fee of….” Or start having your email box stuffed with connections you might not even know asking for endorsements. (Perhaps this is one more subtle way for LinkedIn to annoy open connectors?)

My guess is that this is a feature that some fan of Stumbleupon or Klout thought would be a neat idea without thinking it entirely through. Or maybe, LinkedIn has come to the conclusion that HR professionals and recruiters are dumb, lazy creatures. Or that LinkedIn job hunters didn’t have enough to do already.

I could be wrong, but I don’t see this as a feature that anybody in the business of hiring would have asked for. Perhaps somebody desperately looking for work might think it is a good way to draw attention to their job skills.

Or perhaps, having good key words in your profile is a better way to be found.

So, once again, LinkedIn appears to be providing a new service that nobody asked for (like job hunting badges) while taking away features that people actually used. (Anybody else miss the vCard button that disappeared from profiles a few weeks ago? Or the last names of 3rd level connections?) Or maybe they are trying to distract us from the things we’ve been requesting for years, like listing the number of connections over 500, cheaper paid memberships, access to more members and more search results, and Inmail (still text-only with no attachments, really?) that costs 10 to 25 cents instead of a dollar a pop.

Why the fuss? Because LinkedIn is the world’s best business site and we want to make it even better, not add features that don’t help.

For another perspective see Eric Wittlake’s article, “NO!! LinkedIn Just Went Klout on Us!”

However, if you want to try it out, or just want to see what the fuss is all about, check out Steve Martin’s “Endorse LinkedIn users; A recommendation for the rest of us” or Viveka von Rosen’s Linked Into Business blog, where she offers a much sunnier, more optimistic view of the change, “LinkedIn Skills get more Klout (with new Endorsements).”

I’d offer how-to instructions, myself, but my heart just isn’t there; I don’t want to encourage it. I know, I know. I’m waiting for those “persnickety,” “obstinate,” and “obtuse” endorsements. Hmm, maybe it will help me stand out from the crowd?

See our index of other LinkedIn articles on Frugal Guidance 2 on our LinkedIn on FG2 page.


“Man Question” artwork by Danilo Rizzuti courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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