In September, LinkedIn rolled out Endorsements, “a new feature that makes it easier to recognize them [Connections] for their skills and expertise.” In their Q3 2012 earnings announcement, LinkedIn noted that “members have generated more than 200 million endorsements to their colleagues.”
I contributed just a handful of endorsements to the (quite impressive) 200 million total. While I’m fairly active on LinkedIn, Endorsements is one feature I haven’t used much. Let me explain why.
1) It’s too easy and convenient.
Yes, that does sound counter-intuitive. And granted, LinkedIn wanted to make it easy and convenient, a la the “Like” on Facebook. On Facebook, I’m happy to “Like” a friend’s witty comment or interesting photo. It takes less than a second and provides an endorsement of sorts.
But LinkedIn is a business setting. And if an action takes so little overhead to perform (just a single click), then the meaning and significance of that action is diminished. To “endorse” a post on Facebook is one thing, but to endorse a colleague’s work? That should take more effort.
That’s why I like LinkedIn’s Recommendations feature: you need to put some effort into expressing why you’re recommending your Connection. And you need to do so “in writing,” rather than via a single click.
2) It doesn’t describe quality or depth.
Notice the language used by LinkedIn: “Does [NAME] have these skills or expertise?” and “Does [NAME] know about [TOPIC]?”. So the Endorsements feature is a way to validate the skills that users list on their profile. That’s fine and good, but it doesn’t capture the depth or quality of the particular skill.
You could measure depth based on the quantity of endorsements received per topic. But all that says is that people confirm that you have the skill. It doesn’t denote that you perform the skill particularly well.
3) Creates awkward decision-making moments.
I don’t know about you, but I find this process a bit awkward. Do I endorse Diane for all of the listed skills, or would that be too generous? Do I remove a few, then endorse her for the rest? Should I feel bad that I’ve chosen to NOT endorse Diane for particular skills? These are some of the questions that run through my head when I see the Endorsements “prompt.”
Feature Ideas: LinkedIn Endorsements
Let’s discuss ways to address some of the issues I list above.
1) Reverse the model.
What if Connections could view a set of skills and expertise and endorse you from that list? This way, the endorser determines the list of skills, not the endorsee. When making an endorsement, it would be ideal to hide the pre-existing endorsements (from others), so as not to influence the endorser. This model would make the endorsements more meaningful, as they’re independently selected by the “audience,” rather than being influenced by the user (i.e. via the skills that they choose to list).
2) Use up/down voting.
Currently, proficiency in your skills is based on the quantity of Endorsements you received. Your Connections can influence your proficiency based on the specific skills for which they endorse you. An endorsement for a “highly endorsed” skill widens that bar, while one for a previously un-endorsed skill creates a small blip.
Instead, why not let Connections perform a set number of up/down votes. Is “social media marketing” listed too far above “lead generation”? If so, I’ll up-vote lead generation, if I think you’re not getting enough credit for that skill. This model allows Connections to more directly influence the relative order of your skills.
3) Endorse particular achievements or completed projects.
Did you work on an impactful project? Pull off a world class event? If you did, then I’m sure the project involved a number of people. List the project (or event) on your profile and allow those involved to endorse your work on it. And, they can leave a comment on how the project impacted them – or, how your role was instrumental to its success.
4) Use comments to capture depth of particular skills.
Ratings and endorsements, in the form of clicks, can be gamed. And that makes them less meaningful. It’s harder to “game” a written endorsement, however. So similar to LinkedIn’s existing Recommendations feature, Endorsements could have particular areas (e.g. the “project idea” listed above) that allow endorsers to chime in with their thoughts. Rather than long paragraphs of text, perhaps this uses the Twitter approach (140 characters or less).
I hope this post helps explain why I haven’t been active in LinkedIn Endorsements. I have participated quite a bit in Recommendations (rather than Endorsements), because I believe in the worthiness of the written (vs. one click) form. Leave a comment below to let me know if you endorse this post!
Note: I invite you to connect with me on Google+.