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Why LinkedIn endorsements are worthless

(MoneyWatch) Am I good at helping companies calculate deferred compensation? I'm at least familiar with the concept, but I'm no expert.

Yet LinkedIn seems convinced that I know something about it, which is why the online professional networking service added it to my list of possible skills on my profile. Presumably that's based on the fact that other people with similar job titles are good at deferred compensation. The scary part is, several people endorsed me for it. 

Now, legal compliance is another skill on my LinkedIn profile. I'm actually quite good at this, having spent three years in a labor and employment law department of a large pharmaceutical company. I've trained others on legal compliance. I've received advanced instructions from qualified attorneys. I make it a point to keep up in this area, and I follow employment case law.

So this is a skill that I have, and it makes sense that I'd be endorsed for it. And I am. Except I have never worked with a single person that endorsed my skills in legal compliance. Yes, they have read my blog and they know that I write about labor law. But unless they, too, are skilled in that area, they don't have enough knowledge to judge whether or not I really know what I'm talking about.

And that, right there, is the problem with the LinkedIn endorsements. People click buttons. I have a policy of accepting LinkedIn invitations from my readers, so I have a lot of connections with people who I haven't directly worked with. But that doesn't stop LinkedIn from asking everyone who views my profile if I have skills in some area that they've picked at that time.

I admit it, I click on the buttons too. I am careful to only endorse people that I have direct knowledge of their skills. This morning, one of my former coworkers popped up asking if she had skills in software documentation. Heck yes, she does! She's awesome at that. So I clicked yes. But someone evaluating the click has to do a bunch of research to figure out my relationship with her (I was her direct supervisor for two years, and then worked in the same general areas as her for seven additional years). Without that research, there is no reason to believe that I have any idea what I'm talking about when I say she has those skills.

While it's a nice idea to get verification of people's skills, this "click here" approach means that people often just automatically click yes. You can endorse multiple people for multiple skills in one click. Convenient!

Except the convenience of the whole thing dilutes the impact of it. So go ahead and click away. But don't expect that people are going to be impressed when 14 people endorse you for dragon training without clear evidence that you are good at dragon training, which I'm sure you are, because I've just endorsed you.

Have you found the LinkedIn endorsements to be helpful or do you think they are of little value?

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