The Willy-Nilly of LinkedIn Endorsements

It is no secret, and evident from my previous blog posts, that LinkedIn is my favored social media network for personal branding and job search.

What is not to like?

With LinkedIn you can build and expand on your resume, provide an e-portfolio as evidence of your best work, connect with professionals in your career focus, and use as a personal learning network.

I repeat: What is not to like?

Apparently, LinkedIn endorsements are the most buzzed about with dislike.  Just Google search for “LinkedIn endorsements” and you will find numerous proclamations to ignore them, while others offer helpful suggestions to use them.

The Willy-Nilly.

LinkedIn EndorsementsWilly (job interviewer):  “I see that 26 people have endorsed you for goat herding.”

Nilly (job interviewee): “Ah, ah, ah, yes,” with a nervous chuckle and a recollection of a Fraternity prank and dare.

Willy (job interviewer):  “Okay then. But I did not see anything on your resume about this unusual experience. So, can you describe how the skills learned in goat herding can help you do this job you are interviewing for?”

Nilly (job interviewee): “Well, I ….” with nervousness and regret.

If you are on LinkedIn, then you know of the ubiquity of endorsements.  Often, when you sign-in or when you connect with someone, you are asked if you want to endorse them. And, many do.

Unfortunately, LinkedIn endorsements may work against your personal brand if they are:

1. primarily from other students, friends, and/or family;

2. from people that you may or may not know personally (probably in seek of reciprocity; note: only first-degree connections can endorse you);

3. from people that don’t really know your work and the authenticity of the skills they have endorsed you for; or

4. skills that are not of your choosing and/or not of your best qualities or selling points for your career.

While many on the social web have heavily discounted the value of endorsements (mostly for the reasons stated above), I am of the belief that:

“LinkedIn endorsements should be managed not dismissed.”

Even though few people do (and even fewer people seem to know), LinkedIn does give you the power of control over the endorsements you receive.

1. You can choose and manage the endorsements that best sell yourself for your chosen career.

2. You can hide, delete, or reject an endorsement that is not among the best to sell yourself for your chosen career.

Identify Your Best Skills/Qualities.

“The ego says: I will take all the endorsements I can get. Your personal brand says: manage me.”

First, you should conduct a self-analysis to determine your primary selling points (knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics). Review your resume experiences in work and education to begin your list. A personal SWOT analysis is helpful.

Second, you should ask others that know you well: “what do you think are my best work qualities or selling points for employment?” This may include: your professors, current and past supervisors for work and internships, current and past work colleagues, and others.  A personal 360 degree interview is best for this.

Third, you should research the job descriptions in your chosen career field to determine which qualities are most needed by potential employers.  This effort may uncover a few more qualities you had not considered and will certainly help to identify areas for future personal growth and improvement (qualifications gap). The Occupational Outlook Handbook is good for this (click to Occupation Groups>Occupation>How to Become>Important Qualities).

Fourth, review the three lists and narrow it to the qualities that you feel you could best explain and justify in a job interview (personal brand storytelling).

Fifth, organize your best qualities into: (1) core or discipline-related skills – abilities needed to complete a particular job or task (such as personal selling, marketing research, social media marketing, cost accounting), (2) support skills – abilities that are transferable and relevant across many jobs or career files (such as creativity, communication, teamwork, technical), or (3) other – these are qualities that are not likely seen as skills and thus not as relevant for use with LinkedIn endorsements.

Sixth, research keywords on LinkedIn to find the most used keywords representative of your core and support skills and add them to your LinkedIn profile.  Go to LinkedIn Profile Edit>Skills and Endorsements Edit>Add and Remove, and insert each of your skills into the box and pick the best wording suggested by LinkedIn.  Then reorder them to reflect the strategic importance of particular skills for your personal branding and self-marketing.

Taking Control.

Additionally, you should:

Only Showcase Your Best – While LinkedIn will allow you to add up to 50 skills, you should focus on your best qualifications.  As with a product brand that has numerous features and benefits, marketers focus on the most relevant and unique to a particular target market.  You should only list those skills that you are proficient at and that are truly your strengths.

A laundry list of everything you can think of only dilutes the impact and potential effectiveness of using skills endorsements for personal branding. You can later add more skills as your work experiences, education experiences, career or job search develops.  A list of your 12 best skills with a focus on guided endorsement trumps a laundry list of 50 skills that earn a minimal or no endorsement.

Use Guided Endorsements – If you have taken control, handpicked, and trimmed down your skills list, then you can let LinkedIn ask your connections to endorse those specific skills (check box in Endorsements>Edit).

Alternatively, your can turn off these random endorsement suggestions to your connections (just uncheck the box) and take a greater control of the situation by connecting with those that best know your qualifications such as colleagues, past and present supervisors, and professors.  After a connection is requested and accepted, follow up with a short note thanking them for the connection and requesting that they review your list of skills and endorse those they feel comfortable in doing so.

The tools needed for controlling your endorsements are explained and regularly updated in LinkedIn’s Help Center>Skills Endorsements.

Benefits of Managed Endorsements.

There are numerous advantages to managing your endorsements rather than letting them grow organically or willy-nilly.  These include:

Internal Personal SEO – While less important for a student near to graduate than to those with more established work experiences, when someone such as a social recruiter searches LinkedIn for potential employees for their clients, those with keyword optimized profiles will be easier to find. While uncertain whether LinkedIn’s search algorithm actually uses the endorsements keywords, the process of defining and controlling your endorsements can guide you to the best keywords to use throughout your LinkedIn profile.

Personal Brand Identity Confirmation – When defining how you want others to see you and your qualification (your personal branding identity), these primary selling points or keyword qualifications should be confirmed throughout your LinkedIn profile (such as in your headline/tagline, work experiences, education, courses, projects, recommendations, etc.). Endorsements add to this confirmation.

Guided Endorsements – Others that truly know you and your work will be encouraged to pick the skills that you have strategically chosen for endorsement.  If someone who knows you and your skills proposes a skill not on your list, you can independently evaluate whether it should be added or rejected.

Segue to Guided Recommendations – Whenever a valued connection has endorsed a skill, this opens the door and increases the likelihood of a favorable response to a request to provide a short recommendation on LinkedIn.  Of course, such a request should be guided as to which skills you want emphasized in their recommendation.

Personal Brand Storytelling – By choosing and controlling your best skills, you are showcasing the skills you can best explain or talk about during a job interview. Personal brand storytelling can provide powerful benefits to distinguish yourself during a job interview.

Social Proof/Signals – A greater number of endorsements on a particular skill just looks better and adds to the social proof/signals of your personal brand and qualifications.  These social signals should show stronger when you have properly focused on the right ones and guided your career stakeholders to support you in your job search and career.

The Take-Away.

LinkedIn endorsements do matter when strategically considering your personal branding and job search.

To ignore them or mismanage them misses a social media marketing opportunity to strengthen your personal brand identity among important job search and career stakeholders.


Do you still think LinkedIn endorsements are worthless?


Image credit: by Denny McCorkle

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Denny McCorkle @DennyMcCorkle

Professor of Marketing, Monfort College of Business at University of Northern Colorado
As a nationally recognized and award winning Marketing Professor in the Monfort College of Business at the University of Northern Colorado, I help students, professors, and professionals to gain a Digital Self Marketing Advantage through the use of social media marketing for personal branding, job search, skills development, career advancement, and life-long learning.