LinkedIn recently rolled out Endorsements, a way to endorse your connections’ skills with just one click. The feedback has been mixed thus far, but here are my initial thoughts and observations:

The Good

While Recommendations are a bit labor-intensive and easy to procrastinate, Endorsements are quick, easy and painless. LinkedIn even pops up a handy-dandy reminder box, going so far as to suggest which Skill you should endorse for which friend. Easy is good.

While reciprocal Recommendations are pretty universally frowned upon, there really isn’t a negative connotation to reciprocal Endorsements. (This may be because Recommendations are so visible whereas Endorsements are just a tiny face box in a sea of other faces.) Right or wrong, when you endorse someone, you will likely get an endorsement in return. So not only is it quick and easy, the effort-reward ratio is pretty high.

It adds a bit of a social component to a social network that isn’t always as social as some of the other ones out there (Facebook, Twitter, etc.). It allows you to interact and engage (albeit on a fairly superficial level) with your network. It gives old friends, colleagues and classmates a reason to reconnect and say hi. It allows you to do something nice and engage others in a positive way. This is all a good thing.

Recommendations are lengthy to read and difficult to score while Skills / Endorsements are very easy to categorize, measure and rank. Good for data / SEO, good for recruiters searching for candidates, good for companies who pay a lot of money for a LinkedIn Recruiter account and therefore good for LinkedIn’s investors.

Social Talent’s recent blog post calls Endorsements “the greatest thing to happen to LinkedIn since its inception” because it provides additional data for shallow profiles (profiles with just one job title / employer and nothing else – about 60% of the LinkedIn network). According to the post, you can’t search for keywords that aren’t there and Endorsements use crowdsourcing to add additional keywords to those profiles. While this is all well and good, I still prefer to see a keyword / skill in the right context (where you used it, for how long and how long ago) so the value is limited to me. Good, but not great, in my opinion.

The Bad:

The value provided by an Endorsement just seems very limited to me. It feels like “Recommendation Lite”. If you want to recommend someone, go ahead and write a Recommendation. Personally, I’d rather see where you worked with the person, understand what your working relationship actually was and hear what you specifically have to say about them. Recommendations show all of this. Endorsements do not.

As with the Klout +K, it feels more like a popularity contest or a system to be gamed rather than a real feedback mechanism. While I appreciate Endorsements and +Ks (especially if I’ve actually worked with you and/or done something to influence/help you), I kinda gave up on handing out +Ks a while ago. It was just too labour intensive and the whole tit-for-tat mentality was exhausting. Wonder how long it will take me to reach the same kind of burnout with Endorsements?

I’ve made the decision to only endorse Skills that I’ve personally witnessed firsthand and actually endorse, not just a bunch of blind clicking to endorse everyone and everything. (As with LinkedIn Recommendations, I’d like to think my thumbs-up means a little more than that!) Since not everyone is as discerning with their Endorsements, I think they end up being pretty meaningless.

Some people are complaining about the pop-up windows, additional email messages and extra notifications as creating a spammy environment that’s negatively affecting the user experience. Reminds me of the controversy around noisy Twitter feeds (that were ultimately removed from LinkedIn).

Of course, I have to wonder if this decision will come back to bite me. Will LinkedIn’s search algorithm soon reflect Endorsements? Will Klout scores go up (or down) based on LinkedIn Endorsements? If I don’t play the game (and/or game the system), will it end up damaging my brand and/or hurting my business?

The Ugly:

LinkedIn Endorsements are barely a month old and I’ve already been contacted by each of the following… and thus the inspiration to write this blog post. Do any of these describe you? (I hope not!)

The Beggar: “Please endorse me. Pretty please? If not, I’ll just send you another message next week with a pretty, PRETTY please.”

The Stranger: “You don’t really know me that well and we haven’t actually worked together, but please endorse all of my wonderful skills. It’s only a little white lie, really…”

The Open Endorser: The name says it all and there are already a few Open Endorser LinkedIn groups. This new “title” will soon be popping up on profiles, headlines and middle names everywhere… You heard it here first, folks!

The Guilt-Tripper: “I just endorsed you, so please endorse me back.” (Note: May turn into The Beggar or The Threatener, see below.)

The Threatener: “If you don’t endorse me, I’m gonna remove my Endorsements of you.” (I even had one person deliver on this threat. Some people have WAY too much time on their hands! Haha)

The jury’s still out and it will be interesting to see how Endorsements affect LinkedIn’s other features, the search algorithm, the LinkedIn Recruiter platform and the overall user experience on the site. I’m pretty underwhelmed for now, but will do my best to keep an open mind.

What’s your vote? Good, Bad or Ugly?

photo by: Looking Glass

Stacy Donovan Zapar

Stacy Donovan Zapar is a 15-year recruiting veteran and CEO of Tenfold Social Training, a training / consulting company for recruiters and hiring teams. She is also the Most Connected Woman on LinkedIn with more than 36,000 first-level connections. She served as Technical Editor for Wiley’s LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day and is a regularly-featured contributor on The Undercover Recruiter. Feel free to follow Stacy on Twitter @StacyZapar and connect with her on LinkedIn.