LinkedIn Endorsements: Reliable or BS?


If you’re on LinkedIn then no doubt you’re
familiar with the relatively new feature where you can endorse someone for his
or her skills and expertise. This feature is akin to Facebook’s “Like” option.
Not too long ago I connected with someone on
LinkedIn who I’d previously had no interaction with whatsoever. The person
reached out to me because we shared a common interest.
Within hours of connecting he endorsed me for the following skills: management,
training, marketing, leadership, and business planning.
Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate someone
taking the time to endorse me but this struck me as odd because management and
business planning are far from some of my stronger skills. There are things I’m
much more skilled at, like persuasion, influence at all levels, coaching,
sales, and sales management to name a few.
So why did I get these endorsements? Several
  • First, my profile is pretty robust and creates
    a good impression (authority).
  • Second, lots of other people have endorsed me
  • Third, LinkedIn makes it easy to endorse me for lots of skills.

Now here’s the rub – a lot of the endorsements
are BS. I say that because of the last point I made. LinkedIn has made it so
easy to endorse people that it’s becoming meaningless. Recommendations are a
far better gauge of someone’s skills and expertise because they mean the
recommender has some direct experience with the person they’re recommending. Writing a recommendation takes more time and effort but didn’t our parents tell us things that take time
and effort are worth more? I have nearly 1,600 contacts and the vast majority
have never sat through my training, worked directly with me or even met me.

Another reason I think the endorsements are BS
is because LinkedIn suggests them. By default many people just go with most or
all of the listed skills even if they don’t have any real basis to make the
Finally, consensus becomes unreliable. For
example, my new contact endorsed me for management. It was suggested and now
that he’s endorsed me, as have others, it creates the impression that
management is one of my better skills. The more people that see that, the more they
will endorse me. Do you think that makes me skilled at management? I don’t.
is yet another reason the endorsements should be taken with a grain of salt.
Many people feel obligated to return the favor after having been endorsed. I
visited my new contact’s home page when LinkedIn asked if he has the following
skills: management, marketing, business planning, economics and macroeconomics.
I don’t have any real idea and therefore can’t in good faith endorse him just
because of what’s on his LinkedIn page and the pull of reciprocity.
For all the reasons noted above, I rarely
endorse people. When I do, I do so because I have some basis for making the
endorsement, not because LinkedIn asks me to or because I feel obligated to
return the favor. I’ve actually declined to give recommendations when asked. I did so because I’d never worked directly with those people or even sat on a
committee with them. In other words, I had no basis for making the
If you’re considering hiring or doing business
with someone undoubtedly you’ll check out their LinkedIn home page. After all,
it’s the equivalent of a resume on steroids. When you notice their endorsed skills
and expertise, if any apply to why you may do business with them, then here’s my
simple suggestion: have several solid interview questions ready to help you
determine if they’re all they’re cracked up to be. In other words, caveat
emptor, buyer beware.
P.S. I went through my skills and endorsement
categories and removed all the ones I felt were not applicable.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
14 replies
  1. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    Great post Brian! One other way I have looked at LinkedIn endorsements relates to how people view you. Our brand is not what we say it is, but it is what people feel or think about us. I agree based on LinkedIn suggesting various skill sets some will just go with those, but I also think people will mostly endorse you for something they feel fits you. This may be part of your brand message that we wouldn't otherwise recognize.

  2. Anthony McLean
    Anthony McLean says:

    Brian it is an interesting point and one that has global relevance as LinkedIn is a global business tool. In defence of LinkedIn they have always pushed the barrow that you should only ever connect with people you know; those in your inner circle if you like. Hence the connection options when you send a request. They tried to differentiate the service by telling users to keep their network secure and protected by just connecting those whom you know and have worked with. An obviously different approach to Twitter and Google+. However in the recent past LinkedIn has become more like a popularity contest and he/she with the most connections wins! I support your comments on endorsements and suggest this is one area that people switch on the logical and rational part of the brain to process the types of endorsements, are they linked, do they match the persons overall profile. Consensus is a good indicator of what we should do when we are uncertain about something or someone. Just take that next step though and ask the question, review their full profile, check out their blog and the comments they make on other people's blogs. I think it was a well intended tool that has become a little redundant for all the reasons you have mentioned.

  3. Brian Ahearn
    Brian Ahearn says:

    Thanks for the insight. Yes, a tool that started with good intent but might have gone off the rails some. You have a good pointe about the connections. I receive many requests each week and decline most because they appear to be nothing more than people clicking through to add anyone who will accept. Advice to readers – personalize your request to connect and let the other person know why you want to connect.

  4. Mike Ferry
    Mike Ferry says:

    Great post Brian. I agree with your analysis. Written recommendations hold more weight in my mind, as the recommender has to put some time into it, and you can evaluate them for specificity. Just clicking on an "endorse" button makes it too easy.

  5. John Vespasian
    John Vespasian says:

    The advice is excellent for those who have a very focused profile, but I wonder how you could apply the concept if you don't have an extensive track record in a specific field, or if you have recently changed careers.

  6. Brian Ahearn
    Brian Ahearn says:

    If you don't have an extensive record or have change careers should you expect people to endorse you for expertise? I'm not sure they should. My suggestion would be the following:

    1. Do your job as well as possible to build a reputation
    2. Network – in person and online – so people are exposed to you and what you do
    3. Be proactive. Can you write a blog on your area of focus to show your knowledge of the subject? Participate in online forums to show your skill in dialog. Continue your education because awards, degrees and certificates are a representation of your continued growth.

    I hope that helps.


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