Social media has forever changed the recruiting landscape. People on both sides of the line—recruiters and job-seekers—are using social media to find each other. Recruiters are scouring social media profiles for potential candidates, posting job ads on social networks, and promoting their company’s brand. Job-seekers are searching for jobs on company pages and networking with professionals across industries on social media.

As one of the most popular social media networks—boasting approximately 185 million monthly unique visitors—LinkedIn has made its niche in the professional world, attracting professionals interested in networking for business and career purposes. In 2012, LinkedIn launched its endorsement feature that allows users to endorse skills for their connections and have others endorse their own skills.

Here’s how it works: when a person views a profile, they are offered the chance to endorse that person for a particular skill or skills. These skills are entered by the individual setting up the profile as those that best represent his or her abilities. The endorser can choose to click one or more of them, or write in another skill he or she thinks that the person has. Once clicked, the number of endorsements for the chosen skills increases on the person’s profile.

Endorsing someone is very easy since a dialog box asking for endorsements appears in everyone’s profile. And since it’s so easy–almost automatic–many recruiters have begun to ask whether LinkedIn endorsements are actually valuable when recruiting. Sure, they may offer some information about a person’s skills and could help confirm employment, if, say, the endorser is a former or current employer or manager. However, it’s important to keep these endorsements in perspective and see them just for what they are.

When it comes to recruiting, here are the three main takeaways for LinkedIn endorsements:

  1. Take a birds-eye view. When a person’s skills are endorsed on LinkedIn, they are listed on their profile in order, with the skill that has the highest number of endorsements at the top. This, of course, gives anyone looking, even at a glance, a quick overview of the person’s skills. Although one endorsement for skill may not mean much, if a person has been endorsed 100 times for one skill, it shows that he or she’s at least well known for it. Recruiters may find this useful when doing a quick overview of potential candidates. The endorsements can pique a recruiter’s interest and lead them to investigate the candidate’s profile better. Endorsements can also be a sort of filter—if a recruiter doesn’t see endorsed skills for the position he needs to be filled, he can skip that candidate and move on to the next. The point to keep in mind is that endorsements can give a quick glimpse of a person’s skills.
  2. It’s NOT a recommendation. Another thing to keep in mind is that LinkedIn endorsements are not recommendations, nor should they stand in for them. A recommendation involves the candidate asking a professional or personal contact to write something that highlights his or her skills, experiences, and the value he or she would bring to an organization. A LinkedIn endorsement is not asked for by the candidate, nor is it explained by the endorser. It simply appears on the candidate’s profile whenever someone opens it, and anyone can choose to endorse any or all of the skills listed. That being said, LinkedIn does allow people to actually write a recommendation for someone and make it visible on their profile. LinkedIn recommendations list the date when they were written, the recommender’s name, and his or her relationship to the candidate. Thus, they’re much more valuable when it comes to finding out details about a candidate since someone took the time to think about and write a recommendation that provides much more insight than a list of skills.
  3. The endorser matters. Another issue with LinkedIn endorsements is that the people doing the endorsing may or may not really know a person’s skills. Since LinkedIn is primarily used as a networking site, many people haven’t personally worked with (or even met) their connections. When these little-known connections are making the endorsements, it’s hard to take them seriously.

The person making the endorsement matters. If it’s a former or current employee or manager, then their endorsement has value. If it’s someone the person met once at a conference or knows only personally, their endorsements carry less weight. The problem is that it’s hard to tell them apart. To verify, a recruiter would have to click on every endorser and try to track his or her connection to the candidate, which would be time-consuming and inefficient.

Remember, LinkedIn endorsements are given quickly and in many cases without much thought. Some recruiters may find them useful as a filter when looking for candidates, because they can hone in on someone who has been endorsed many times for the skills they’re looking for. Yet, recruiters should be careful not to dismiss candidates just because they don’t have a lot of endorsements. Rather than focusing on endorsements alone, recruiters should consider the candidate’s full profile, the experience listed, and any actual written recommendations they may have. And any claims of skills listed on LinkedIn should be verified before you go too far along the road to hiring.

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  • Laurie says:

    The idea of endorsements is a good one, which aims at qualifying a person’s skill sets via their co-workers’ outside observations of work and behaviors. But this feature has developed in some kind of game and is not all professional anymore. I still endorse people when I know they have a true qualification in a given skill set, but I prefer writing recommendations with real examples of how individuals have performed when I interacted with them instead of simply clicking endorsement buttons.

  • Paul says:

    I never thought of the LinkedIn endorsements as being highly valuable – I have had people endorse me for skill sets that are not really in my area, possibly hoping for a mutual endorsement in return. Nevertheless, I’m glad to receive them and think of each endorsement as a compliment. Don’t argue, just be grateful.

  • Elma says:

    Endorsements and recommendations are two different things. Recommendations reflect actual engagements other professionals have had with you whilst endorsements don’t necessarily have any basis in fact. Too often they are the result of a suggestion flashed on the screen. Someone seeing a suggestion to endorse you and clicking a key does not necessarily carry much validity. It may also make someone expect from you more than you are actually capable of .

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