By Paden Hughes

I think it’s safe to say that technology evolves more quickly than the average professional can keep up with, especially when it comes to social networks. Over the past couple months we’ve heard a lot of confusion about the new Endorsement feature on LinkedIn, and why it’s valuable.

With over 175 million registered users, LinkedIn continues to roll out new features and update its design in the hopes of creating enough value to compel busy professionals to rely on it regularly. Just two months ago, LinkedIn launched a new skills validation feature called Endorsements.

Since that time, users have been receiving email alerts that connections are “endorsing” their skills. It can be alarming to hear that people in your vast network are using a feature to endorse you, if you have not taken the time to understand that tool.  Here’s a quick overview of this feature, its value to you, and how to start using it.

 

So what do LinkedIn Endorsements do?

LinkedIn Endorsements allow professionals in your network to endorse your top skills.  With a simple click, your network on LinkedIn is able to highlight the strengths you have as a professional, and LinkedIn will sort these skills on your profile in order of the number of endorsements you have from your network. You can see mine below and get a quick idea of what top skills my network endorses.

If you’re well known for your website UI design and software engineering, and have chosen to add these as skills to your LinkedIn profile, your co-workers and past clients will be able to click a box next to that skill and validate your ability. Every time someone endorses your skill, LinkedIn will notify you by email. This empowers you to keep tabs on who has endorsed you and see which skills are most recognized.

If you have not added any specific skills to your profile, don’t be surprised if others start adding them for you. Part of the endorsement feature is that other LinkedIn users can name the skill(s) they think you have, and in doing so are building your skill list for others to also endorse, thus enriching your profile. You will of course be notified via email when and if they do so.

 

Why should you endorse others? What is the value?

The value of the LinkedIn endorsement feature goes beyond the morale boost from past clients and co-workers acknowledging you publicly for the skills and talents you bring to the workplace. The true value is in establishing expertise and adding a layer of depth to your online resume should you ever be looking for new opportunities.

Establishing expertise

LinkedIn Endorsements are very powerful in establishing perceived expertise in your geographic and industry niche. If you are a business owner and are searching your LinkedIn network for a seasoned, local accountant, which would you probably call–the professional with 20 endorsements for accounting expertise, or the profile that has no skills listed and no endorsements? Before this feature, you may have just scrolled down to the Recommendations section to read what others have said about this individual. Now, before you get to the Recommendations area, you will see which skills have been endorsed by the most people.  Let’s face it, not everyone gives Recommendations. But LinkedIn continues to make it easier to collect feedback from others with this new feature.

Validating your resume

HR managers or small business owners are often reviewing résumés as they look for local talent to fill their HR pipeline. If you’ve done this, how many times have you wondered, when screening an applicant’s self proclaimed list of skills, whether or not the individual is actually proficient in that skill? If you’re like me, you might need some proof and solid references. But I’ve recently begun to notice that applicants are including their LinkedIn profile URL on their résumés, and even the recommendations they’ve received. This leads me to their profile, where I am able to see which skills stand out to those in their network. This adds a new level of validation, which prompts me to judge their candidacy for the position with more information–a huge value.

 

How do you start using this tool to provide the most value to your network?

1. First, be credible in your own endorsements.

Don’t be shy about endorsing connections for skills you’ve seen or been the beneficiary of.  On the other hand, don’t just endorse people you don’t know in an attempt to get their attention. This will weaken the power of the Endorsement feature for others evaluating the expertise of this person.

2.  Second, limit your endorsements in order to be strategic.

When you are considering endorsing someone’s skills, make sure to look at the full list of skills the individual has identified. Evaluate which of these you think are the top 3-4 skills you feel confident in endorsing. Instead of simply endorsing all of them, think through the ones they are best at and endorse those. If everyone endorses like this, soon the top skills will rise to the top of the list and add more value to their profile.

3.   Finally, don’t feel like you have to endorse someone.

Just because someone has endorsed you or has asked you to endorse them, does not mean you have to endorse them back to be polite. It is hard enough on recruiters to find true talent, so if you are not sure you know the individual well enough to endorse their skills, you can simply abstain from endorsing them. If asked again why you have not, it is completely acceptable to say that you don’t feel you have worked with them enough to give them the endorsement, but that one day you hope to be able to.

 

The Bottom Line

LinkedIn Endorsements allow you to validate the expertise of those in your network and make future recruiters’ jobs easier in sifting through top strengths versus self-proclaimed strengths. We encourage you to endorse the top 3-4 skills of those you know well.

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