I accept LinkedIn invitations from anyone. Some people agree with this strategy, others disagree. My logic is that I'm happy to connect with as many people as possible. And if I can help any of them out, even better. As a result, I have many LinkedIn connections whom I have never met, let alone worked with.
In addition to connecting with me—a total stranger to some—many of these people have endorsed me for skills. Sounds great, right? Some of these endorsements make sense, like "blogging" or "human resources management," because the way they found me was through articles like this one and they know I'm good at these things. But what about the others? Do LinkedIn endorsements actually hold water?
A Quick Look at LinkedIn Endorsements
Let's begin with "HRIS." That stands for HR information systems. I did a ton of work in this area, and I am really good at it. So while it makes sense for some of my former co-workers to have endorsed me, other people who have never worked with me have endorsed me for that skill as well. While I've written a few technical articles about turnover and the like, there's not a valid way for my network to know that I can work magic with Excel and a little bit of pixie dust.
But the endorsement that really stumps me is "deferred compensation." Not once in my life have I worked on deferred compensations. The closest I've come is when I handled the layoff for a guy with a deferred compensation and offered him a severance package worth more than $100,000. He never signed the general release or asked for any changes. When I followed up with him, I found out that his wife made so much money that the tax implications on an extra $100,000+ were just too much of a burden to even bother with the money. (Not joking here.) And yet, people have endorsed me for this skill.
The Problem with LinkedIn Endorsements
LinkedIn endorsements have the best of intentions, but the lack of effort involved—one "click" and the person is endorsed—often means they're unreliable. In fact, it takes the same amount of work to endorse the person that pops up on your screen as it does to make the screen go away. People click them without thinking because it's a nice thing to do. Well, it might be nice, but it's not very helpful.
Recruiters, instead of focusing on endorsements during talent acquisition, concentrate on the key words in your candidates' profiles. Seek out connections with people who have demonstrated experience in each of their endorsement areas. Most importantly, always ask for references. LinkedIn endorsements may be a good starting point, but a little blue button isn't enough to help you weed the great talent from the bad.