I keep getting email from LinkedIn telling me that someone in my network has endorsed me for this, that or the other skill. My initial reaction when these emails started arriving was surprise, because I knew about LinkedIn’s recommendation system but hadn’t heard about their new endorsement system. After a while, surprise turned to amusement. Allow me to explain why.
Unlike recommendations, where one LinkedIn user actively solicits a recommendation from another, endorsements are purely one-way. Any LinkedIn user can endorse any of their connections for any skill. There is no verification step, no filtering, except that each user can select whether or not to show endorsements on their profile page—but not, to my knowledge which endorsements to show.
Here’s how endorsements work: whenever you view one of your connections’ profile, LinkedIn lists a handful of skills and asks you whether that person has them. You can also type in any skill which isn’t among those LinkedIn preselected. There is a big yellow button that says “Endorse”; pressing it confirms all the pre-listed skills and whichever other skills you may have entered. You’re supposed to remove any that don’t fit before pressing the button, but…
My three top endorsements are Unix, C and programming, which is fair enough (except for the fact that the icon LinkedIn has chosen for the latter two show a screenful of HTML). But then it gets weird. Fourth from the top is C++, my knowledge of which is fifteen years out of date, and further down the list, you find skills such as bash (I know how to use it, but very rarely do), MySQL and PHP (I have minimal experience with both and loathe them), Nagios (use it at work, hate it) and finally—the cherry on top—Nginx and Puppet which I have never used in my life.
So here’s a tip if you’re a recruiter using LinkedIn to hunt for or filter candidates: endorsements are worthless. The system is set up in a way that encourages people to confirm LinkedIn’s suggestions without giving them any thought, and there is no way for users to vet the endorsements they receive.
To me, endorsements are just one more incomprehensible move on LinkedIn’s part in a long series of incomprehensible moves which goes all the way back to… well. I opened an account because my employer required me too, and later kept it mostly for its value as an address book, but I’ve never really understood what it was trying to be, except for a brief period when it was trying (and failing badly) to be Facebook. Feel free to enlighten me.