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October 22, 2014 / Stephanie Anderson

LinkedIn endorsements: worthwhile or worthless?

shutterstock_15211867LinkedIn endorsements have been around for about 2 years now, and in that time they have had extremely mixed reviews. Some people view endorsements as a key way to build your personal brand and improve professional networking. Others think of them as meaningless – a skills popularity contest with no real connection to actual experience.

What are LinkedIn endorsements? It’s when a first-degree connection rates you for having a particular skill. Those who dislike endorsements argue that virtually anyone can endorse a contact for a skill, not necessarily someone who has directly worked with the person and knows firsthand they do indeed have that particular skill. Plus, because people vouch for skills in hopes of getting reciprocal endorsements, it can quickly become a situation of “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” People have become jaded and some ignore endorsements completely.

Even though endorsements can get out of hand, they shouldn’t be ignored. When actively managed, they can complement the rest of your LinkedIn profile and help give better insight into your professional skill set. Here are six tips for managing LinkedIn endorsements so they actually matter:

1. Add skills in order of importance
For newbies, to get endorsements you need to add skills to your profile. Do so in the order of importance to you because they will be one of the first things connections will see – and perhaps the things they are most likely to click on. Once you get a lot of endorsements, that skill will rise to the top of the list and skills will be sorted by the number of endorsements

2. Don’t use all 50 skills
You can select up to 50 skills on LinkedIn, but you should select far less. Even savvy LinkedIn users make this mistake. Try focusing on your 10 core skills. Your personal brand must be managed, and if you want to be known for certain qualifications, focus on those skills that really count. Remember, endorsements are factored into search to improve LinkedIn algorithms and SEO accuracy, so tailoring skills in this way can have big benefits.

3. Take the selection process seriously
You work in IT but want to show you have a sense of humor, so you select “fire eating” as a skill that connections can endorse. Your buds get a good laugh and endorse it right away. It skyrockets right to the top of your skills list on your profile and now it’s the first thing you get asked about at every interview. Whoops!

4. Be smart about who you endorse
When you endorse someone, make sure you can stand behind your selections. Every time you endorse a contact, that activity displays in your LinkedIn newsfeed, boosting your exposure. Furthermore, you are connecting yourself to this person directly, and if something negative happens to him professionally it could reflect poorly on you. Be careful.

5. Be selective
Your LinkedIn profile represents your career and personal brand. Just because a contact endorses you, you don’t have to accept it. Be selective and unapologetic. You can hide, delete or reject an endorsement if it doesn’t serve your best interests.

6. All components should be complementary
Endorsements are virtually meaningless unless they match what your LinkedIn profile states. Make sure your endorsed skills are backed by the information you provide about your professional experience. Otherwise they are just words that everyone will simply ignore.