Eating, Pies, Cookies, Pasta, Carbohydrates, Weight Gain. Sound like keywords from a diet book? Nope. These are just a few of the ridiculous, suggested skills that you can endorse people for on LinkedIn. If you list a culinary job (or have added ‘cooking’ as a skill) LinkedIn will campaign for you and advocate that your connections endorse you for these skills as well.

The physical manifestation of this is an addicting little dialogue that allows you to quickly blaze through connections and endorse people en masse (4 at a time). John Smith knows about ‘Microsoft Word’? Sure. Sara knows about ‘Facebook’? Of course! Endorsements for everyone!

All it takes is a click.

Oprah does it best

Oprah does it best

In addition to being oddly pleasurable, one would assume that following the unwritten rule of social media reciprocity (like-for-like) you should expect some endorsements back. Sure enough, LinkedIn helps facilitate this by offering the endorsee a prompt to complete the cycle of social capital gifting. Give it a few days and you will see the endorsements start to roll in.

Being a competitive person at heart, I decided to see how many I could dole out in a 60 second span. After a few minutes of practice I got my rate up to over 1/second — only to be stopped at some point when the endorsement box froze and then disappeared altogether.

Oh well.

A Brief History

Launched in 2012, the endorsement feature was crafted by LinkedIn in attempts to add some more fluid engagement to what was a relatively static platform (LinkedIn Publishing has since changed this). Endorsements provided users a new way to interact without needing to compose a long-form recommendation. It also provided recipients of endorsements a reason to login — they have to accept the endorsement in order for it to appear on their profile.

Less than 6 months after launch, the endorsement functionality was deemed a success. LinkedIn announced a pretty impressive milestone:


Including 410,000 endorsements for ‘preaching’ and 298,000 for ‘wine’

Not highlighted but perhaps even more impressive is the easily calculated, average number of endorsements per user — a whopping 55. LinkedIn had built a very impressive level of engagement right out of the gates.

The Value

LinkedIn states that in addition to simply making you look smart & qualified, users with skills that have been endorsed are 4x more likely to be viewed on LinkedIn.

That’s enormous. Tell any search marketer that you can easily improve visibility by 4x and they will laugh.

Considering that LinkedIn is consistently ranked as the #1 tool recruiters rely on it would behoove those on the job prowl to make getting endorsements a top priority. This is typically best achieved by either:

1) Giving them out en masse.

2) Spamming people to endorse you (don’t worry, LinkedIn makes spamming easy).

Ready. Set. Endorse! Photo Credit:

Ready. Set. Endorse! Photo Credit:

The Problem

Endorsements in theory are great.

Traditionally, people only endorse others that they have worked with before and truly believe in. My dad endorses an accountant that saves him money come tax season. My mom endorses her hair stylist to pretty much everybody— she has real life experience to draw on in making that recommendation.

Traditionally, people don’t endorse just anyone because there are usually tangible consequences of those endorsements. If I go to my mothers hair salon and come out looking like Donald Trump, she’s going to hear from me.

On LinkedIn, the problem arises as a result of the combined gamification of giving endorsements and the enormous value placed on them in their search algorithm (4x visibility). This may be hard to prove scientifically, but I would estimate that the average endorsement on LinkedIn carries about as much weight and relevance as this picture of John Boehner giving Obama the thumbs up.

Emphatic endorsement of whatever the President just said.

Emphatic endorsement of whatever the President just said.

In a sense, endorsements have become the next iteration of keywords. Get as many stuffed in there as possible and you’re good to go.

LinkedIn has done a tremendous job of growing its user base and expanding into new markets. They are largely unrivaled when it comes to indexing the worlds workforce and have an absolute monopoly in the professional social networking space. They do a lot right.

They do, however, need to begin looking back at their core mission and ways to modernize the metrics with which they connect and rank individuals. Static resume’s are not made dynamic simply by adding a +1 next to the skills list.

This concept is at the core of what we are doing with StackStreet and we are excited to begin sharing it with you.

The Fix

Part 2.