Those who use LinkedIn may have noticed on profiles, one can now endorse someone’s skills. By clicking on a skill box, you can virtually attest to another person’s abilities. Did you think your contact did a great job implementing a new IT system, why not endorse her “Project Management” skill? Did a contact deliver a rousing sales presentation? Endorse his “Public Speaking” skill. It is very easy to endorse others and to be endorsed.
Do endorsements matter?
In short, yes they do matter. I work in a university career services office and could claim to be a whiz at running large career fairs, but if no one endorses my “Event Management” skill on LinkedIn, a recruiter is left to doubt the truthfulness of my statement. The breadth and number of endorsements (for a particular skill) can communicate how the outside world views your work or how you have interacted with the outside world.
I could claim I am an employer relations management guru, but if only one person recommends me for this skill whereas thirty people recommend my career coaching skill, a recruiter is left to assume that my interaction with the contacts on LinkedIn have been in a primarily counseling role. And while I may want to appear like I am an employer relations guru to my future employer, I may be more of a career coach. Not only do your skill endorsements need to be in line with your personal brand – they need to be part of your brand.
While endorsements do matter, how much weight a future employer puts on these clicks remains to be seen.
How will endorsements be used by employers?
There is not enough evidence yet as the Skill Endorsement module was only activated late last autumn. However, I would envision using this module as giving a recruiter more information about a candidate he/she is considering and some areas to address in the interview.
Let’s imagine I am looking to hire a candidate who can provide career coaching to clients as well as develop employer relationships in order to increase recruiting at my university. If Candidate A has thirty recommendations for career coaching and only one for employer relations, I know I have to focus some extra interview questions on the employer relations’ function of the role. I may be able to assume the candidate is competent in career coaching already due to the number of endorsements. If Candidate B is the reverse (solid employer relations endorsements but few career coaching/counseling endorsements), I need to focus my additional questions on the candidate’s ability to offer career counseling services.
I see the endorsements being used by employers and recruiters as a way of identifying areas of strength in candidates, which in turn can be used to focus interview inquiries. I do not believe a hiring manager will see thirty endorsements for a particular skill and thus decide not ask any questions about the skill set in the interview process. However, I do see where a hiring manager will feel more comfortable not having to dig deep on a particular subject because of the endorsements and choosing rather to focus on other aspects of the role where the candidate may appear weaker.
For those not in a search but use LinkedIn for business referrals, endorsements can help you craft your brand for business partners to use in evaluating whether to take your call. If I am looking for a real estate attorney and I have two names – one with several endorsements for Real Estate Law on her LinkedIn profile and the other with Trust and Wills endorsements, I will most likely reach out to the first person.
How can you use endorsements to your advantage?
LinkedIn endorsements can help tell a story about you. Knowing what others have said about you can help you prepare for interviews and plan whom to use for references.
Take the scenario I outlined above. If I am Candidate A (strong counseling skills, less so on employer relations) I should be ready to answer some additional questions on my experience and plans on developing employer relationships. In addition, I may want to include more references that can speak to my experience in this area rather than listing only those who can speak to my counseling skills. The endorsements can help candidates identify perceived areas of development prior to an interview and prepare accordingly.
Knowing endorsements tell a story, one should also be cognizant of what is being said/endorsed in order for this to align with one’s professional goals. Again, if you are trying to grow and focus a law practice on real estate transactions, you do not want Wills/Trusts as the focus of your endorsements.
In the end, endorsements will not win you a position nor cost you a job, win or cost you a business deal. It is only one other data point an employer or business partners can use when evaluating you.
Kevin Monahan is the Associate Director of the Notre Dame Career Center. In this role, he leads the center’s employer relations efforts in addition to coaching young professionals in career management and career change capacities. He combines career consulting services with employer outreach to help find opportunities for both constituencies. He is the author of the Career Seeker’s Guide blog.