Mix'd Bag

The In Crowd | LinkedIn Endorsements

2 Comments 21 | February | 2013

In late September of 2012 the people at LinkedIn introduced the concept of “endorsing” your fellow contacts.  Simple and straightforward, the ability to vouch for a contact’s skills with a single click has great implications for a generation whose attention span lasts approximately…..man, I’m so hungry.  Kanye and Kim’s baby is gonna be straight cray cray!!  My cat has a phone but I barely let her use it.  YOLO!! #harlemshake

In reality, this thinly-veiled  tactic serves little more purpose than to spur more site activity.  Long gone are the days of hand-written recommendations and brag books that exist in physical form.  Even the ability to jot a quick, yet personal, four-sentence accolade in LinkedIn, is seemingly archaic, on the level of asking a teenager to use proper grammar and punctuation.  “ah cmon man ur a doosh #harlemshake”

Instead, the top brass decided to grease the wheels and make it impossibly easy to exploit this new functionality.  I’m no computer programmer so I cannot speak to the exact coding that drives this feature, but I’m pretty good at speculation so here goes….

  1. The program does an advanced search of your profile to locate keywords and phrases that describe your skill set, like “engineering”, “chair”, “project management”, “Windows 95”, “lamp”, and “picnics.”
  2. When a user logs in to LinkedIn the top one-third of the page is populated with a number of contacts and their “skills”.
  3. The banner asks if you’d like to endorse Bobby’s natural gift for “chair”, Sarah’s expertise in “fax machine”, or Simba’s ability to “get his father murdered”.  Even better, you can endorse all of them in their respective skills.  Tre bien!
  4. Alternatively, if you visit a specific person’s profile it will give you four or five skills to choose from and one “Endorse” button.  I have concluded that if you choose to endorse without eliminating any of the options it will randomly choose the least-fitting talent to apply to his profile. “harlem shake”.

The program keeps a running tally of your endorsements for the varied skills that it has recognized, as well as those manually input by your college buddies:  puking and rallying, sleeping in, and talking to the cops.  The user can then confirm his endorsements and display the results on his profile for the world to scrutinize.

The issue I take with this feature is that it tries to mimic the “Like” function of Facebook, a simple one-step process to garner approval, but in doing so it strips away 99% of the credibility.

Let’s make one thing abundantly clear:  LinkedIn is not Facebook.  Nor should it be.

Side Note:  If you tie your Facebook or Twitter profiles to your LinkedIn account, you’d better be damn sure that it’s not your “I<3ScoobySnacks420” account username that is blowing up your feed.  Navigating the job market is hard enough right now, the less potential employers know about your penchant for cinnamon whisky shots on Taco Tuesday, the better.

Please don’t confuse my skepticism of this feature with criticizing the idea of supporting your friends and colleagues in their pursuit of gainful employment.  Rather I’m writing to point out the glaring fallacy in oversimplifying the practice of genuinely advocating for potential job candidates.  Substituting a less cumbersome user experience inherently brings with it less meaningful information.  A one-click process that requires zero interaction on either an academic or professional stage; we might as well be voting for Prom King and Queen.

If we’re going to dumb it down all the way, the next job interview I show up for I’m just going to bring my high school letterman’s jacket, a list of my Facebook friends, and a letter from my mom that say’s I’m “the sweetest son a mother could ask for.”  (Damnit, mom!  Why did you end your sentence with a preposition?!)

I’m not sponsoring a wholesale rejection of LinkedIn endorsements, just a more mindful use of the tool to avoid the “garbage in, garbage out” syndrome.  I will still gladly accept endorsements on my profile, maybe even for my “lamp” skills, depending on where I see my career taking me.  Lord knows an advanced degree in Harlem Shaking can only take me so far.

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