Friday, August 8, 2014

LinkedIn Skill Endorsement Etiquette

Users of the popular business social networking site LinkedIn have made use of a popular feature called Endorsed Skills.  Members can list what skills they have, using their own terms - and as you type, popular terms entered by others appear so that you can use the same terminology across multiple people.

Then, people who know you can endorse you for your skills - that is to say, they are signing their name to the fact that you exhibit that skill, by their endorsement.  Of course, nothing in LinkedIn can determine if the endorsement is genuine, whether the endorser really does know if the endorsee has that skill.

So I have noticed an interesting phenomenon with my account.  I have listed the various skills and areas of knowledge that I have acquired in my career.  Many of my colleagues, friends, and family have endorsed me for those skills that they have seen exhibited.  I personally have endorsed many people for many of their skills - but I only endorse skills for people whom I know, and only those skills that I personally know about.  However, I also see complete strangers with whom I connect and establish a rapport, endorse me for skills which I know for sure they have no idea whether or not I truly exhibit.

If this were a single person doing it, I wouldn't be so intrigued.  However, I see many people who are not acquaintances at all, with whom I connected only on LinkedIn, do it.  Also, if they had done it once, again I would not be so intrigued - when using LinkedIn, it gives you a section of the news feed where you can endorse skills for people with whom you are connected.  Maybe they just accidentally clicked it.  But it occurs over and over again, so some stranger continues to endorse me for skills, presumably for which he is prompted to endorse.

And I wonder, why is that?  If, say, a prospective employer were calling you to interview about a colleague who is a prospective employee, and asked you if that employee exhibited skills about which the you had no idea - as an interviewee, what would you answer?  "Yes, he is great at that?"  Or "I don't know, I didn't work with him on that?"  I think the latter.  So how is it different in the online social media?  What is it that has us think it is OK to blindly endorse a skill for which you have no idea if that person really has it, or even more, if you don't even know the person but just "friended" them out of business networking convenience?  Is there something about the "online universe" that social norms about behavior, rights, and wrongs don't apply, or apply differently from our "offline universe?"  Does it occur that a simple click with a meaning, is different from actually saying something with the same meaning?  If so, why?

How many of you have done this, or some analog of this kind of action online vs. offline?  What were you thinking when you did it, or what occurred to you as you clicked?

How many of you have had this done to you?  How does it come off?  Are you bothered by the disingenuous nature of the endorsement?