1. LinkedIn endorsements are here to stay. Introduced on Sept. 24, 2012, endorsements are fast becoming a popular feature, says Inouye. Since the launch, more than 200 million endorsements have been issued. Users are making roughly 10 million endorsements a day. The goal of the endorsement, she explains, is to make it easy for people to recognize you for your skills and expertise, without taking the time to compose a recommendation.
2. Only first-degree connections can endorse you. If it seems that your endorsements are coming from people with whom you’re barely in touch, that’s because you have expanded your connections to include people you don’t know well. This raises one of the tensions of establishing a strong LinkedIn presence: The more people you’re connected to, the greater your reach and the more possibilities you have to get help reaching out to a potential employer, client or consultant. The fact is that most of us have first-degree connections with some people who don’t directly know our work—family, friends, colleagues or former colleagues outside our department. So prepare yourself for endorsements that seem like they are out of left field.
3. You can, and should, hide some endorsements. It’s not possible to delete an endorsement but you can hide it so that no one but you can see it. Go to the pull-down menu at the top of the screen and under “profile,” click “edit profile.” When you scroll to the “skills and expertise” section, you will see a pencil icon. Click that and you will see an option to “manage endorsements.” If you have an endorsement from, say, a family friend who has never worked with you, hide it. Likewise if someone has endorsed you for a skill you don’t have, you can click “add and remove,” and delete the skill. (I did this for “celebrity.”)
4. List your skills. Less than a year ago, in Feb. of 2011, LinkedIn introduced the “skills and experience” feature. Many of us have not gotten around to filling this out. Now is a good time because you want people endorsing you to check off the skills you deem most important. Pick at least 10 skills. Inouye explains that endorsements will only appear on your profile for your top 10 skills. Under “More” at the top of your profile page, pull down the menu to “skills and experience” and type a skill into the box.
5. You don’t have to reciprocate, but it can be a good idea. My friend does not need to respond to the distant connection he hasn’t spoken to in 15 years, but if he gets an endorsement from a close colleague, it makes sense to reciprocate. The best way to do this is to go to your connection’s profile page. A blue box will appear at the top with a list of skills, which you can check off.
5. Seek endorsements from people who know your work well. If you’re working on a project with someone or you have an ongoing relationship with a colleague or boss, ask them to endorse your work. It’s best to do this in person or through a short personal note.
6. Don’t worry about whether endorsements affect the capacity of potential employers to search for your profile. Officially, LinkedIn does not reveal the details of how its software makes it possible for potential employers or clients to search on LinkedIn profiles. But I have good reason to believe that endorsements do not affect LinkedIn search results.
7. Recruiters don’t care about endorsements. Yet. I talked to four recruiters who all said that recommendations did not much affect how they perceived a candidate one way or the other. “It’s cheap and dirty,” says Neil E. Peek, a senior recruiter at Brocade, a network equipment company in San Jose, Calif. “It’s no skin in the game for the person making the endorsement.” He adds that it’s “nice to see” on a profile, “but it doesn’t have any substance to it.” For Peek, recommendations carry much more weight. Steven Raz, of Cornerstone Search Group in Parsippany ,N.J., an executive search firm that specializes in the pharmaceutical and biotech fields, says that while the concept is good, endorsements have already become “a little meaningless because everyone is endorsing everyone for everything.” Raz agrees with Peek that recommendations are much more important.
8. Don’t ignore endorsements. Though many of us may feel burdened by having to manage our social media presence, there is no question that LinkedIn is the leader in professional social networking. If the initial numbers are any guide, the endorsement feature will only become more popular. Recruiters and hiring managers may not care about endorsements at this early stage, but it’s easy to imagine a time when they will. If you’re applying for a sales job, for instance, and your competitors all have 50-100 endorsements from clients and colleagues, while you have zero, that could hurt your chances. Though it’s tempting to ignore this new feature, it’s better to get ahead of the curve than to wait a year and find yourself left behind.