Skills & Expertise Grid

I can’t recall a modification to the LinkedIn platform that has met with more confusion than the company’s unannounced and unheralded introduction of the LinkedIn Skills and Expertise Endorsement platform. Since its arrival, I have been fielding numerous questions from clients and colleagues on the utility and validity of this feature, and I’m sure there will be many more to come. Invariably, people want to know the reasoning behind these endorsements, whether they are designed to replace the recommendations they’ve already received and what the strategy sets are around them.

I think the Skills and Expertise Endorsement feature is a fine addition to the LinkedIn profile, one that will undoubtedly escalate the level of engagement right there on the page and have far-reaching implications in creating top-of-mind awareness, rekindling dormant relationships and building goodwill. It also gets to the core of LinkedIn Corporation’s dual commitment to improving the user experience and making life easier for those in the talent acquisition business. It is clearly designed with recruiters in mind. What is also evident is that this new feature has people talking—about LinkedIn.

The back-story on LinkedIn endorsements begins in March 2011, when an “Add Sections” link, positioned right underneath the LinkedIn billboard, made its debut on the LinkedIn profile. Among the many options that you could include was Skills. You were free to title these terms as you saw fit, with any combination of keywords. About a year later, many LinkedIn users noticed another change: The Specialties section of the LinkedIn profile—an accompaniment to the LinkedIn profile Summary in which many LinkedIn users listed their skills and core competencies—was unceremoniously discontinued. (If you had content in this section prior to the change, you could keep it; if you deleted it, you couldn’t restore it. Those creating new accounts did not have it available.) Thus, the focus shifted to the new Skills section and a great many added it to their LinkedIn profiles. Ultimately, Skills became a permanent addition to the LinkedIn profile template.

Then, on August 20, 2012, the LinkedIn profile page, which had previously received only a few minor tweaks, underwent its first significant design change. The LinkedIn billboard—the area that housed all your professional vitals—was condensed; more visual emphasis was placed on your professional headline and headshot; your once-visible and readily ascertainable contact information (including URLs to your Web collateral) was concealed within a drop-down menu; the number of LinkedIn recommendations that you had accrued was no longer displayed. You could find out the latter, but it took a bit of detective work.

That leads us to September 24, 2012, when LinkedIn rolled out Endorsements for Skills and Expertise, another marker towards the complete revamping of the LinkedIn profile. The outcry is not the expected one—that is, how this new feature builds on the already established credibility model. Instead, it’s why endorsements, why now?

On the Nature of Endorsement

 As defined by the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, to endorse is “to acknowledge” or “to give approval of or support to by public statement.” In essence, your endorsement—both given and received—is merely an acknowledgment, a passive sign of approval. It is a LinkedIn like. Unlike the written recommendation, it doesn’t go deep. There is no insight into your character, no assessment, no validation of your integrity. For those who may shy away from a lengthy written treatment (the recommendation), the LinkedIn endorsement is a simple click that shouts, “I vouch for you. I was here on your LinkedIn profile and wanted to acknowledge your ability in a particular area.” In our Testimonial Era, where word-of-mouth and user-generated online content shape perception and drive action, we are what others say we are. Competition is omnipresent and we are all looking for differentiators and credibility enhancers. Any affirmation of your skill or acumen (especially on your LinkedIn profile) is a desired outcome as you move forward in social business.

Skills & Expertise Grid 

The Grid of Competency

 Unlike the previous refinements LinkedIn made to its user interface in July 2012, the LinkedIn Skills and Endorsement feature rolled out without any fanfare. I found out as you may have: One morning, I received an email notifying me that I had been endorsed by a connection. Endorsed? What is that? So I followed the link to my profile page, where a prominent blue banner trumpeted the change. I had been endorsed for skills I created a while ago, as well as some new ones that somehow found their way into that content section, now reformatted to include a tally counter on the left and a depository for headshot thumbnails on the right. In the days that followed, the endorsements trickled in, the count went up and the thumbnails accumulated. Some skills were being endorsed more than others, thus forming what I call the Grid of Competency. This grid describes the distribution of opinion with respect to your professional capabilities as expressed by your LinkedIn tribes.   

Part II of JD’s Take will explore the reciprocity issues regarding LinkedIn endorsements, as well their applications in recruiting and restricted industries. JD will also share his insights on how to integrate these endorsement strategies into the brand new LinkedIn profile format.


About the author

J.D. Gershbein

©2014 by J.D. Gershbein. All Rights Reserved. Since 2006, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications, has helped advance the collective awareness of LinkedIn and inspired opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business to step up and achieve on the site. His message fuses LinkedIn profile optimization, personal branding, respect-based social networking, marketing communication strategy and classical business development techniques with neuroscience and psychology. J.D. is one of the world’s top scholars on LinkedIn, a globally acclaimed speaker and frequent media contributor on social business strategy. He is also adjunct professor of marketing communications at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart Graduate School of Business, where he is advancing social media marketing as an accredited field of study. His book “The LinkedIn Edge: Creating a Psychological Advantage in Social Business” is due out in summer 2014. Get more LinkedIn wisdom when you subscribe to JD’s blog. You are welcome to connect with JD on Google+, Twitter and of course,LinkedIn


4 Responses to “LinkedIn Endorsements vs. LinkedIn Recommendations: A Definitive Overview – Part I”

  • Ed Brophy says:

    "We become what we think about." ~Earl Nightingale "What one skill, if you developed it, could have the greatest positive impact on your career? This is the key to your future." -– Brian Tracy The most important and the most highly paid form of intelligence in America is social intelligence, the ability to get along well with other people. Social intelligence is also known as human engineering or “your people skills”: Examples: Profiling Your People Skills: Imagineer, problem solver, open minded, sense of urgency, effective questioning, meaningful specifics, resourcefulness, father, open networker, takes initiative, strategic insights, critical thinker, mom, team synergy, unshakable optimist, …and the list keeps going. “Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot; others transform a yellow spot into the sun.” -~Pablo Picasso "Even in lines such as technical engineering about 15% of ones financial success is due to technical knowledge and about 85% is due to one’s skill in human engineering.” ~ Dale Carnegie, Carnegie Institute, How To Win Friends and Influence people. Most skills belong to skill sets. You have the ability to list up to 50 skills on your Linkedin profile. The “85%” or so of your people skills should be listed to highlight how you go about orchestrating your technical skills. "True effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs) and the producing asset (the goose)." ~Stephen Covey

  • Ann H. Shea says:

    LinkedIn endorsements may initially seems like "fluff" when compared with recommendations but when the "grid of competency" starts to develop, it's hard to argue with the strengths of social proof. It's much like the analogy of looking for a good restaurant. Proof is in the parking lot.

  • JD: Very interesting. I've been having this conversation since these things began to show up in the Fall. It's much easier to endorse than take time to write a recommendation, and your analogy to "liking" is right on. Of course, time will tell as to the effectiveness of this strategy. I will say that I don't typically endorse someone who endorses me, just like I don't necessarily reciprocate a recommendation. I find I'm very skeptical of the reciprocation process being nothing more than "You scratch my back. I'll scratch yours." Will look forward to your follow up article on the subject.

  • I'm sure I don't need to tell you what a laughing stock 'Endorsements' are making of LI.... I've had people I don't know endorsing me for things I can't do. And asking me for endorsements. People just say it is ridiculous - and it is. Completely valueless - and worse.