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Abusing LinkedIn Endorsements Can Backfire If You're Not Careful

02/23/2017 04:31 EST | Updated 02/23/2017 04:31 EST

It's a simple enough concept. If you've done business with someone on LinkedIn, you can endorse the skills listed in their profile with one click.

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Endorsements on my LinkedIn Profile

If you want your connections to endorse you, there is the option to ask them via private message. It's this option that many LinkedIn members misuse.

LinkedIn encourages us to only connect with people we know. However, networking is also about meeting people and many networks expand to include people we don't know. Even if you do know a connection, you may not be familiar with their skill level or they with yours. If that's the case, you should refrain from endorsing each other on LinkedIn.

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(Photo: JGI/Tom Grill via Getty Images)

Why Not?

Would you walk up to a stranger or casual acquaintance and say, "My name is John Smith. Can you publicly endorse my digital marketing skills?"

What kind of impression would that make? I don't believe I'm being too much of a stereotypical polite Canadian to consider it unprofessional, awkward and downright rude.

Conversely, would you put your name and reputation on the line in the real world to recommend someone, if you're totally unfamiliar with their work? What if a puppy is abused in the care of that pet sitter? Or that accountant robs a company blind?

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You shouldn't endorse strangers or ask them to endorse you because:

  • The practice of begging for endorsements or endorsing people you barely know makes you look unprofessional, at best.
  • You're wasting the time of people who are intelligent enough to refrain from endorsing someone's work when they're not familiar with it.
  • You're compromising your own reputation if you recommend others in the hopes of getting a reciprocal endorsement and/or to get their attention.
  • If anyone checks with the people who recommended you and they find out the person knows nothing about your work, you're going to look sneaky and dishonest.
  • Connections are going to start dropping you.

When to Use LinkedIn Endorsements

LinkedIn clearly outlines how endorsements are intended to be used.

"Endorsing others is a great way to recognize your colleagues for the skills you've seen them demonstrate. It helps contribute to the strength of their profile, and increases the likelihood they'll be discovered for opportunities related to the skills their connections know they possess," LinkedIn Help explains. "Endorsing your colleagues also helps keep strong connections with the people in your network. You may find that after endorsing a colleague from the past, it's easier to reach out to them because you've recently been in touch."

There are two scenarios in which you should endorse someone:

  1. If you've worked with the person and were impressed.
  2. If you follow someone who has demonstrated a high level of expertise on a particular subject matter.

LinkedIn is being corroded by the abuse of this feature. It's not intended to be used as nonchalantly as Facebook likes. Its purpose is to provide a professional, legitimate endorsement of someone for whom you would actually write a recommendation letter. That's because recommendations are supposed to be earned. If you want to gain someone's attention, interact with their posts and leave endorsements alone.

Fix It

If you've given endorsements for the wrong reasons, you can take it back (even if you're no longer connected). The person you endorsed won't be notified.

  1. Go to the profile of the person you endorsed.
  2. Scroll down to their Featured Skills and Endorsements section.
  3. Click the check mark beside the skill you endorsed.

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To hide an endorsement you've received from someone, go to your profile and click on the skill you were endorsed for. A list of everyone who has endorsed you for that skill will appear and you can make any of them invisible.

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Your LinkedIn connections are not your personal mailing list for recommendations, sales/spam, fundraising, votes or your latest newsletter. They're part of your network like the people in a Chamber of Commerce group. Treat them respectfully and you'll enjoy the many benefits of networking. Abuse them and you'll do yourself far more harm than good.

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