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The Significance of Being … Endorsed

Posted on July 25, 2006
Filed Under Networking | 15 Comments

“Recruitment is a human experience it cannot be squared into a box. Looking for an honest endorsement ‘¦ good or bad’¦You don’t have to say much. Just that I was nice to you one day or not”

I disagree. Is being ‘nice’ a sufficient basis for endorsing someone for a job at Linkedin or extending the resources of your social network to their benefit, in general, at the risk of your personal reputation.

I received a Linkedin request to endorse over the weekend by a recruiter who shall go unnamed. She was always consistent in forwarding my introduction requests. She replied to an email or three over the last two years. I assume, given her years experience in the industry and our fairly limited exchanges that she is in all likelihood an asset to her clients. That being said, ‘assuming’ what we will of acquaintances, the way some of our peers request or agree to post an endorsement, is not the ‘˜consumer reports’ worthy method of selecting a new car or baby crib. It takes qualifying by direct experience in relating with the individual just as if test driving and reviewing eopinion reviews on Amazon or Ebay. We take our purchases seriously, why not our hard earned personal brand?

What about J. Doe co-worker or that fellow you met at ERE and had a drink with and he was nice enough to pass the pretzel tray? The argument holds true in each case. It is unwise to offer a Linkedin endorsement or agree to post one for someone who merely passes the hallway, let alone an unknown quality over email. Perhaps a few snapshots of hiring priorities met exposed their dazzling work ethic, their expertise, or both. In certain cases it will suffice based upon your personal level of trust. Without a vantage point, however, such as partnering on a project(s), collaboration as opposed to coexistence with a co-worker, or mutual trusted colleagues that fosters a bond – you are merely referring an acquaintance. Call a spade a spade. It is up to you to create the relationship – if it is warranted.

Let’s agree to the substance of an endorsement, – in effect, it’s a letter of recommendation. Would you be as carefree about your professional recommendations as you would with a faceless request? Thought not. I have found that despite what you read in a Linkedin endorsement list, the most grandiose praise rings hollow after a few calls to those very same who lent their reputation on behalf of the person you are now about to refer as a favor. You diminish yourself, the hiring manager’s time, resources and regard for your referrals, and ‘Unknown Joe’ is now doomed to fail on unfulfilled high expectations. It is likewise important to emphasize the unforeseen side effect: the market value of your recommendations has plummeted and you have now undermined the chances of being able to leverage your network to benefit a truly valued colleague when the next opportunity avails itself.

You do not know if ‘Unknown Joe’ can source outside the mouth of Monster for candidates, let alone whether he/she can perform a Boolean string, nor do you know if his/her last contract was terminated because they were caught using the corporate database for personal contingency hires to make an extra dime, or even a sexual harasser no less. You simply do not know. You may even know his skill sets, but do you know his/her ethics? The saying holds true, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

The predicament has a familiar ring to me. I experienced a similar request I accepted and regretted and I can likewise personally attest that it is indeed awkward to decline a request, – even more awkward to take back a recommendation, but I’ve since learned what is at stake is far more compromising.

To proceed in uncharted waters will inevitably be at the expense of all parties. I learned the value of calling endorsers I trust and I ask them to further qualify their recommendation on behalf of an ‘˜Unknown Joe.’ I wouldn’t contradict myself and endorse someone simply due to confirmed references, – no. I would however consider providing leads to a fellow peer where prudent to do so ‘“ there is a difference. Pointing an e-finger at the job landscape is an asset by numbers and the value of leads provided. It’s a specific practice that does not extend to a personal call or email or luncheon to chat on someone’s behalf. If you feel obliged to do more, (esp. during a recession when our industry is hurting) than simply add the disclaimer, ‘I cannot speak from personal experience on Unknown Joe’s qualifications, however, if you find his skills relevant, feel free to contact him directly.

(1) Endorsements are powerful tools which, when used wisely and sparingly, benefit you recipient and have a positive effect on your personal brand. If your contract term as a recruiter is at an end or you’ve been downsized, who do you ask for an endorsement? The answer is simple: seek Linkedin endorsements from direct managers, fellow peers and co-workers with established professional relationships and industry innovators you trust and admire. In a word, seek endorsements from individuals you trust. Pass-it-forward.

(2) Don’t endorse anything or anyone ever unless you are willing to risk your reputation. Your personal brand is too valuable a commodity to treat lightly. You can support, review, discuss, and be a fan of, but do not endorse unless you are absolutely certain that what you are endorsing is of better quality that YOU. (SS)

(3) Do not seek endorsements by anyone that is not an improvement upon you in at least one area. Each and every person surrounding you should have at least ONE thing where they clearly excel over you. (SS)

(4) Endorse those who bring value to your colleagues, your profession, and yourself. (SS) By value, I am not referring to tangible reciprocation. By ‘˜value,’ I am referring to knowledge, and that is the fruit in which we sustain our careers and more importantly, can allow us to ‘˜pass-it-forward.’

(5) The number of endorsements earned, are not a showpiece for its own sake, treat it respectfully. It is not a bragging point for discussion. It is not a contest. To endorse a select few or to be endorsed by a select few is the same honorable result of a well job(s) well done. I will end with the follow-up email by J. Doe that acted as a catalyst for this post: ‘I blasted out the endorsement request to my LinkedIn direct contacts not realizing they all do not know me personally.’ This is a classic example of newcomers, or even veterans to the trade, who simply need to seek further understanding when it comes to new technology tools and to learn to tread carefully. All of us are susceptible to cautionary tales. If we define the significance behind the term ‘endorsement,’ good people are educated to avoid a needless awkward moment, both for the potential endorser and the requesting party.

PS: This post does not extend to connections and introductions ‘¦. Another day, another time.

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15 Responses to “The Significance of Being … Endorsed”

  1. Shally on July 25th, 2006 6:30 pm

    Once again, thank you Dave for your consideration in crediting your sources. I wish more people were as thorough as you in giving a courteous nod. You are a gentleman.

    As to my comment – I want to reiterate the “letter of reference” statement. Endorsements may not be quite at the level of a true letter of reference, but I think they are close. To me endorsements are akin to saying “I vouch for this individual because I have had first hand experience with them” but at the same time you can not “attach your name” to someone else because you never know what they are going to do. For example, you may have experienced Dave to be very professional and courteous, and during the course of his networking he has done everything right, but someone else may have had a completely different experience. You can always explan that by saying “in MY experience…” or “from my first hand experience” as opposed to making a blanket statement in an endorsement.

    Endorsements carry serious weight when they are from co-workers, managers, direct reports and clients you have worked with directly in some kind of sustaned or significant engagement, even if you didn’t meet face to face. Less than that and you risk attaching your name to somone who could have dark shadows lurking that may come back and cast over you.

    So… I propose endorsements are something half way between a “letter of reference” and an “acknowledgement of positive first hand experience.”

  2. Canadian Headhunter on July 26th, 2006 8:32 am

    That’s a strong launch, Dave. Thanks for addressing a tricky question. I’d love to see issues like this become part of a multi-blog discussion.

  3. Glenn Gutmacher on July 26th, 2006 11:39 am

    Dave, excellent post-introductory launch post, indeed (you’re on my blogroll now! :). I’m glad Michael is encouraging that this become a multi-blog discussion, which it deserves. So on my blog tonight, I will add another layer to this, which unfortunately will end up in part as a blast against LinkedIn, because they’re part of this problem as I see it by condoning certain related behaviors.

  4. Dave Mendoza on July 26th, 2006 12:27 pm

    I have targeting data entered into the Aegis system on Linkedin, but “Shock & Awe” is down the road. Perhaps it can be a series, it would be easy to do given the laundry list of issues that have come into play in the last year.

  5. Ben on July 26th, 2006 12:45 pm

    Welcome to the recruiting blogosphere, I’ve added a link to here from my blog. I look forward to reading more about your views on maximizing social networking tools like LinkedIn. I still feel like I’m just getting started with these tools, but am a big believer already and am finding success more and more all the time.

  6. karen m on July 26th, 2006 1:01 pm

    congrats! I have always enjoyed reading our chit chats in emails and have been impressed with the way you always articulate.

    It will be fun and interesting to see your thoughts in the blog.


  7. Dennis Smith on July 27th, 2006 5:16 pm

    Nice post, D-man. The importance of personal brand and the credibility associated with our “name” (which, at times, is all we have), is invaluable.

    If so, it needs to be treated as the “precious jewel” that it is.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  8. Krista Bradford on July 28th, 2006 2:30 pm

    Thoughtful post and well put. One does have to be careful. I think it is a better practice to have a handful of LinkeIn endorsements from some big fish rather than lots of little guppies . . .the other point being that it imposes a kind of artifice where at a certain point it becomes meaningless. I mean, there are lots of reasons one provides endorsements that may have very little to do with performance. Rather, it may be because that person is a friend of someone that the endorser is trying to do business with, or maybe the person owes the other a favor, or maybe they work together and don’t want to risk alienating a co-worker, or maybe the endorsee is a jerk that the endorser is vouching for to help that jerk get a job somewhere else . . .I had a fascinating conversation about that very topic with friend and Internet thought leader David Weinberger, author of the Cluetrain Manifesto, who made just those points.

  9. Rob McIntosh on July 29th, 2006 6:14 pm

    Dave – Nice post and slick looking page.

    Let me be a naysayer and look at the darker side of LinkedIn (or any other tool) endorsements. This has briefly been touched on but let me go down the rabbit hole a little further with this thought.
    Just because someone leaves an endorsement saying someone is the ‘ant’s pants’ does that necessarily make it so. Human beings for years have mastered the art of spin and we see instances of authors asking for endorsements on the back pages of their books to drive the perception of credibility by the author and their subject, but after reading some of these books you realize that it did not live up to the hype of the endorsements.
    Could enough mutual collective hype by a consortium of individuals looking to leverage such a tool for self promotional purposes, tilt external perception to far away from someone’s actual real abilities?
    When we boil it down the real reason that we ask for endorsements (like the back cover of a book) is to make people feel more comfortable buying that product. The product in this case is the person and in the majority of cases the actual end transaction is a job (be it FTE or contractor services).
    Not trying to start another Area51 alien conspiracy theory but just offering up another angle on the subject 🙂

  10. Brian Thomson on July 29th, 2006 7:15 pm

    Good post and important topic.

    Unfortunately, social networking services have spawned a rash of undeserved endorsements. I like to think that good endorsements are like heartbeats… we’re each born with only so many of them, so you’d better not use them up too quickly.

    Looking forward to more posts.

  11. Dave Mendoza on July 30th, 2006 9:19 pm

    I observed the hollowness of several endorsements firsthand and I have been far more careful in making assumptions based upon what I read when I am asked for assistance by a peer.

    It isn’t simply whether the endorsement was sincere when it originated, but whether circumstances themselves have since altered the perception/reputation of the individual in question. Linkedin doesn’t allow us to retract our endorsements, unless we agree to completely disconnect our connection with the individual – a nuclear option so to speak. The alternative adds insult to injury. I’d prefer a silent release – allowing us to retract without a whimper, yet maintain the connection as an option.

    Endorsements should reflect life circumstances to retain relevance. All parties should have the means to part ways as friendships and professional relationships tend to do. At present, only the recipient of the endorsement holds authority over the endorsement. In fact, only the recipient has the ability “Management Endorsements.” Upon reviewing our endorsements we are instructed to change which endorsements appear with the checkboxes provided, as we deem fit. Logic demands that both the endorser and the recipient should have equal authority to designate whether the endorsement is available to the viewing public. An endorser should have as much right to retract an endorsement as a recipient does to post or pull an endorsement.

  12. Konstantin Guericke on July 31st, 2006 12:55 am


    Recipient control over endorsements is by design. We want people to be careful when giving endorsements, so they should only be given when you know the person for a while and don’t expect to have to take the endorsement back.

    Endorsements are not the same as true references–they are there for screening purposes. Like other candidate-provided references, they tend to be positive. But having them upfront makes it more convenient to tap this information and used it at the front end of the cycle.

    A skilled interviewer can probably get some more info on the phone from those references, but the most meaningful references are those NOT provided by the candidate. That’s what LinkedIn’s reference search is for:

    Business and Pro account holders also have the “one-click reference” link on profiles–those also yield off-resume references. We’ve received some excellent feedback on this capability. Many people understand the value of backdoor references, but it is rarely done because it is so time-consuming to find them and get the cooperation of the person who has worked with the candidate.

  13. Dave Mendoza on July 31st, 2006 1:38 am

    Konstantin, the point is missed that regardless of how well a relationship is established; inevitably there will be a situation where the natue of the nature of the relationship changes: loyalties are questioned, a work ethos evolves for the worse, or skill sets become out-of-date. Surely we can all agree that friendships, marriages, and worker relationships can alter for the worse. In work environments the affection is communicated as a recommendation, but in the case of office arrangements, a \”divorce\” is a termination. The office environment is not a static one, it is dynamic.

    Management of endorsements should be equally accessible by both parties to allow for modification(s) – and more specifically, deletion as deemed warranted by the endorser.


  14. Linked Intelligence - The smart source for all things LinkedIn™ » LinkedIn Daily 2006-09-01 on September 1st, 2006 5:12 pm

    […] You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Leave aReply […]

  15. Joseph on October 31st, 2006 7:51 pm

    Look good…

    I believe the technical term is “Oops!”