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Concerning Linkedin Endorsements – Authenticity is Key

Posted on June 9, 2008
Filed Under Networking | 15 Comments

By Dave Mendoza, Master Cybersleuth, Affiliate Partner, JobMachine Inc.
(720) 733-2022

My colleagues and I have observed a recent surge in requests from strangers seeking essentially ‘fake’ recommendations on Linkedin. It has been a source of annoyance to myself and to colleagues in many offline conversations. As an evangelist for the powerful set of networking tools that Linkedin provides, one of several areas which would benefit from reevaluation is that present system provides few remedies to correct “Doesn’t Know” clicks made in error – which can accumulate to effect restrictions on accounts, and in severe instances – even lead to account termination. Another area of concern is the lack of consequences resulting from the abusive use of shotgun blast recommendation requests to one’s entire connection network regardless of actual affiliation or reference point. The requests for fake recommendations flow weekly if not daily from strangers and usually they either apologize with the suggestion they did so in error, or they ignore the reprimand.

I was impressed however with one particular request which was profound in that it even provided the framework of what I should say, what areas to emphasize, and furthermore – to act as a proponent for his political views of all things, regardless of whether I share his affiliation. Moreover, this example stands out by his determination to justify his actions. The transcript, misspellings and all were written as follows:

An unrepentant requester this past week when I confronted him about this gem:


LinkedIn Recommendations
“XXX is requesting an endorsement for work performed while XXX

Dear DAVE,

I’m sending this to ask you for a brief recommendation of my work that I can include in my LinkedIn profile. If you have any questions, let me know.

Thanks in advance for helping me out.

Proposed Recommendation for XXXX…

“XXX is a very strong and compassionate XXXXXX (DM notes: “political affiliation”). XXXX does not hesitate to engage in dialogue that is relevent to current and/or future national or international interest. Many people would avoid such dialogue because it could be considered “controversial”, but XXX has demonstrated that he has rare ability to articulate a clear opinion without being rude (DM says: “How would I know this??”). XXX never hesitates to give a clear and consise opinion (DM says: “According to whom????”), as well as strong recommendations when asked, and often when not asked. (DM says: “Apparently I wasn’t asked”)

It is one thing to blast his entire network, but quite another to tell me what to say, and I couldn’t resist sharing my impression of this particularly audacious specimen. I responded as follows:

“If I may be frank with you, sending a blast recommendation request, moreover with a suggested text to strangers, substantially undermines the personal brand of anyone involved to perpetuate this false statement, including that of the person making the request. It calls into question the endorsements made by everyone providing them as well as everyone willing to receive them.”

Be they referred to as References or recommendations – Linkedin endorsements are currency, their value proposition can effect whether someone is considered competitive for job opportunities, a legitimate subject matter expert, etc.

If and when people learn that the recommendations are fake and done by strangers, they undermine the authenticity of genuine relationships and resulting endorsements/ recommendations/ references. In my personal case, such examples become a virus, effecting the standing my own recommendations.

He replied as follows:

Your suggestion that you must know someone PERSONALLY (ie. have them over your house for dinner) in order to make a recommendation is a bit over the top IMHO …many of my recommendations are from folks that I have worked EXTENSIVELY with whether in civilian or military capacity — others are from folks who read my postings on political websites… both are valid and constitute a “relationship” that is significant enough to make a VALID and APPROPRIATE recommendation ….”

The principle I described stands relevant …. (1) I had no relationship whatsoever, – no reference point from which to make an assessment. By his own standards, I had neither(2) “worked EXTENSIVELY with” him, “whether in civilian or military capacity” nor (3) “read ‘his’ postings on political websites” – (4) nor had any knowledge of his affiliations whatsoever.

“Yes, Dave but he wasn’t even a recruiter.”

Actually, staffing industry professionals are no strangers to breaking this key Linkedin ettiquete. I have witnessed first hand people I barely introduced ask for recommendations that spoke far above and beyond what the brief moment allowed, with ‘scripts’ written lacking veracity. I receive requests for endorsements from recruiters that I decline and in my opinion, I am doing them a service as much as I am for my own credibility. I have likewise recalled endorsements when I could no longer defend them. I will never have to worry about getting a call from a blue chip company I may want to consult with, asking me to elaborate upon an endorsement I couldn’t defend.

My friends, if your retort is “I apologize, I wasn’t aware …” – I invite you to take the opportunity to read the FAQ section of Linkedin, ask customer service, contact a business, sales, or relevant staffing webinar tutorial to understand the tool selection Linkedin has to offer. Tread lightly and informed before risking the credibility of your personal brand. Request endorsements from colleagues you have worked with, who observed your presentations at conference, webinars, workshops or other relevant venues, and above all, managers and executives who have had an opportunity to provide an assessment from first-hand observation. Few things reaffirm your value as stated from ‘someone in the know’ and who has kindly established they were willing to take the time and effort to write on your behalf for all 22 million on Linkedin to see.

Linkedin is a remarkable tool. What you do with the opportunities it avails to oneself depends upon the willingness to take advantage of its benefits wisely and knowledgeably. Above all, as with all networking, never cease to remind yourself, that It’s always about your personal brand.

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15 Responses to “Concerning Linkedin Endorsements – Authenticity is Key”

  1. Glenn Gutmacher on June 10th, 2008 1:25 pm

    Dave, you were definitely in the right on this one. Like you, I am an open networker and accept connection requests from pretty much anyone (except people I can detect as having falsified profiles – my pet peeve) because you never know who may lead you to your next placement, client, etc. However, I do draw the line at endorsements. Such testimonials must be real, because as you say, it undermines the credibility of the network. The full network blast was bad enough, since it included many people who couldn’t possibly have known him well enough to endorse, but as you said, to also suggest the text to use was way overboard.

    As for those who might complain that accepting any invitation also undermines the credibility of the network (“what does a LinkedIn connection really mean, then?”), and thus we are guilty of the same offense at a fundamental level (though not nearly as egregious as your blogpost example), I can only steer you to the value of the theory of weak ties, supported by various gurus in the social networking space as well as the mathematical/chemical roots where it originates. Read about it at and and if you still don’t agree, then we can agree to disagree.

  2. Frank Mandix on June 10th, 2008 2:10 pm

    Hi Dave

    I am also an open networker and accept almost all connect request. This means that I can not say that I know all my connection well and through a long period. However I recognise the value of a large network when it comes to finding people or getting your question answered – or getting your brain exercised by answering good questions.

    I have also been getting the request for endorsement either via LI’s system or otherwise. So far I have politely answered that I could not recommend them as my personal knowledge of the person at best could be described as sparse.

    I am shocked at your example but I can see that it would be very easy just to say yes.

    Clearly we all should take the same stance and dismiss such requests. I could even go as far as removing the person from my network. How else can the recommendation system in LI have any value ?

  3. Jeff Weidner on June 10th, 2008 6:21 pm

    I gave up on Linkedin recommendations almost immediately. As soon as I started receiving similiar requests back last fall I said to myself what good is a recommendation if it’s bogus. So I decline most requests for recommendations.

    The topper was when I saw a colleagues linkedin profile that had several hundred recommendations and after reading them I knew they were completely fabricated, or coersed. I knew several of the people leaving the recomendations and have had several converations about that persons business ethics and the recommender was not complimentary when speaking to him in person. But when I asked him why he wrote such a glowing reference for this person he said “because he asked and I felt bad for him” So there ya have it. IMHO Linkedin recommedations are worthless.
    Your profile could have 1 or 1000 and it would not alter my opinion of the person one bit. I certainly do not think more highly of them for having more recommendations on their profile.

    I think the recommendation area is more abused than the non solicted request to connect invitations.

    Jeff Weidner

  4. Dave Mendoza on June 10th, 2008 6:38 pm

    Jeff I think you make my point resoundingly clear that a few bad apples calls into question the recommendations of others which are both legitimate and well deserved. I do however disagree that the problem is as prevelant as you suggest. The use of recommendations as a percentage of profiles on Linkedin is relatively low and more often then not the egregious profiles tend to be newbies trying to male up for lost time due to being laid off, business deal deadlines etc. We all have our own analogies, but truth be told you speak of exactly the damage these few are causing to the rest of us.

  5. Eric Kalet on June 10th, 2008 9:01 pm

    Dave, although I am a “newbie” to LinkedIn and the networking world, I think that you have hit the nail on the head. When I was first prompted to add recommendations to make my profile 90% complete, I started looking at other profiles to get an idea of exactly what a recommendation would mean. I think that without knowing the person and knowing that person’s work, skills and abilities, a recommendation is meaningless and just takes away from not just that individual but the entire network on LinkedIn.

  6. Kevin Stakelum on June 10th, 2008 9:02 pm

    Hello Dave,
    Well stated! The recommendations topic is one that we have discussed through the Q&A section of Linkedin so you know how I feel about this practice, but your example is astonishing to me in many ways. As an open and active networker, the recommendations section is very valuable to me. It is ok for someone to have none, so soliciting them as you show here really cheapens their value and calls into question the ethics of both the recommender and the receiver of the recommendation! They are more credible having fewer that are geniune rather than having a bunch of manufactured ones.

    In the end, Linkedin will only be as good as the users allow it to be. I agree with Glenn and you that it is up to us to ensure that the tool and its features remain valuable.

    Thanks for bringing this issue up and keeping it at the front of everyone’s mind!


  7. David Morgan on June 11th, 2008 9:09 am

    I have asked a couple of folks for recommendations, but only asked the ones who knew me (and my work) well. I have been honored by some of the comments, and IMHO 🙂 their comments were much better than anything I would’ve said about myself anyway.

    I feel that the person revealed a lot about their character and integrity. I am surprised that the person apparently had been in the military. Character and integrity are prinicples those people live and die for.

  8. Sarah on June 11th, 2008 3:57 pm

    This is a subject that gets me going… I have so much to say but I will only make a few points and I am open for any advice/comments…
    1) I agree that the “Doesn’t know” system could use work. I won’t get started – simply put – I wish there was a way for LinkedIn to recognize when a DK becomes a connection and wipe the “I Don’t Know” penalty.
    2) As a LION, I gladly accept all invitations – though I do look at every profile to ensure that it’s legit and that there may actually be potential in that connection. (I NEVER check Don’t Know and usually send a personal reply)
    3) That said, I have only had one recommendation request from a “stranger” thus far and I simply replied “I’m sorry but I am not sure we’ve spoken” and I didn’t hear from them again. It wasn’t the blatant request for a forgery such as you received but certainly unacceptable if you haven’t a “relationship” with someone. The recommendation posts on BOTH profiles… both have to uphold it… duh. Why would you even want a strangers recommendation? How can you be sure they will say nice things behind your back when verified? Maybe this guy really had no clue (and no friends to ask) -common sense is really not that common… good of you to set him straight!

    4) On another rant – One should only be able to choose from groups they actually have in common when indicating that as a connection link… that said, you should not be able to check “Don’t Know” if that person is in your group – change your settings if you don’t want contact from those group members or just ignore the message!

    Thanks for listening (reading)!

    Aside from the things that leave distaste – I do love LinkedIn… It can only be as good as it members… but there is always room for improvement.

  9. Ryan Leary on June 12th, 2008 9:30 am

    Here Ye Here Ye! I seem to receive this request often. It’ simply wrong and very annoying! You go Dave with your bad self. Six Degrees has your back!

    By the way, would you mind endorsing me?

    Please use the following:

    “Ryan is the best damn recruiter hands down! If you think your good, you should check his skills out! I am just mesmerized by his abilities!”

    Thought I’d try…. 

    Take Care and I look forward to meeting up….

  10. Patrick Ryan on June 12th, 2008 9:31 am

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for providing some much need entertainment this morning. I’ve been in sales/recruiter for over 15 years and people never cease to amaze me.

    I would never ask a stranger or even a brief acquaintance for an endorsement. What are people hoping to accomplish especially when the request to that person more than likely has no idea what product or service you provide and therefore cannot effectively comment one way or another?

    In addition, the suggested recommendation with the fill in the blanks is even more annoying. I’m glad you took time to post and bring attention to the fact that some people are making a complete fool of themselves and potentially hurting the true effectiveness of the LinkedIn network.

    In the end, remember to smile and enjoy the rest of your day.

  11. TJ Trent on June 12th, 2008 3:27 pm

    Thank you for your ethical response to the problems associated with “ghost recommendations”. I agree fully with you that if we continue to allow this to go on, at the current level we cheapen what has been developed through Linkedin for our industry. Recommendations, should only come from those we know and have worked with or for, and it is my belief that when a member asked another member for an endorsement and they do not have a clue who is asking for the endorsement there should be a place to forward that request so the abussing member can be monitored, put on notice and if the behavior continues they should be banned.

  12. Robert Godden on June 12th, 2008 4:09 pm

    Hi Dave
    At this point, I have over 800 direct connections, and last week I thought I would request some recommendations for my work on one particular project. After going through my list I ended up sending the request to all of those I felt where both qualified and well-placed to comment.
    I actually sent requests to just 2 people after going through the whole process. The result was two excellent recommendations. Much more satisfying than blasting virtual strangers!

  13. Scam Artist on July 13th, 2008 6:02 am

    Look. Here are the facts. 90 percent of recommendations are reciprocal. I heard Reid Hoffman say that when he hired the new CEO for LinkedIn, he talked to over 20 people who recommended the candidate, and then he got lists of recommendations for the 20 recommendors and checked out the recommenders too! Talk about paranoid. What does Reid know that we don’t? That recommendations on LinkedIn are virtually useless. And that makes them only slightly worse than other forms of recommendation. For my part, I will make honest recommendations, but I never accept them. I wear the lack of recommendations as a badge of honor. 99% of the people in this world are basically idiots and requesting their recommendations is like asking a bluebird what they think of the weather.

  14. Chicago on July 22nd, 2008 10:52 pm

    I hate to say it, but as an early adopter of Linkedin (and other technologies), this feels like the beginning of the decline of Linkedin.
    The day I feel that the app is anything less than a good thing for my reputation and career, I’ll be one of the early ‘leavers’ as well. Perhaps Stanley Bing was the first to see this coming after all.

  15. Shawn Connelly on August 26th, 2008 4:54 pm

    Thank you for the well written article. Would you like an endorsement? 🙂

    Seriously though, I found this blog as a result of a Google search on the usefulness of LinkedIn recommendations.

    What I am hoping for is that this type of recommendation becomes more accepted than calling references. Unfortunately, it seems that some people are diminishing their value already! Perhaps Linksys needs to offer a check and balance verification system before it’s too late.

    I try to limit access to reference’s telephone numbers until the point of accepting the job but some insist on making reference calls BEFORE the first interview. Still it is a big favor to ask my references to endure a 1/2 hour or more telephone call and, in some cases, an interrogation.

    The idea of a reference has one potential failing; one is only going to utilize references from those who will say something positive. So one might know four people in a hundred that have something good to say about the individual but that is not going to represent an accurate picture of this person’s abilities or personality.