My colleagues and I have observed a recent surge in requests from strangers seeking essentially â€˜fakeâ€™ 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 â€œDoesnâ€™t Knowâ€ clicks made in error â€“ 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 oneâ€™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 â€“ 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:
â€œXXX is requesting an endorsement for work performed while XXX
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: â€œpolitical affiliationâ€). 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: â€œHow would I know this??â€). XXX never hesitates to give a clear and consise opinion (DM says: â€œAccording to whom????â€), as well as strong recommendations when asked, and often when not asked. (DM says: â€œApparently I wasnâ€™t askedâ€)
It is one thing to blast his entire network, but quite another to tell me what to say, and I couldnâ€™t resist sharing my impression of this particularly audacious specimen. I responded as follows:
â€œIf 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 â€“ 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 â€¦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 websitesâ€¦ both are valid and constitute a â€œrelationshipâ€ that is significant enough to make a VALID and APPROPRIATE recommendation â€¦.”
The principle I described stands relevant â€¦. (1) I had no relationship whatsoever, – no reference point from which to make an assessment. By his own standards, I had neither(2) â€œworked EXTENSIVELY withâ€ him, â€œwhether in civilian or military capacityâ€ nor (3) â€œread â€˜hisâ€™ postings on political websitesâ€ â€“ (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 â€œI apologize, I wasnâ€™t aware â€¦â€ â€“ 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 â€˜someone in the knowâ€™ 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 Itâ€™s always about your personal brand.