The truth about LinkedIn skills and endorsements

“Everyone knows Skill endorsements are a joke so why are LinkedIn persisting with them?

This was a question I was recently asked by a listener to my podcast LinkedInformed and my immediate response was… good question! It really got me thinking.

LinkedIn are more than capable of mistakes, glitches, and errors but something of this nature is clearly a strategic decision and on matters of strategy LinkedIn are usually very switched on.

Lets examine Skills;

How many times have you looked at a candidates LinkedIn profile and been influenced by their skills or endorsements?


I really don’t blame you. Skills and their endorsements have just become a silly and seemingly pointless game on LinkedIn. I get endorsed all the time by people who I’m sure have no idea whether I have those skills or not, and I’m sure you do too.

So if they appear to add no value to a profile then why are LinkedIn so keen on them?

Why Skills are important to LinkedIn

The answer is Big Data.

My view is that endorsements are mainly a red herring, designed to encourage us to add skills to our profile.

Skills existed for 18 months before endorsements came along but people were not really adding them to their profiles so my guess is that a team of very clever ‘silicon valley’ types locked themselves away at LinkedIn’s HQ in their ‘Google-esque’ office (equipped with scooters and table football) and brainstormed the problem.

The solution was a form of gamification – endorsements… and it worked a treat!

All of a sudden people saw the point and started adding more skills and rushed to endorse their connections in the hope that they returned the favour… which they often did. Within 3 months LinkedIn were reporting 550 million endorsements and a significant growth of skills.

The end result is the kind of big data that LinkedIn were looking for. In just the last year alone LinkedIn have reported an extra 380 million skills have been added to profiles.

There are still some very odd skills on LinkedIn!

There are still some very odd skills on LinkedIn!

LinkedIn are interested in collating skills data because it provides a valuable insight into recruiting demand and skills shortages in specific areas.

Lets take an example;

Let’s imagine that LinkedIn have determined that the skill ‘Python’ (a programming language) is increasing in demand in the UK – based on keyword data from job ad’s, group job discussions, status updates, and published posts.

LinkedIn can also see from UK profiles that this skill is not increasing in profiles at the same rate.

Conclusion? The UK has or soon will have a skills shortage for Python.

This is hugely valuable data and I have no doubt that LinkedIn have a plan to monetise it… which is probably why we are not allowed to see it!

This kind of analysis would be pretty simple to do but have you noticed how LinkedIn have made it impossible to search by skills and do not give us visibility of the trends?

Every so often they release little snippets of information such as;

  • Google Glass is the fastest growing skill over the last 12 months (122%)
  • The fastest growing non-IT skill in the UK is “administrative”
  • Profiles that have skills get 13x more views than those that don’t (due to endorsements no doubt)

LinkedIn’s CEO Jeff Weiner has spoken about this in his impressive talk about the LinkedIn worldwide economic graph and there can be no doubt that data of this nature is a highly valuable resource for LinkedIn.

So there you have it… they can be a pretty smart lot when they put their minds to it!

Mark Williams

Mark Williams (commonly known as ‘Mr LinkedIn) is widely regarded as one of the worlds top LinkedIn experts. Following a career spanning 20 years in the recruitment industry Mark set up ETN LinkedIn training in 2008. Since then he has trained thousands of LinkedIn users from a diverse range of industries and roles. He is also an accomplished keynote speaker, blogger and podcaster with his popular show ‘LinkedInformed' Mark’s passion for his niche subject shines through as he enthusiastically demonstrates why LinkedIn is such a key business tool.

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0 replies
  1. Simon Marks
    Simon Marks says:

    So endorsements are not the objective they are a means to the end of getting people to list their skills which is big data Linked In can sell! A very interesting and perceptive analysis Mark.

  2. Peter
    Peter says:

    hi Mark, I enjoyed the article and would have similar views on endorsements given how people can endorse you and not even know you. However I did hear linkedin at a conference and they did say one thing about endorsements that I thought was valid. Even if you don’t believe in them look at your highest 2 or 3 endorsements and you will see that it is a pretty accurate reflection of your skills. I looked at mine and had to agree and I think many others would too.


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