LinkedIn colleague recommendations: are they worth anything?

Recommendations, endorsements, testimonials on LinkedIn and elsewhere on the Web: are they worth anything?

- I've just changed the name of this post, having realized that it was too general and readers misunderstood it. I was not referring to recommendations of skincare products, hotels, restaurants... I mean, very specifically, the endorsements we -- professionals, service-providers -- are encouraged to provide to each other online: 

A colleague sends you a message asking you to endorse his/her website, services, company or whatever. You know this works both ways – you’ll scratch their back, they’ll scratch yours.

But there’s the rub: if it’s based on quid-pro-quo, is it of any value?

Some people are better at their chosen profession than others. You can be perfectly friendly with Sacha or Elsie, and still think that their work is below par, whether they themselves are aware of it or not. And if Sacha is a friend, or someone you’ve done business with and might get more work from in the future, how are you going to turn him down? Can you just ignore the request and pretend you never saw it, and leave it to him to draw his own conclusions? Do you write Elsie a formal-sounding, “correct” but cool endorsement, which any potential customer will easily see through?  And if you yourself are looking for, say, a localization expert from English to German, and you’re reading the recommendations given to Elsie, say on LinkedIn, are you expected to take them at face value, or with a grain of salt?

Just choose one of your LinkedIn pals at random, and read the recommendations about them, or the ones they wrote about others. No disrespect, but is it really possible that everyone on LinkedIn is the cat’s meow?... And those who have no recommendations, does it necessarily mean that they’re no-goodniks?... The answer is too obvious for words.

So far, I recall writing only one endorsement on LinkedIn, and one testimonial on a colleague’s website. In both cases, I did this with pleasure, as these are two people whom I wholeheartedly approve of, to say the least. Then came a request from a work-acquaintance, which made me somewhat uneasy: I know the person rather superficially; we’ve done some business together, and it was fine; but I really have no idea how good this person is in his current field of endeavor. So what can I say? Isn’t it better to ignore the request than to write a half-hearted, non-committal “recommendation”?

Do let me know your thoughts.


Nathalie Klein said...

I don't play the recommendation game on the "scratch my back I'll scratch yours" basis. I am interested only in sincere words. However I realize that I may not be playing the overall LinkedIn game. Is it prejudicial to me? Good question ... Right now I am building a recommendations' section on my website, which may turn out more relevant from a marketing point of view than the one on LinkedIn.

Perry Zamek said...

With LinkedIn, I agree that there is a temptation to reciprocate - the trick is to be very specific in the recommendation, describing the work and how the person performed on that piece of work, etc. The more specific the recommendation, the more valuable it is.
Another point to consider is the ratio of recommendations to number of connections (I only ask for a recommendation from someone for whom I did outstanding work), and the ratio of recommendations to number of positions held (in general, the latter figure says something about a person's stability in employment).

Nina R. Davis said...

Good points, Perry, thanks.

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