Do LinkedIn recommendations, endorsements & connections matter?

Do LinkedIn recommendations, endorsements & connections matter?

A reader admits there’s fake stuff in LinkedIn Recommendations and asks whether these “networking” tools really work, in the November 10, 2020 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter.

Question

LinkedIn recommendationsHow important are LinkedIn “recommendations?” Some are true, some are made up and a person feels an obligation to lay it on. How can you improve them?

My issue is that I have been out of the job market for four years, my recommendations are old, and I don’t have many current recommendations that are relevant. I also wonder about “endorsements” and why a request to “connect” through a mutual contact rarely goes anywhere. Thank you.

Nick’s Reply

Let’s start with the basics: Your LinkedIn profile is your calling card. You should absolutely have one. But your profile doesn’t “market” or “sell” you. All it does is confirm you exist when someone looks you up.

LinkedIn recommendations

“Recommendations” are the section on a LinkedIn profile where people post nice things about you.

I pay no attention at all to LinkedIn recommendations and I don’t know anyone that does, except perhaps some wishful job seekers and naive recruiters. It doesn’t hurt to have recommendations. If you want to game this silly system, ask folks who posted the old ones to copy/delete/repost under new date. But I would not put much time into any of this.

What do LinkedIn recommendations mean?

Here’s the test for a recommendation posted on your LinkedIn profile: Would the person be willing to call an employer to provide a detailed reference for you on the phone and to answer questions about you?

My guess is that most won’t. That makes LinkedIn recommendations nice but not very meaningful. They’re window dressing. No employer is going to hire you because someone larded your profile with praise. They’re going to want to talk with your references.

The same is true about your list of “connections.” Should an employer be impressed if you have 5,000 contacts? I’m not. LinkedIn links are free. The ease with which LinkedIn allows us to portray “connections” makes them questionable at best. Then we have “endorsements” — I call this “credibility with a click.” It’s meaningless.

LinkedIn’s value to you

What would be more useful is to ask those same people (your fans who post recommendations) if they’d be willing to (a) serve as actual references and (b) make personal introductions via e-mail or phone. My guess is most cannot because they don’t know you or your work well enough.

The main value of LinkedIn to you is that it’s a huge digital directory you can use to check up on people you’re dealing with or want to meet. However, we all know that messaging your Connection A via LinkedIn to get introduced to their Connection B is not likely to get you anywhere. Times I’ve tried this, I get this reply: “Sorry, I’m connected to B but I don’t know her at all.”

That’s because connections are free, so most are worthless. You might as well search a phonebook to get an introduction! The best way to get introduced to a person is to actually talk with someone that knows them. Use the phone! (See Networking For Introverts: How to say it.)

LinkedIn’s value to employers

The main value of LinkedIn to employers is to to “check you out” after they’ve used other, better means to get interested in you. The problem is if they can’t find you there. So by all means, have a good, simple LinkedIn profile that “proves” you exist!

But don’t count on it doing much more. Contrary to what LinkedIn “profile writers” might tell you, your LinkedIn profile does not “market” you. At best, your profile is your resume — and it’s passive. Sure, loads of recruiters search LinkedIn for keywords to find candidates on LinkedIn. But all they find are keywords — not your value.

LinkedIn is not a professional network

At its inception, LinkedIn was founded as an exclusive professional network in which members “connected” only with people they knew or did business with. That’s where its integrity and value were to reside.

But the day LinkedIn turned into just another job board, selling “seats” to recruiters and “top positioning” to job seekers, the network turned into a souped-up digital phonebook. Founders Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner cashed out — and sold out a promising, powerful system of business relationships.

While LinkedIn offers millions of nodes in its network (that’s you — a node), the value of connections between nodes is negligible. LinkedIn makes money by selling access to its nodes, or members, to employers. It has abandoned the integrity of the links between people. That’s why connections are free. That’s why a node (a LinkedIn member) is not likely to introduce you to another.

The best way to meet people who can help you is through other people that actually have shared professional experiences with you. People that have gotten to know you. People who will speak up for you and who will engineer an introduction or referral to an employer that trusts them. LinkedIn simply does not facilitate that.

Invest in strong personal links

Most people on LinkedIn who don’t know you aren’t going to introduce you to their contacts – I won’t! So, limit your use of LinkedIn to looking people up — but only after someone has already made a trusted, personal introduction that includes an endorsement and a recommendation. There’s your truly valuable connection between nodes!

This means talking with people and developing relationships. LinkedIn messaging has become just another channel of junk mail that people ignore. Junk mail is anything from someone you don’t know who clearly doesn’t know you.

I guess what I’m saying is, it’s who you really know that matters, and who really knows you. If you and your endorsers really know one another, what are you doing using LinkedIn to get introduced to “connections”? Make a phone call! And make it personal!

How do you use LinkedIn? Is it really an effective “professional network” or just a dumpster of all resumes? What could be done to make LinkedIn better? Most important, how do you really connect with people to advance your career?

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Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired

In the May 12, 2015 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, I launch a rant about runaway technology in the world of employment. I mean, it’s way past stupid and counter-productive. It’s dangerous!

Or, Why LinkedIn gets paid even when jobs don’t get filled

If you’re going to recruit and hire people for your business, or if you’re going to look for a job, you need to understand why America’s institutionalized employment system doesn’t work. It’s important to know the short history of reductionist recruiting — layers of matchmaking technology designed for speed, distribution, and for handling loads of applicants.

It has nothing to do with enabling employers to meet and hire the most suitable workers.

reductionistWant Ads

When somebody invented the newspaper want ad, it was an innocent enough way to find people to do jobs. An employer said what it was looking for, people wrote a letter explaining why they were interested, threw in their resume, and mailed it in.

Because a want ad cost quite a bit of money (thousands of dollars in The New York Times), ads were almost always legit. Applicants had to pay for a stamp, and motivation was high to apply only to the most relevant. What’s not to like? Even when professional resume writers stepped in, and started touting salmon-colored paper to make their clients’ submissions literally stand out, it was still manageable; employers knew immediately which applications to throw out! Meanwhile, the newspapers made out like bandits advertising jobs.

Internet Job Boards

When the Internet came along, somebody thought to put all the ads online — to get better distribution, and more responses from more applicants. The jobs sites quickly realized this made wants ads cheaper, and to make money, they had to sell more ads.

Wink, wink — questionable ads, like multi-level-marketing schemes, were welcome! So were ads for expired jobs, kept there by employers who liked a steady stream of resumes even when they didn’t need them.

This never worked very well at all — and it became a disaster of such epic proportions that somebody named it “The Great Talent Shortage.” (See Systemic Recruitment Fraud: How employers fund America’s jobs crisis.) HR departments got flooded with applications they couldn’t process — so somebody invented keywords.

The Keyword Age

Employers no longer needed to read resumes or applications. Software compared words in job descriptions to words in resumes, and HR could accept or reject applicants without even knowing who they were!

Clever applicants started larding their resumes with keywords — making HR’s job all the harder, and job interviews a waste of time. It was so easy for people to fake their way past the system that HR panicked and drew the blinds. Everyone was rejected.

This experience led employers to agree that, yes, America is in a terrible talent shortage — during the biggest talent gluts in history. Even the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas Perez, banged the gong:

“I speak to a lot of business leaders who are trying to hire. They want to hire and the most frequent thing I hear from them is all too many people coming through the door don’t have the skills necessary to do the job I need to do.”

“Too many people”?? Say what?

Reductionist Recruiting: Get paid for $@*#&!

Perez isn’t holding those employers accountable. They use applicant tracking systems (ATSes) to solicit thousands of job applicants to fill just one job — then they complain they’ve got too many of the wrong applicants. The employers themselves are responsible for the problem. (News Flash: HR causes talent shortage!)

meatgrinder

Welcome to reductionist recruiting: Jobs don’t matter. People and skills don’t matter. The coin of the realm is what computer scientists call character strings: strings of characters, or letters and numbers, standing in for jobs and people. That’s what’s sold by job boards and bought by employers.

Think that’s far-fetched? Then why don’t employers pay when they actually hire someone from a job board or applicant tracking system?

The product is keywords. The system has nothing to do with filling jobs, or that’s how LinkedIn, Monster.com, Taleo and JobScan would get paid.

They get paid to keep the pipeline full of character strings. Employers and job seekers get scammed every day they play the game. And HR is the culprit, because that’s who signs the purchase orders and the checks to use these systems.

The New Age Of More Reductionist Recruiting

The high-tech-ness of all this (Algorithms! Artificial Intelligence! Intelligent Job Agents!) sent venture investors scurrying to put their money into reductionist recruiting, because HR departments didn’t care whether they hired anyone. Their primary business became the “pipeline” of job postings and processing incoming keywords.

That’s why Reid Hoffman and Jeff Weiner are getting rich while you can’t get a job.

It’s all stupid now. The head of Monster.com promotes “semantic processing” algorithms that match keywords better than any other job board. LinkedIn (LinkedIn: Just another job board) claims that special keywords — called “endorsements” — add powerful credibility to all the other keywords on people’s online profiles. And “job board aggregators” like Indeed.com collect all the keywords from every job board, grind them up and sort them, and deliver more and better keywords than any other technology.

We know this is all a big load of crap when the next iteration of recruitment start-ups are designed to further distance employers and job seekers from one another.

Reductionist Recruiting 3.0

That’s the point behind a new start-up called JobScan. This new service gives job seekers the same power employers have. For a fee, JobScan “helps you write better resumes.” Cool — we need better ways to help employers make the right hires!

reductionismBut it turns out JobScan doesn’t do that. It doesn’t help match workers to jobs any more than ATSes do. All it does is help job applicants scam ATSes by using more words that will match the words in employers’ job descriptions. More reductionist recruiting.

James Hu, co-founder and CEO of JobScan, told TechCrunch that, in the past, a real person would review your resume to judge whether you were worth interviewing. “But now you are just a record in the system.”

Duh? And Hu’s service treats you as nothing more. JobScan’s home page shows two text boxes. In one, you post your resume. In the other, you paste the description of the job you want to apply for. You click a button, and it tells you “how well your resume matches the job description.” Now you can add more of the correct keywords to your resume.

In just a couple of entrepreneurial generations, we’ve gone from stupid ATSes that rely on word matches to deliver “too many people…[that] don’t have the skills necessary to do the job,” to a whole new business that enables job seekers to manage the words they dump into those useless ATSes.

(Note to venture investors who missed out on the first rounds of Monster.com, Indeed.com and LinkedIn: This is a new opportunity!)

JobScan’s algorithms tell you which additional keywords you need to add to your application to outsmart the employer’s keyword algorithm.

It’s like your people talking to my people, so you and I don’t have to talk to one another. We can sit by a pool sipping Caipirinhas (my new favorite drink from Brazil), and wait for our respective people to do a deal that will make us all money.

Except there aren’t any people involved. Reductionist recruiting, meet reductionist job hunting: DUMMIES WANTED!

A Short History of Failure: More venture funding wanted!

Entrepreneurial ATS makers game the employment system to make loads of money while employers reject more and more job applicants. Now there’s another layer on this scam — and it was inevitable. Entrepreneurs are getting funded to create ways to help you beat the databases to fool employers into interviewing you, whether you can do the job or not. (I wish thoughtful entrepreneurs like Hu would put their talents to work creating value, not outwitting admittedly silly job application systems.)

Job seekers are taught every day that it doesn’t really matter whether you can do a job profitably. What matters is whether you can game the system to get an interview, just so you can get rejected because, in the end, employers don’t hire words that match jobs. They want people who can do jobs. They just don’t know how to find them. (See Getting in the door for alternative paths to the job you want.)

Of course, any dope can see the real problem: HR isn’t willing to hire key words, even though it pays an awful lot of money for them. And it certainly has no idea where the talent is.

I can’t wait for employers to wake up and smell the coffee: Start paying LinkedIn, Monster, and Indeed only when those suckers actually fill a job.

Am I nuts, or has America’s employment system gone completely to hell with plenty of venture funding behind it?

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