LinkedIn endorsement requests feel a bit like Facebook game requests. If you’ve sent them out, you know you can just click on all your friends and send to your entire network. So as a recipient, you now know that the seemingly personal request is likely a broadcast, that you don’t have to reply to. The exaggerated version of cc’ing everyone, hoping someone will take care of your problem. Except it’s not like that. Not at all. LinkedIn endorsements are incredibly important to people. They’re what investors and recruiters reference in doing their due diligence, and on a more basic level, it’s a bold declaration to the world, that you appreciate the contribution of another person. So how are you supposed to handle these requests?
First, there can be many reasons why you might hesitate to write one, beyond the impression that you’re being spammed. For one, the person asking may have the most fleeting of professional interactions, or you only know them socially. This makes it difficult for you to come up with something of substance. There’s also a reflexive aspect, which is your endorsement of a particular person may have an impact on how you yourself are perceived.
Second, these factors might exacerbate a larger issue, which is that you may not have the time or energy to write an endorsement. By its very nature, you know these things have to be meaningful, and it’s sometimes challenging to be profound on cue. A thought not unfamiliar to someone trying to sift through the day’s caffeine, alcohol, and game launch haze at 10:51pm. These things take time and effort.
So for the initial request sender, be patient with us. Give us a moment. Feel free to send a gentle reminder to those of us you really want an endorsement from. This way we know we’re not being spammed, and this really is important to you. Another thing you can do, is endorse us first. This reverses the dynamic from you asking something, to giving us something. We’re virally drawn into your game, and feel obliged to reciprocate. Given the effort you put in, it’s not just clicking a free gift to me, you actually personalized a little public note to me. Guilt can be more powerful than generosity.
Also, if you send a request to a colleague or business partner, be prepared for them to ask if you’re leaving your job. This can be a delicate affair. Granted there are any number of valid reasons to see LinkedIn activity, but a seemingly sudden burst of endorsement requests seems to point logically to just one conclusion. If you are indeed leaving and it’s public, then it’s not an issue. But for every other case, be prepared to provide some context, otherwise, people will not know how to respond to you.
Speaking of leaving your network confused, if you request an endorsement, we write one, and you don’t reciprocate, well, that’s out of balance. Granted, the whole concept of an endorsement or recommendation is to help others, but as the LinkedIn system implies, by automatically teeing you up to write a reciprocal endorsement, the network calls for a quid pro quo. You really should repay the favor and write an endorsement back.
I’ve oscillated from viewing the endorsement mechanism purely as a system for outgoing generosity, to active annoyance at people not returning endorsements. I’ve heard of people deleting endorsements over genuine and regretful changes of heart, never in retaliation for failure to return the endorsement. But I’d be lying if I said my little gamer brain didn’t dart there for a moment. Because these endorsements are like life achievements. They’re a leaderboard for career advancement. They have real meaning as virtual stars on the collective, universal career board.
However, there are multiple problems with seeing things that way. From a practical standpoint, it’s a nuclear option. It’s way too much firepower for a minor issue. Also, as I’ve discovered by just listening a bit more, people sometimes have real problems going on in their lives. They may sign on to LinkedIn briefly and make the request, and then get hit from left field with a wall of crap. Sometimes people have other things going on than winning LinkedIn.
And from the most elemental point of view, endorsements are a unique kind of virtual token. They are given because you genuinely like the contribution of that person, and you wish them well. Don’t get caught in the gamification of it, just let it go. Whether you believe in karma or not, and for the record I don’t, it makes sense to adopt a karmic outlook. You keep your perspective, and you add to the wellbeing of those around you. It’s a good model for any population. Which reminds me, I have to go and respond to some endorsement requests.
SF: It’s funny, I’ve never really attributed much (if any) value to endorsements on LinkedIn. I generally don’t read them when making a hiring decision and I find them sorta suspect as a general means for filtering candidates. I suppose you could argue that a person who has no recommendations is suspicious, but I find it difficult to distinguish on that basis – I’m unsure whether the absence is attributable to lack of interest in acquiring recommendations or lack of talent.
I do provide endorsements when requested though and your outline for etiquette seems pretty sound.