LinkedIn’s Endorsement System is Broken

There is a flaw in LinkedIn‘s skill endorsement system, at least in so far as how mine has evolved. The result of which is that my endorsements do not match my actual relative levels of expertise. The key issue with my LinkedIn profile is the disproportionately high endorsements for MySQL, more than twice that of my next highest skill, PostgreSQL. The reality is I know much more about PostgreSQL than MySQL and anyone I have worked with I hope would know that. For some reason this has bothered me, so here is my explanation as to why I think it is happening and how I think it could be fixed.

My sample size of endorsements is really small so it’s not very statistically significant on its own, but I see a pattern emerging that is likely the result of flawed logic in the way LinkedIn promotes making endorsements. When you view someones profile on LinkedIn it may show you a box at the top of that user’s profile with a few of their skills, asking you to endorse them. How does LinkedIn come up with that short list from the possibly large list of available skills?

I assume as a user gains endorsements, those for which they have been endorsed will be more likely to be presented to new users to endorse. But what happens when a user has no or few endorsements? I can’t say for sure but I can bet they are using potentially many indicators from the ecosystem of LinkedIn’s available data such as number of users having that skill or total endorsements for that skill. They may also be using factors such as that skill’s relevance (i.e. occurrences) in job listings or job searches. The idea being that when having no user-specific indicators for which skills are important for that user, skills considered more important or relevant across the community at large or those most likely to lead to targetable skill sets for job searches should be favored for promotion for endorsements. The problem with that assumption, however, is that what the crowd is good at or what most recruiters are looking for isn’t necessarily what you are good at. If endorsements are meant as a way for recruiters or others to gauge your level of expertise or proficiency in a skill, then LinkedIn’s logic for promoting endorsements is flawed.

What I think would be more valuable is for users to first rate their own expertise in their skills, then let other users endorse those skills. When promoting other users to endorse them, the short list of skills to present should be based on a combination of your own rating, the endorsements from others, as well as indicators from the LinkedIn ecosystem as to what skills are important to the community. If others organically endorse skills in a disproportionate way to how they were rated by the user, that is ok and potentially interesting information. At least a user has some influence on how that process evolves.

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