Sunday, March 8, 2009

The value of LinkedIn recommendations

Yesterday I found this blog post in which Jeff Atwood was questioning the value LinkedIn brings to its subscribers.
I've been a member of LinkedIn for almost two years now. I dutifully entered my credentials and kept them up to date. The only other interaction I've had with the service since then has been a continual stream of link requests. I'm selective about who I approve, limiting it to people I've only met in real life. And the net benefit of this selectivity? As far as I can tell, zilch. Nada. Nothing. I did get a cold call from a headhunter once based on my Linked In profile, but I don't consider that a benefit.

Has this service ever been useful to anyone? I'm telling you, Linked In is the digital equivalent of a chain letter. If you really want to contact a friend of a friend (of a friend), just pick up the phone or send an email. If the only way you can reach someone is through this nutty online social pyramid scheme, you don't deserve to be taken seriously. And I can guarantee that you won't be.

I'm not going to opt out of LinkedIn, as Jeff did. I still see a couple of benefits from it, like groups and QA, but I wonder about the value of recommendations.

What's the real value of a recommendation on LinkedIn?

Image by 1Sock

If you were to work with or hire someone, how much emphasis would you set on the recommendations that person has? Keep in mind that they are fully customizable, as the help states:
Yes, Recommendations can be revised, replaced or withdrawn by using the 'Make & Manage Recommendations' page.

Do you know anyone with a negative description in her or his profile? If the answer is no and I tend to believe nobody has one, then is everybody a truly skilled professional that provided only good value for every piece of work that she or he did? Or is this true only for people with any recommendations at all?

I have 61 connections, which might be considered a small number in today's networking situation. Out of these, I only gave one recommendation so far, for an ex-colleague that asked for it. He needed it for a new job he was trying to obtain. In any case, I would do it for every contact that asks me for one.

On the other hand, I got 3 recommendations to date. I felt good when I received these testimonials in my inbox, but my question is how valuable they are for an eventual business contact. I suppose that if I ask all my contact to give me recommendations, I'll get at least 20. So what?

Most of the recommendations I've seen on LinkedIn profiles sound like this:
[Name] is a very creative person, inspirational in the [field] industry, very focused on detail, great at deliverance and effective when is about results. Highly recommended.

I think a recommendation is actually valuable for the one writing it. If I was to pick someone to work with from LinkedIn, I would take these testimonials into account the other way around, by looking at the recommendations that person wrote for her or his contacts. Witty written ones, which break the above mentioned pattern, would be a plus in the evaluation.

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