Jennifer Bewley
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With more than 10 billion LinkedIn endorsements shared since the feature was introduced four years ago, endorsements have quickly become another piece of the hiring puzzle. The biggest benefit is being discovered more frequently in search. The more endorsements a job candidate has for the skills that she wants to be known for, the higher she ranks in LinkedIn search results. How much greater? You are 27 times more likely to be discovered if you have five or more skills, according to LinkedIn.

As career coach, Amy O’Donnell says, “It only takes a spark..."  Here is our best advice on turning that spark into a fire with endorsements from your connections.

1. Focus on What’s Most Important to You 

“Only include major responsibilities from your positions,” says Sandee Cook, an executive recruiter at Career Search Associates. “There is no point in adding mundane day-to-day activities.”

That is the right tact, according to Wade Pierson, Managing Partner and Founder of Impact Talent Ventures. “I would recommend to a candidate that they look to get endorsements on only five to seven key skills and not try to list out 50 skills and then have to seek recommendations on all of them.”

2. Know That Order Matters

List your endorsed skills in the order of the strengths you want to highlight. Let’s face it—sometimes praise comes from unexpected corners, and may not be on target with your area of expertise or your experience and aspirations. By prioritizing your top skills and rejecting endorsements that don’t fit, you are training LinkedIn’s suggestion engine to gather more valuable validation and improve search results.

3. Consider Transferable Skills

If you are looking for that next career step, switching fields or industries, or just returning to the workforce, make sure your featured endorsements include skills that hiring managers would find helpful for the position you desire. “When I’m looking for transferable skills, having endorsements in similar areas can be helpful,” said Wendy Wennerberg, Recruiting and Talent Manager at Motor Werks Auto Group, a top-ranked privately held company in Chicago.  

4. Play the Numbers Game

We know that five prioritized skills are essential; what about the number of connections endorsing you? It depends based on recruiter preference, your level and industry. Everyone agrees that if a job candidate has too little and too many those are both red flags, including prompting recruiters to question if the professional is being genuine or not even a real person. Ideally, you should have 70+ recommendations on each priority skill, said Pierson.

Amy O’Donnell, a Senior Lecturer on career development at the University of Toledo, says, “It doesn't hurt to have a slew of people supporting you for your expertise. In my estimation, people aren't really going to endorse someone unless they believe the individual possesses the endorsed skill. Thus, if a sourcer lands on a profile and sees 99+ next to (a skill) there has to be some validity there.  For example, I can't imagine I, personally, would fall into the 99+ category in career counseling, if the perception was that I didn't really know what I was doing.”

5. Understand That Quality Is Important

It’s best to get endorsements on your skills from those who have first-hand knowledge of your work product. Think about who knows your work best, former or current colleagues, and those who are also known for having a skill set in your area of expertise when considering who to ask for an endorsement. That said, the majority of recruiters and hiring managers we spoke with aren’t looking very closely at the source of the endorsements. In other words, it's not going to be the end of the world if your endorser is primarily your work friend with a respectable user profile and who can list your skills. You may even consider returning the favor and reciprocate by enhancing their profiles with an testimonial in return.

This, of course could change, because LinkedIn has made it easier to focus on caliber by adding “Featured Highlights” to the skills and endorsement section of your profile.  It surfaces endorsements that are most relevant to the viewer. For example, a hiring manager may see endorsements summarized by mutual connections, colleagues, and people who are knowledgeable about the skill. The credibility of the person providing your endorsement does mater but having a positive endorsement from someone with first-hand knowledge of your work doesn't have to mean asking your former CEO for a favor.

Pierson said that to him, a very “good picture of your career success and future prospects” would be if 75 percent of the endorsements are from senior-level professionals.

6. Give Endorsements

If you’ve given someone a fresh, relevant endorsement, that colleague may be prompted to do the same. The act of giving is key to fostering and maintaining a strong network. And, endorsements on colleagues’ profiles are a source of discovery for recruiters too. Tom Padell, Sr. Director Recruiting at Carter/MacKay, who focuses on the IT services and consulting industry, admits to finding additional candidates by looking at the titles of your recommenders.

The bottom line: Make sure your skills are up-to-date and prioritized so that you are being discovered for opportunities that you would consider. Select a few highly-skilled colleagues and ask if they can take time to high-five your most critical skills and find and endorse those professionals in your network where your praise may make a difference. 

Also keep in mind that a skills endorsement is different from a recommendation. A skills endorsement is—as we've described here—a quick nod to your skills set, while a written recommendation is a full description that you write yourself. Because it takes more time and effort, a recommendation is considered more valuable. You can easily ask for recommendations via your own profile or your contact's, and it could pay off.

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Jennifer Bewley is the founder of Uncuffed, which provides detailed research into prospective employers. Jennifer has an unhealthy love of financial data and speaking her mind and she uses each to help candidates choose the company they work for wisely.

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