Tuesday, 25 May 2010

What has happened to LinkedIN Etiquette?

I spend a lot of valuable time on LinkedIN – I was an early adopter and barely a day has gone past in the 4 or so years that I’ve had a user profile that I haven’t logged in for one reason or another.

I use LinkedIN for business – I am a hiring manager and comfortable networker, and the functionality helps to keep me up to date and in touch with an ever widening group of contacts. I am not an open networker, I have fought for the integrity of my network and it delivers value back to me daily. The role of LinkedIN allows me to ring fence my Facebook Account –as a rule, I do not accept ‘friend’ invites to my Facebook account from people who are in my business network – my Facebook network is less that 10% of the size of my LinkedIN network.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I respect the social territory-based networking that linkedIN enables – it’s empowering and enriching to watch the career progression of people you have worked with previously.

However, there is one facet of LinkedIN that never fails to irk me; the endorsement process. In fact, it’s not linkedIN itself that irks me, it’s peoples use/misuse of it. In the ‘early’ days, people were respectful and humble over their request for an endorsement – they either rang and asked personally, or made the time to find you face-to-face or at the very least scribe a personal request.

A personal reference is a very valuable commodity – it can influence your equity value to a new employer and make you stand above another candidate who has like-for-like on-paper experience. It can also influence a buyer’s decision to contact you for business services over another supplier who has less definitive recommendations – it’s a powerful reputation building device.

Of course, generally speaking, the more senior/influential the person who is recommending you, the greater the value of that endorsement.

So why is it that the last 5 endorsement requests that I have received, from otherwise talented relationship builders with whom I have worked directly (so know personally and have mentored), have been via the generic LinkedIN scripted request template, with no personalisation or effort?

I have found myself archiving these messages and feeling disappointment in the people who have sent them – I thought better of them. I may be being precious, but I happen to find it disrespectful – why should I spent 20 mins of my day crafting a personalised recommendation for someone who hasn’t even bothered to contact me personally?

I’m fascinated about the thought process from the requestor – what is the decision making path that has lead them to act like that – do they have a sense of entitlement that overrides their basic standards of etiquette? Are they embarrassed to ask, so take the pot-shot easy option to see if I have nothing better to do with my day than spend it helping them in their career for not even a courtesy phone call? Or is it that they took a cheap and nasty route and just spammed their whole network to see if someone, anyone, would oblige?

Anyone who has worked for, or with, me knows how I work – I always make myself available when people need help, support or advice, I consider it part of my responsibility as a senior bod and I get a lot of satisfaction out of it.

So am I a victim of my own accessibility – people now take it for granted and assume a right to have that helping hand without having to impart basic manners to the process? I’m not sure – I tweeted about this last night to see if I was the only person who got upset about receiving non-personalised endorsement requests, and I was glad to see that I’m not – for example, the reply from @martin_thomas: “No, they're a bit like spam. Non specific, non personal”.

What an uncomfortable concept – I’m being spammed by a small minority of my own carefully built network of people I have invested belief, mentoring and support in. That surely has to come full circle back to me somehow.

So I guess it’s shame on me....or is it only shame on me if I actually then still write the endorsement?


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  3. I like you use LinkedIn for pure business connections and facebook has less than 5% crossover. I don't even link facebook with foursquare , only twitter!

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