Should you trust LinkedIn recommendations?

Frankly, I don’t think so. The reason is, no one would ask reviews from people whom they think don’t have good opinion on them. Similarly, no one is going to give a public opinion telling the other person “hae, you suck big time, there is no way I am going to make the same mistake again, which is to hire you (as a manager) or to work with you (as a colleague)”. That is the very reason, you always see only very positive reviews and never any negative review.

So, to confirm my hypothesis, here is what I did. I looked at the reviews of some people that I worked with in the past and about whom I thought are not as competent and also know people who thought they are not competent enough. The reviews provided about these people by those who thought are not competent enough ended up giving good, if not great, reviews. Similarly, there were cases where people who hardly interacted with others within the company gave good reviews to some people.

Anyway, no one asked me to give recommendations so far nor did I try to get a recommendation. I think it’s meaningless. One co-relation I did observe though is, when people know they are going to get sacked, they try to increase their networking activity and recommendation seeking activity. And with reasonably good recos under their belt, they are well equipped to start interviewing with companies I guess. I am not sure how much weight employers are giving to LinkedIn recommendations. But, I wouldn’t certainly bother about them if I were recruiting. Just like I don’t give credit to some of the programming certifications that people obtain.

LinkedIn recommendations can never match the honest reviews provided for MBA application, for example, since in those recommendations, there is a way to waive the right to look at the recommendation. However, that model doesn’t work for LinkedIn because, the MBA application is a closed system accessible only to a specific school and a few individuals. However, LinkedIn’s recommendation system is sort of public.

This brings an important question. How honestly can the collaborative Web 2.0 solutions open for the public evolve? Perhaps in some areas they work fine. Some areas, they may not.


Filed under linkedin

9 responses to “Should you trust LinkedIn recommendations?

  1. PeterW


    I disagree with you (50%). Given example: Manager Mr. A worked for Company B. The VP of this Company write a recommendation for Manager Mr. A after he quit with the company. Why should the VP leave a positive Message?

    But you right when it comes to the same level, co-workers etc. thats cheating, your right.

  2. caffeinated

    Wow, you’re cheerful. Its a good thing you didn’t ask for any recommendations because someone would have to be honest about your pessimism and sociopathic outlook on life.

    This is no different than getting recommendations elsewhere. When listing references to a new company, would you go to anyone you know would give you a bad recommendation? I assume the answer is no. So how is that different?

    Grow up and stop crapping on things just because you don’t get it.

  3. Sure, you probably won’t see many negative references, as the whole system is based on recommendation – if you are happy to vouch for someone you recommend them, if you’re not, then you don’t.

    If you weren’t any good at your job, your bosses just aren’t going to give you a recommendation on LinkedIn – in much the same was as if they provide a reference to your future employer, they will either refuse to comment, or provide a very terse reference (“yes, Mr A worked for our company.”) – which, reading between the lines, is a non-negative way of saying “I have nothing good to say about this employee, so I’ll say nothing”.

    I somewhat agree that recommendations between employees of similar levels are of less value, as it’s quite possible that the person leaving the recommendation is leaving it simply because they consider the person a friend, not because they really believe that the person is good at their job.

    Recommendations from higher-level staff however are much more likely to be truthful, in my opinion.

  4. Alok

    see folks it depends upon who is recommending you.(the status of the person in real world)

    Its all depends upon what the relations you carried out at the work place.See we all are humans and love humans to work with at least you can obtain significant information about the persons.I don’t think any employer will simply select some body due to list of the recommendation.But He can get the background info before hiring.
    Peoples comes and peoples go But why the organization should suffer from those employees who never work at the work place,Poor ROI,(See the nearby workers you will get what i mean to say).
    So if that tool is giving some relaxation to HR then why all this fuss about.

    Had you ever feel the pressure over HR due to non productive employees or from those employees that purchased certification from market and hands on skill is near by zero.
    So why should not Hr/employer think out of the box.Why the folk should always rely on greedy placement agencies that never give the candidate even if they had the database.

    Yes thats true the recommendation is not the only factor for hiring process but Its Ok that some company is giving facility to employers to check weather the candidate is ever worked the so called experience certificates says.(Don’t laugh the famous trick to get the job :- candidate submit experience certificate of non exiting companies)

    It takes only 15 minutes to generate a fake certificate. Then how could a HR Rely on that. Could you explain

    Thats why many of Hr leaves job. because they are unable to give right candidate to organization.
    Then why should not HR Rely on recommendation ????? atleast from a valid source.


    I guess you folks are able to see the other side of coin….

  5. Ruben

    You are right, fraudulent recommendations exists, but I think they are the exception and not the rule. Therefore you are unfair to those that have truly honest recommendations earned by good and hard work.

    Certainly nobody will publish feedback that highlights the areas you need to improve (would you?). So, if there is no recommendation that says something bad about somebody it does not mean that the person is manipulating the info, but is just doing what you will do in your resume: highlight the good things. (otherwise it will not be named “recommendation” but “feedback”)

    On the other hand, if somebody gives a good recommendation to a person that do not deserve it, the “giver” is the one that has cheated the system. I do not give recommendations to people I don’t like. If they ask for it, I rather decline them saying that I don’t think I will be able to provide a useful recommendation and that they should ask someone else.

    So what to do with this situation? Well, you cannot trust Linkedin recommendations blindly (as with any other piece of information of any kind). You should be careful when reading, and you can even contact the recommender for more info.

  6. Evan

    I agree that reco are easy to fake. Some people just like to be nice by writing a reco. Someone asked for a reco may even just ask the recommendee to write the reco and just copy & paste. It’s also not uncommon to barter for a reco — give one in exchange for getting one.

    A better way to get real references is to contact common connections. Someone you know is less likely to BS you about that person. As a side note, this is one reason to be careful about who you add to your network.

    I have noticed people that I know who have spikes in # of reco are actively looking for a job. Linkedin makes it easy to bomb your connections looking for reco. I know of mediocre workers who have lots of reco while some great workers don’t have a single one.

  7. LinkedIn is a mutual opt-in site. You can’t get negative endorsements without your own approval.

    Are they worthless? No.

    Should they be read at face value? Not.

    It’s a means of demonstrating your opinion, and some opinions have more value than others. When you view them with a critical eye, you can see which ones are schmooze and which ones are genuine.

    They do make a big difference in how looks at a profile; having no recommendations means there’s little to validate your expertise. The quality of the endorsements, not just who writes them makes a difference, too. Having someone say I delivered what a much more seasoned and senior professional could not is gold. Saying “great to work with” is meaningless.

    It’s all in the details.

  8. Barbara Saunders

    Doesn’t the same caveat apply to all recommendations, though? People give out the names of references who think they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread, not the people with whom they didn’t click. This is why I try to be specific when I write recommendations, saying the most about the specific talents I believe the individual possesses. “An unusual combination of technical and artistic skills,” for instance, is about the person’s work. It is also the kind of thing that’s not likely to be randomly made up.

  9. Jeff

    Your point here is pointless. Recommendations on LinkedIn are exactly the same as a written letter of recommendation that someone would write on your behalf, the ONLY difference is LinkedIn is digital. I’m sure that many LinkedIn recommendations are fake, are you going to tell me that the number of “honest” written recommendations is higher? Doubtful. Recommendations are about perception, and experience with an individual, your experiences working with Tom Doe have been bad, you find him unable to make decisions, he has to be told step by step how to do perform a task, yet Carl Doe worked with him and found him to be inquisitive and able to follow directions well, it’s all about how we view those we work with.

    You said “Frankly, I don’t think so. The reason is, no one would ask reviews from people whom they think don’t have good opinion on them. Similarly, no one is going to give a public opinion telling the other person “hae, you suck big time, there is no way I am going to make the same mistake again, which is to hire you (as a manager) or to work with you (as a colleague)”. That is the very reason, you always see only very positive reviews and never any negative review.” Umm let me use common phrase to respond to this, “WELL DUH” You wouldn’t ask someone to write a recommendation for you either on LinkedIn OR on paper if they were going to rip you apart, you’re only going to seek ouot reviews that make you shine.

    As I said, your point is pointless and not made very well.

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