LinkedIn Tips: From fire eating to frontline sales, it’s time to get serious about skills

Matt Weiner
Matt Weiner // January 10, 2017

If you give me 5 minutes to read about LinkedIn Skills, I will make you two promises:

  1. I will go the entire post without making a dated “mad skills” reference—even ironically! (If you know me, you know how difficult this will be.)
  2. I will convert you from Skills Skeptic to Endorsements Evangelist.

Deal? Great. Let’s get started!

Skills are changing—and it’s time to change how you treat them on LinkedIn

Skills often get a bad rap on LinkedIn. It’s not the most user-friendly figuring out what to add when you’re starting from scratch. That same open-ended invitation to run wild has also led to humorous trolling and fake skills—HubSpot rounds up some absurd favorites like “Punching” and “Fire Eating.” (Obviously, your mileage may vary if you’re into mixed martial arts or the traveling circus.)

Okay, some of my fake skills are arguably useful in the corporate world.

Endorsement bombing—flooding your friends with irrelevant skills—even became enough of a craze to merit a Wall Street Journal explainer.

But now? Throw all that out the window.

LinkedIn says they are bringing new targeting features and algorithms to Skills and their endorsements. According to TechCrunch, the changes have begun with the mobile app, but will make their way to the desktop version soon.

Mockup of the revamped Skills feature on the mobile app, via LinkedIn’s official blog

LinkedIn explained the change on their company blog back in October. Here’s a rundown of how the new targeting will affect skills:

  • Which skills are shown will change: LinkedIn says it will highlight endorsements that matter most to the viewer.
  • Who is shown as endorsing you will change: LinkedIn will customize your “top endorsements” based on the person viewing your profile. Mutual connections, colleagues and others who are experts in a given skill will be shown to improve relevancy
  • Who you receive endorsements from will change: LinkedIn will get smarter about who it prompts to give you an endorsement, and for what skill. For example, the site might determine who in your network is also skilled at Sales Strategy, and ask them to endorse you for that skill.

What will the change mean for me?

Here at Mindset, we’ve recommended carefully ordering your top 10 skills, and then including additional skills as you see fit. As of right now, LinkedIn’s official post says that placing your top skills first will still be important before the algorithm takes over. They recommend:

“Check that your skills are listed in order of the strengths you want to highlight and we’ll do the rest by targeting suggestions for those top skills.”

We’ll stay on top of how this change plays out in practice once the rollout settles in. In the meantime, here’s how I see this affecting users:

  • If you already have an optimized Skills section: You’re in good shape. You’ve got your top skills first, and LinkedIn will take care of the rest. Bonus points for not procrastinating, unlike this next group below…
  • If you’ve neglected Skills in the past: You’re actually…also in good shape! The new algorithm should (in theory) help net you some relevant endorsements even though you’re starting from scratch. But here’s the important thing: Start populating your Skills section now!

Not sure which skills to add?

Look up people in similar positions, and then click on a skill that sounds relevant to get a list of what similar skills members listed. And then from there, you can click from skill to skill to get a good idea of top skills for your industry and position.

[*National Treasure voice*] And that will lead to another skill to click on. And that will lead to another skill to click on!

A robust skills section always got your profile more attention—LinkedIn’s own data shows that people with at least five skills get 17 times more profile views, and 33 times more contact from recruiters and other members.

Now when you combine that with the promise that viewers—whether that’s potential clients, vendors, business partners or recruiters—will be shown the best and most relevant of what you have to offer them, it’s a no-brainer:
Skills matter, and it’s the perfect time to level up so you’re not left behind.

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