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Secret to Powerful LinkedIn Profile SEO: Leverage Skills & Endorsements

By Susan P. Joyce

4 Steps to Leverage LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements for a More Powerful ProfileMany people make the mistake of underestimating the impact of the Skills & Endorsements section of their LinkedIn Profile. Don't be one of them.

According to LinkedIn, "Skills are among the most common queries performed by recruiters and hiring managers," so Skills make you more visible to the people who are filling jobs.

Don't confuse Skills and Endorsements with Recommendations!

Recommendations are written endorsements of your value as a professional, written by someone who knows the quality of your work.

LinkedIn Skills are a list of your abilities (like written communications, social media marketing, SaaS.etc.) that another LinkedIn member has clicked on to "endorse" you. These are very important recruiter search terms.

Even though you can add nearly any Skill that comes to mind (up to 50), think of these existing Skills as suggestions for the most common keywords used in your field.

Skills & Endorsements have become critically important because of their use as a main search category in LinkedIn Recruiter.

LinkedIn data shows: "Members with 5 or more skills listed are contacted (messaged) up to 33x more by recruiters and other LinkedIn members, and receive up to 17x more profile views. "

LinkedIn Recruiter is LinkedIn's service for recruiters, and it is expensive!

Skills allow recruiters to find you based on the keywords those Skills represent. They may also provide you with greater credibility in your field, particularly after you hit the top (99+) level. Done well, they may also strengthen ties with members of your network.

Do not confuse LinkedIn Skills & Endorsements with LinkedIn Recommendations. While Skills make your profile more easily found, Recommendations increase your credibility.

  • Recommendations are written by someone who has worked with you and is familiar with the quality of your work. They are specifically about you, typically written by a supervisor, co-worker, and even by clients. You can choose to make each public in your Profile, or not.
  • Skills and Endorsements are added (or removed) by a simple click beside a term on your Profile.

Recommendations are typically important for credibility when someone who doesn't know you scans your Profile. Hiring managers and recruiters often read the Recommendations when they are reviewing a Profile, so try to have at least one Recommendation per job.


1. Choose the Best Skills for You

Ideally, the Skills and Endorsements on your Profile will support your claim as someone who knows what you are doing for your current job as well as for the job you want next.

LinkedIn may recommend Skills for you, and you can choose the ones that you prefer as well as adding your own choices.

Research the Skills and Endorsements your LinkedIn competitors have as well as your co-workers, your boss, those you admire in your field, and others who have a similar career path and/or career goals.

While you will find most Skills on LinkedIn are the usual "hard" technical skills required for a job, "soft skills" that make you a good worker may also be included. Those soft skills include flexibility, self confidence, problem solving, easily adaptable, self management, and tenacious work ethic, among many.

  • Choose your Skills carefully based on your education, experience, and the direction you are planning for your career. Start by creating a list of the skills you think you use frequently in your current job and in past jobs.
  • Then, analyze the skills listed in job descriptions for the job you want next, focusing on the skills which you are building.
  • Combine the two lists and prioritize the skills based on those you do best, currently. You will likely receive the greatest number of Endorsements for your most obvious skills.
For example, assume you are a product marketing person spending most of your time writing promotional materials and a small portion of your time producing marketing videos. You really enjoy making the marketing videos and would like to move into video production. Since video production is a skill you have, include "Video Production" in your Skills along with "Product Marketing," "Promotional Writing," and other Skills related to your work experience.

Most of the Skills listed in your Profile should reflect your education and work experience, but you may also include those Skills you are working on for your future by taking classes or volunteering.

2. Add Skills & Endorsements

To increase your Featured Skills & Endorsements, you'll want to take the following steps:

First, enter your list of Skills & Endorsements.

  • From LinkedIn's Home page, click on "Me" and then choose "View profile" from the drop-down menu.
  • Scroll through your Profile until you see "Featured Skills & Endorsements."
  • Click on the words "Add a new skill" beside the pencil icon.
    Add Skills to your LinkedIn Profile's Skills & Endorsements Impact Your Job Search Section
  • Then, you'll see a free form Skills input field shown below. When you start to type in the box, the site will show a drop-down list of existing Skills that you can choose from.
    Add Skills to your LinkedIn Profile's Skills and Endorsements Section

Now, organize those Skills in a way that will be the most beneficial to you, next...

3. Organize Your Skills

Carefully choose the first 3 Skills because those are visible to everyone viewing your Profile. Since they will usually receive the greatest number of Endorsements, you have options:

  • Keep the 3 most significant Skills at the top to increase the Endorsements for them.
  • Feature the 3 which have the greatest number of Endorsements at the top to emphasize your professional credibility.
  • Rotate those top 3 Skills periodically to increase the number of Endorsements across many (or all) of your Skills.
  • As your career (and your skills) progress, change the visible Skills.

If you have reached the maximun 99+ count for a Skill, you probably won't gain many more Endorsements for that Skill, so replacing it in the top 3 with another which has a lower count maybe the smartest strategy. Then, those other Skills will probably gain more -- and more visible -- votes.

Continuing with our product marketing person example above, you would probably rank "Video Production" lower than the two Skills directly associated with what you do most of the time. You would likely include it in your top 3 Skills to gain Endorsements and to emphasize that Skill to anyone viewing your Profile.

Since LinkedIn allows each member to have up to 50 Skills, which usually provides many more options than most people need, take time to thoughtfully organize your Skills:

  • Choose the Skills that are most relevant to the job you have and the job you want next. Irrelevant options may confuse people about what you really do.
  • Organize the Skills in descending order of importance. Don't necessarily use the number of Endorsements to determine the order for your Skills.

    Click on the pencil icon from the image below to manage the arrangement of your Skills.
    Add Skills to your LinkedIn Profile's Skills & Endorsements Impact Your Job Search Section
  • Shift the Skills around using the "cheeseburger" icon, circled in the right column under the "Reorder" heading
    Manage Your LinkedIn Profile's Skills and Endorsements
  • Delete Skills that are not relevant or appropriate for you by clicking on the X in the left column beside the Skill.
  • Click "Save" when you are finished.

As time passes, review the top 3 Skills as well as the less visible ones. Keep them up-to-date with your accomplishments and goals.

4. Give and Receive Endorsements

Gaining Endorsements can be a long, slow process. Having a robust Profile while being active and visible in LinkedIn can remind people about you and your expertise, and will usually provide a steady stream of Endorsements.

Endorsing Others for Their Skills

Ideally, you should endorse people only for those Skills you know they have.

Start with those people in your LinkedIn network that you know best like current and former co-workers and others you have interacted with. You may also endorse someone for Skills which they have demonstrated in:

  • Articles they have written on LinkedIn and elsewhere.
  • Publications and other media they have created and posted on their Profiles.
  • Awards, projects, and patents they have included in their Profiles.
  • The Updates they share on LinkedIn.
  • Their education, certifications, or other academic credentials.
  • Other proof of professional expertise.

When visiting other Profiles, you may see a display that asks you to endorse that user for a particular Skill. You can de-select any terms shown prior to clicking "Endorse," or add new terms that fit the person's competencies.

Or, scroll down the person's Profile until you come to the "Featured Skills & Endorsements" box where you will usually find 3 Skills visible with the number of Endorsements received for each. Typically, you will also find notes concerning the credibility of the LinkedIn members who have already made the Endorsements.

Click on the "See ## more skills" link at the bottom of the section containing the visible Skills, and you will see the complete list of Skills. For each Skill you want to endorse, change the + sign to a check mark, and you have endorsed the person for that Skill.

In turn, LinkedIn may prompt these users with a note that you've endorsed them, and when they view YOUR Profile, the same thing will happen. Therefore, it can make sense to visit colleagues' Profiles, and consider validating their Skills as a way to gain endorsements.

Being Endorsed for Your Skills

Endorsements = credibility. "99+" is the highest number of Endorsements you can reach for a Skill. The greater the number of endorsements you have for a particular Skill, the greater your credibility for that Skill.

Gain Endorsements by making your expertise visible to people who don't know you. LinkedIn offers many platforms to do this including Work Experience, Education, Volunteer Experience, Projects, and the rest of the Profile sections plus writing articles on LinkedIn, linking to articles you have written, and so much more.

Often when you endorse someone for a Skill or Skills, they will respond and endorse you for some of your Skills. This is most effective when you know the person well. If someone does not respond, you can drop a polite note (after a few days) asking them to review your Skills and endorse you for the ones they are most comfortable sharing.

Send a thank you: When someone does endorse you for a Skill, send a quick LinkedIn message thanking them. If they are not responding to your earlier endorsement of them for a Skill, ask them which Skills they would like you to endorse them for.

To get started:

Click on "Adjust endorsement settings" in the Skills edit mode (circled in the image above) to make it clear to LinkedIn that you are open to being endorsed for your Skills. Then, this window will open:
Manage Endorsement Settings

Option 1 in the box above tells LinkedIn that you will accept Endorsements. Be sure this says "Yes," particularly if you currently have no, or few, Skills & Endorsements in your Profile. The two remaining options give LinkedIn permission to recommend endorsements for you to receive and to give.

Bottom Line

If you've added at least half of the allowed 50 Skills to your Profile, expect to be more visible to employers, recruiters, and countless other LinkedIn users. Doing so requires minimal effort on your part, other than to be aware of the most desirable keywords in your field. In addition, you'll gain more Profile views—increasing your chances of being discovered as the perfect candidate.

Susan P. Joyce About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.

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