The Integrity Of The System Is Up You

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Write it only if you mean it.

On Twitter, Sally Hogshead (one of my most favorite people!) asked, "How well do you need to know someone before endorsing them on LinkedIn?" My tweet back was: "I’d say well enough to give an authentic endorsement. I was asked to give one by someone I never worked with. Huh?!?" What’s the big deal? Why not just write a testimonial or endorsement for anyone who asks? It’s simple, fast and easy to do it and nobody gets hurt.


If you don’t have to look someone in the eyes or disrupt their day and you can simply whip off an email to your entire address asking for a testimonial or a recommendation, it removes a lot of courage. An email request simply isn’t the same as doing it in person or calling to ask for something. Email has de-personalized a lot of our communication, and – in many instances – this is a very good thing, but not when it comes to recommendations and testimonials.

Why saying "no" is often the right thing to do.

I have think skin and I have a hard time saying "no" to anything, but I often ignore, delete or refuse to write a testimonial or recommendation unless I can be both sincere and authentic about it. Pushing this beyond recommendations and testimonials, I feel the same way about writing a review for a product and/or service. The thing is that the Internet has completely democratized publishing. It’s free. Anybody can do it. Anybody can do it very fast. If we don’t put any integrity into the words we write and simply toss recommendations and testimonials around like they’re meaningless, guess what?

They become meaningless.

Much in the same way that I don’t like Blog posts for the sake of Blog posts, any publishing of content that the person who is creating it wouldn’t stand behind with full – one hundred percent – integrity diminishes the value of the entire Internet. There’s also something about holding yourself up to that kind of higher standard that elevates both the quality of things you can find online while at the same giving you a personal "out" when someone you haven’t spoken to in over a decade asks for a LinkedIn recommendation, even if you have never worked with them and the last time you saw them was your final year in High School.

It turns out that the integrity and quality of everything that you see online won’t be the responsibility of traditional editors and the local intelligentsia.

It’s going to be up to you, me and everybody we know. Yes, we have a fairly good infrastructure that – to date – has been fairly good at self-policing itself. But, it’s a fragile relationship that can crack at any moment. You may think that a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn that you don’t really know won’t make all that much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, but if everybody thinks like that, how valuable/credible will those recommendations be? If you’re writing them without thought or care, how much do you value the other ones that you come across? If you’re constantly publishing content that you don’t believe in or wouldn’t stand behind, what does that say about the credibility of everything that everyone else is publishing online?

The integrity of the system is up to you. Are you ready (really ready) for that responsibility?


  1. I agree Mitch. I’ve been asked to write three recommendations and of those, only agreed to do one because I could write something that I would be comfortable standing behind or speaking afbout. I have also written one unsolicited recommendation. I take these to heart because I take ownership of the content. When I turned down the other two, I explained why and they seemed to be fine with my rationale.

  2. I totally agree Mitch. What many people do not understand is that when you recommend/endorse somebody, your name is behind that recommendation and with that your reputation.
    I remember once a friend of mine asked me to recommend him in a company he wanted to work for where I knew very well the General Manager. He was very surprised when I told him that I could not do that. My argument was that I did not know anything about him in a professional environment as I have never worked with him before. Was he responsible? a good performer? effective? creative? or perhaps lazy and always late? … No idea. I knew him as a very nice guy I enjoy hanging out and watching football matches with. That was it … So I offered to him that I could connect him with the company mentioning the truth: That he was a very nice guy who is interested on a position there but whom I cannot give details of him as an employee simple because I never worked with him before.
    At first he was disappointed and upset with me, but later on after thinking about it he agreed with me.
    This is also applicable on LinkedIn. I get many requests for endorsements there and my attitude is the same. I cannot endorse you if I do not know you well enough professionally. The good thing is that when I do endorse/recommend somebody, I know I do it at 100% and people can trust that I mean every single word on my endorsement.

  3. Fully agree. I’m usually surprised to be asked for a recommendation because so far, most of these requests have come from people that, while I was friendly to them at work, and in some cases enjoyed their company, I didn’t feel made great contributions at work. I usually ignore the requests. What’s even more surprising is finding dozens of dozens of recommendations on these peoples’ profiles. They have, of course, made mass requests. I find the whole thing mind boggling: can there be any credibility in askinf 20 people in a mass email to endorse you? If you have 10 vague-sounding endorsements on your profile, insn’t that less credible than having none at all? If people see that you randomly endorse people all the time, aren’t you concerned about how that reflects on you? To be truly useful, LinkedIn can’t be used as a high school popularity contest.

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