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04
January
2012

LinkedIn Skills: Brilliant or Lame?

LinkedIn Skills: Brilliant or Lame?

Last February LinkedIn introduced the beta feature allowing users to add Skills to their profile. They have made some changes along the way and it is now almost a year since launch.

Will this become a brilliant move to create the largest skills inventory the world has ever known? Or is it just another lame attempt to lure in corporate recruiting clients? 

The Jury is still out, but here is my take:

For as long as I can remember companies have struggled with the important task of maintaining an accurate record of employee skills and competencies. It seems easy on the surface, but by the time you get the universe of skills defined and then mapped to the jobs, things change and you have to start over. Not to mention the difficult task of assigning a level of proficiency to the people who possess them.

A lot of Competency Libraries have been developed over the years and while I think we have made progress, nobody really has this completely baked yet.

I barely even knew LinkedIn had Skills until this morning when I got an email (picture above) prompting me to add skills to my profile. The cynic in me immediately came to the surface and I thought of all the reasons why this was a bad idea. While many people use LinkedIn for their job search, there are still plenty of us that don't. This message comes across like a big job board, something I might get from Career Builder or Monster, not LinkedIn?!? 

There is absolutely no way to ensure accuracy. It's too easy for people to just click the Add button and magically have the skill. Is there any definition to these skills? How will people know if they should add it or not?

But then I looked closer and realized that maybe they are on to something.
  • The list of skills that were served up to me were all relevant to the work experience in my profile. 
  • While it might be easy to add a skill, the algorithm they use to serve up a subset of items makes it more likely that I will be adding something relevant.
  • As I was browsing the skills I found several items that I would want on my profile that would enable people to find me. Not for jobs, but for other professional networking opportunities. 
  • Then I clicked a skill and found the Skills & Expertise page below:
 

  • For each skill they show demographics such as the number of users with the skill, the relative growth, and the age of the population.
  • They serve up relevant Companies, LinkedIn Groups, and a list of people you may want to follow or connect with. There is also a list of other related skills to choose from.
  • For the definition of each skill, they are simply importing content from wikipedia. This is a brilliant way to stay up to date by leveraging the power of "crowd sourcing." Why reinvent what wikipedia already has? 
This is all very cool and it is clear people are adding skills, with some of them showing several hundred thousand users. I can imagine some very interesting data coming from this regarding the availability of skills by geography as well as other demographic trends.  
 
There are two things that must be fixed:
  1. Some of the wikipedia content does not map well. See the definition of Technical Recruiting above is mapped to Recruitment Process Outsourcing. I checked and wikipedia does not have Technical Recruiting, so I guess someone thought RPO was good enough?
  2. Somewhere in the Edit Profile page you can add years of experience and proficiency levels, but I doubt anyone will ever find it. Perhaps they buried it here for a while to decide if they even need it (you know because everyone thinks they are an expert). It would be better if they allow peers to rate the skills.
I suppose keeping the Beta disclaimer on there is a way to excuse these kinds of things. 
 
As stated earlier, the jury is still out, but I do think there is a whole lot of potential here for LinkedIn to create something significant.

Categories: Social Recruiting

About the Author

Ed Newman

Ed Newman

Chief Analyst

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