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LinkedIn Recommendation incest

LinkedIn Recommendations have really taken over as the reference tool of choice when interviewing a candidate. Sure, I periodically answer the phone and offer my opinion to an uncaring reference checker for a former employee of mine. The rote carousel of predictable questions are metronomic if nothing else, as I measure the distance towards the inevitable and merciful end of the call. As much as I care about that esteemed colleague of mine, I can’t help but imagine the person on the other end, filing their nails, casting bored glances at their co-workers while surfing YouTube. I would daresay that Reference Checker may even be their job title.

LinkedIn, in its fawning infancy, launched the recommendation feature at a time when networks were fledgling and you could draw 4 or 5 degrees of separation between people. Recommendations were often freely given, with nothing asked in return. It was a gesture of respect that required no compensation to fulfill its intent. It was a gift.

In its mutated form, the recommendation has taken on a decidedly contractual nature. Agreements are made explicitly if not the heavily implied “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.” And like primates seeking to raise their social standing, we progressively go through the tribe to solicit this ritual from one another. Like the calloused backs of coarse haired chimpanzees, we care little about the quality of the recommendation as we do the total number of them. It screams “I know people, and they love me”, but it lies, because all I read is

“I’m a recommendation whore for hire, and I will find something nice to say to you, if you but send me something in return.”

Like telephone references, these recommendations have been watered down to the point where the only thing they prove, is that you have enough social skills to not be perceived as a non-entity. Heaven forbid, in this age run by Generationals within their social networks, we should find ourselves cast at sea with neither a Facebook, twitter, or LinkedIn account to our  name.

So if you find yourself in a conversation with someone at work you respect and the topic of LinkedIn arises, politely deflect the contract that surely bulges at the surface of your dialogue. Instead, secretly plot to offer them a sincere gesture of your high esteem, and expect nothing in return.