Evaluating LinkedIn Skills

LinkedIn has added a new profile section, “Skills”.

I’ve had a look, but remain on the fence about this.

Perhaps together we can have a look at both ways to use it well and pitfalls to avoid. It seems easy enough, the devil is in the details…

One the surface

Here’s the deal – create a skill tag, and rate yourself at that skill with a simple scale and years of experience.

“Spot Welding” might be a useful skill you’ve got, you call yourself an expert at it, and have been doing it for 12 years.

Then, if someone is looking for a spot welder, your name could come up at the top of the list!

(As far as I can see, nobody has added the “spot welding” skill to the system, so if this really does apply to you, you’ll be the first!)

Details, Details

The openess of the system may be a down side.  Let’s have a look at the skill involved with a Firewall. A firewall is a security device or software that in the simplest sense keeps the bad guys out, and lets the good guys pass through the gate, possibly examining every wagon as it passes through…

If you look for firewall skills, you’ll find three:

  • Firewalls
  • Firewall Administration
  • Firewall Management

And so which do you use? This doesn’t even touch specific names of firewall products such as Sonicwall, Watchguard, or Cisco.

If you click through to a specific skill name, LinkedIn has tied each to a wikipedia page that may or may not directly relate.

The “Firewalls” page for example does go to a generic listing of firewalls, but “Firewall Administration” goes to a page about the Windows Firewall. While I might want to list my experience with firewall administration, that doesn’t imply that I have any specific experience with Windows firewalls.

And so – what if you use the wrong term to refer to your experience?

About that skill level…

Let’s have a conversation about your skill level at Spot Welding.  You can say that you’re a:

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • Expert

And that looks fine and dandy, but does it really mean anything? If I’m looking for a spot welder, I might sort for experts, and still want to pay cut rates for the job I have.

If you have some sense of modesty, you might set yourself at the advanced skill level and miss out.

And those years of experience…

10 years experience with shell scripting – that’s great.

Does it mean you’re old?

Did you get that over 20 years of work?

How long ago since you’ve done it at all?

What shell language was that with?

It seems that heading down this path creates a whole lot of new questions, and even if we’d like the answer to be “contact me for more information”, I’m not sure searchers will be that open. It seems more likely to me that a searcher will have a narrow focus and find the one person that happens to mention the right combination of skills.

Have you started using it? Are you going to?

So this is a great place for me to get your input – what are you doing with this new Skills option on your profile? Have you had any success in the very short time since it has been released?

I’d love to hear from job searchers, head hunters, and others that hope to get found through LinkedIn.

Let’s see where this takes us.

To your continued success,


Steven Tylock