LinkedIn, are you trying to drive me away?


I’ve changed jobs frequently during my career โ€“ eight companies in 25 years. That’s not unusual in software development, which is my line of work.

Because of my nomadic ways I’ve worked with many fine colleagues, and LinkedIn has been a great tool for keeping track of them. (If I were only better at keeping in touch with them!) LinkedIn has also helped me connect with people in my industry who I’ve wanted to know. And LinkedIn has been useful for recruiting people to work for me. Heck, the company that employs me now found me via LinkedIn. I wasn’t even looking for a job when they sent me an InMail and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

And so you might imagine that I’m very glad to have LinkedIn. And I am. Except that day in, day out, the service’s behavior is at least annoying and occasionally atrocious and I think frequently about quitting it altogether.

Before I launch into my complaints, let me say that I did finally figure out how to work around or turn off most of LinkedIn’s bad behavior. But those settings were hard to find and not obvious. I couldn’t figure it out on my own. As a guy who makes software for a living, that’s saying something.

Here’s the rub: The occasions where LinkedIn was really useful made me willing to tolerate its ongoing irritating behavior. I was not unlike the alcoholic’s spouse who puts up with the benders and their consequences because of the occasional good times. But I finally had enough and Googled to find out how to tame this beast.

To the complaints:

1. The recruiters, oh, the recruiters

Four out of five times someone contacts me via LinkedIn, it’s a recruiter trying to sell me on recruiting services. They all claim to have a teeming mass of unbelievably qualified people they would love to place on my team.

I’m in management, so I do hire people. But these recruiters remind me of the people who knock on my front door trying to sell me tree trimming or new windows or driveway sealcoating. I don’t know them, I don’t know why I should do business with them instead of with the trusted providers I have used for years, and I don’t like their hard sell and repeated pestering.

This is the only thing I haven’t figured out how to turn off โ€“ without also turning off the kinds of contact I do want, such as companies contacting me about new and better opportunities. On average, I get one recruiter contact every week. I ignore them all.

2. The infuriating activity feed

In trying to be a social network, some time ago LinkedIn implemented an activity feed. It’s a wall kind of like Facebook’s, and it’s the first thing you see when you log into LinkedIn.

It’s not all bad. It summarizes what my contacts are up to โ€“ status updates, new jobs, and so on. And my other blog about software development automatically sends my new posts there so my contacts can see them. And sometimes my contacts post other interesting and useful articles there.

But by default, LinkedIn automatically posts to the activity feed every time you tweak your profile. So last year when the company where I work changed its name, and I changed its name on my LinkedIn profile, all of my contacts saw this on their activity feed: Jim Grey is now Grand High Muckety-Muck at XYZ Corp! And I got a barrage of clueless congratulations from my contacts, some of whom wondered why I changed jobs a mere three months after starting my last one. And if you have entered your birthday on your profile, LinkedIn notifies all of your contacts on your big day, and many of them will send congratulations for this, too.

All of these congratulations cause LinkedIn to send you an e-mail. And every time one of your contacts tweaks his or her profile or has a birthday, you get an e-mail, too. It’s a deluge! I lived with the annoyance of all of this for some time, getting an e-mail every time one of my contacts so much as scratched their nose. It was death by a million paper cuts!

3. The useless endorsements

People in your LinkedIn network can endorse you for skills you have. As I look at the endorsements I’ve gathered โ€“ a couple hundred of them now โ€“ most of them are for things I know how to do: software testing, test automation, technical writing, and project management.

But some of my endorsements are for things I don’t do, such as data warehousing and Microsoft SQL Server. I am acquainted with these things, but good heavens, don’t give me a job doing them; I’d fail in a minute.

Worse, all kinds of people who have never seen me use a particular skill have endorsed me for it. Heck, some LinkedIn contacts who’ve never worked with me have endorsed me for skills. Based on what?

LinkedIn makes it too easy to endorse people. When you log in, it often shows you people in your network with buttons labeled with skills, inviting you to click them for easy endorsements. And then with every endorsement, LinkedIn sends me an e-mail: Hey! Someone just endorsed you! Isn’t that great?

Not really. If you want to really do something useful for me, write me a recommendation. As a hiring manager, I actually look at those when considering a candidate. Even if the recommendation is fluffy, I think it has some value because it took somebody time to write it. They had to put a little effort and thought into it.

What about you? Are you on LinkedIn? What about it do you like and what drives you nuts?


23 responses to “LinkedIn, are you trying to drive me away?”

  1. traveller858 Avatar

    Just some of the reasons I prefer not to use these type of social media sites.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m not sure I could give them up; they do have their uses. Annoyance is apparently the price you pay.

  2. bwc1976 Avatar

    Oh yes, the endorsements! People seem to think I’m some kind of PowerPoint god, when all I did was load them up and flip pages. And I haven’t done any creative writing in 15 years!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Heh, I get that. I don’t have any (I think) endorsements for PowerPoint despite HAVING WRITTEN A BOOK ABOUT IT.

  3. bwc1976 Avatar

    (sorry, had to post another comment because I forgot to click “notify me of follow-up comments” the first time…)

  4. Dani Avatar

    You’ve been reading my mind again, haven’t you? ;)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s one of my many skills.

  5. dmswriter Avatar

    I agree, especially with your thoughts on LinkedIn endorsements. I’ve gotten endorsements from people who don’t even know me or my work, which makes them basically useless. When the endorsement feature first came around, I thought it was a good thing – now, I think it’s just another button for people to click.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s exactly what it is. I’m sure people just click mindlessly.

  6. Malerie Avatar

    I shared your post on that other “annoying” social media site, Facebook! As a writer, I find that all of these bullhorns (including Twitter) help a bit, and the price is certainly right (I don’t pay premiums for any of them). I do utilized my “delete” button more often than in the past, but it just comes with the territory. Mal

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for the share! All of these sites do have their uses, but LinkedIn sure seems to have the highest annoyance cost.

  7. Denny Gibson Avatar

    I always thought that I must know someone who had benefited from LinkedIn in some way but I didn’t think it would take this long to learn who it was.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Surprise! It’s me.

  8. pesoto74 Avatar

    I have never used LinkedIn, however I very seldom have found software that tries to anticipate my needs to be helpful. I wish they would leave the mind reading to the psychics.

    1. bwc1976 Avatar

      YES! Facebook is always suggesting people it thinks I might know, and a lot of them end up being people I’ve never heard of (or sometimes even celebrities), with no information to suggest why I might know them. No common friends, no common schools, etc.

    2. Jim Grey Avatar

      You should be CEO of LinkedIn!

  9. hmunro Avatar

    I used to love LinkedIn because it was actually useful for staying in touch with my freelance clients and former colleagues. But, like you, I’ve recently become dismayed by the endless stream of inane and manufactured content (including work anniversaries, birthdays, shoe sizes, favorite fast-food restaurants and endorsements). On that very last topic, though, I have a thought: Why not turn it to our advantage? I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter. Would you consider becoming a connection on LinkedIn and endorsing me for my mad fire-slaying skillz?

    But seriously, let’s try to find each other on LinkedIn.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I found you. Turns out there are people who share your name with jobs such as Biostatistician at International Epidemiology Institute, Sr. Admin for Nike Graphic Studio, Outerwear, and Bags & Socks, Chief Executive at London ProbationTrust, and Protocol Officer at Government of Canada.

      Anyway, amusingly, LinkedIn tells me you are a third-level person to me — I know someone who knows someone who knows you.

      1. hmunro Avatar

        There’s also a Canadian artist named Heather Munro who draws the cutest little creepy monsters, and a university professor who specializes in gender issues โ€” but there’s only one Jim Grey (at least in my world :).

        But now I am intrigued about this third-degree-of-separation thing, so I will go investigate.

        In any case, thanks so much for your invitation, Jim. I look forward to staying in touch and *not* spamming you.


  10. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    I poked around LinkedIn back when it started. These days, I practice “selective connectivity.” I have so much digital noise in my life–there needs to be a filter–at least for me.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I would do well to implement a filter. If I’m awake, I’m either online or within 10 minutes of going online.

  11. Dani Avatar

    So now LinkedIn has taken it upon itself to prompt me to wish fellow “linkers” a happy birthday? LinkedIn’s professionalism just dropped another notch.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, I don’t care at all when the birthdays are for 98% of the people in my network.

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