Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Beware of deceptive LinkedIn recommendations

Professional social networking
LinkedIn* is more or less the professional networking site that allows for people to keep tabs with people one has somewhat interacted with in professional life.
For a person who has been self-employed most of my working life and has worked in many organisations, LinkedIn offers a forum to keep tabs with people I have worked with and also allows one to keep abreast of the careers of those same people.
Most recently, I tapped this professional network for job opportunities after having been out of work for almost a year and that mostly due to serious illness. I was glad to find that many of my ex-colleagues responded with sympathy and help which eventually lead to a job.
Self-referencing resource
I have also found that the LinkedIn profile can serve as an adjunct to a curriculum vitae (CV) because it can contain information that would not necessarily appear on a CV for instance, it can be a self-referencing portal if an employer reviews the profile finds people you have worked with and probably knows those people or organisations and make qualified assumptions or deductions of the prospect.
A slightly more subjective but useful function in LinkedIn is the recommendation feature, it can be interesting and indicative of the views ex-colleagues have of a person, hence, it is important that the writer and recipient pay particular attention to the construction, content, context, intent and import of the recommendation.
The recipient is given the opportunity to edit and recommend to the writer changes that would reflect better in order not to have the opinions misconstrued by other readers.
Understand before acceptance
Where English is used but not the mother-tongue, it is even more pertinent that the matter be reviewed by an English speaker before publication. I have at least in a number of cases had to decline recommendations that were subject to unfavourable interpretation even though the intentions were noble and generous – such however should not be enough to allow a recommendation or it would be the equivalent of shooting oneself in the foot.
I was completely mortified when I read a recommendation posted on a LinkedIn profile, I was half persuaded to highlight that the intention and the meaning were at complete variance. However, on reflection, the writer might well have meant what he wrote and the recipient none the wiser about the nuances and pitfalls of the gentle English putdown has proudly published this damning assessment of abilities sandwiched in passable praise.
The short recommendation
Person is a great consultant with a lot of knowledge from everything. Doesn't bother helping you with all sort of things. Really a great team worker and a nice colleague.
Three short sentences that speak volumes that are either lost in translation from a Dutch context or are a good excuse to use language as a deficiency to castigate in the most unfair light.
Person is a great consultant with a lot of knowledge from of everything. Either way, the knowledge from or more correctly, the knowledge of everything could easily read as a Jack of all trades and a master of none. The more charitable turn of phrase would probably have been a very broad knowledge of technical concepts – giving it a more specific frame of context. Whilst Dutch allows for verbosity and generalisations that could be easily contextualised, English is not that forgiving.
Does he bother or does he mind?
Doesn't bother helping you with all sort of things. This is the damning part because it reads like he doesn’t mind helping you in every way but it says he is the most unhelpful person you can find regardless of the situation presented to him.
It might be that the writer thought bother was synonymous with mind; in some contexts ‘Are you bothered?’ or ‘Do you mind?’ could be interchangeable but definitely not here. With Google Translate to Dutch the meaning did not carry as well until I modified the sentence to read as “He doesn't bother helping you with all sort of things.
Dutch requires that the object and subject are very explicit in a sentence, it is not that good with implicit references and so this passed the censorship of the recipient when it should not have gone any further.
Can he really be?
Really a great team worker and a nice colleague. This would leave one almost wondering what the writer was trying to say after the first two sentences and it might well allow one to consider the possibility of a Freudian slip. Malevolently, this was the sweetener to the bait, obfuscating the intentions in the second sentence.
You might call it pedantic but recommendations are read with a greater attention to the detail rather than the general idea of what the writer is trying to convey – this recommendation has in my opinion torn the professional reputation of an otherwise knowledgeable and great consultant who is a nice colleague to shreds.
To think this recommendation has been published for over 2 years might well mean the damage is already done.
As for my opinions of the recipient, I could not possibly comment any further. The advice is, never accept wholesale a recommendation you do not fully understand and comprehend regardless of the good intentions of the benevolent writer.

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