Boast your 'cheese,' 'crystal ball' skills on LinkedIn

Office pranks enter the digital age

The professional social network LinkedIn isn't always so professional, Zolan Kanno-Young writes in the Wall Street Journal.

More and more often, people are pulling "profile pranks" or "endorsement bombings" on each other, using LinkedIn's endorsement tool—built to highlight skills such as "marketing" and "data analysis"—to spotlight friends' expertise in "foxtrot," "cheese," and "crystal ball."

LinkedIn provides a list of more than 35,000 job skills as a way for people to increase their personal market value, Kanno-Young reports. And most of the website's 444 million users use the endorsements as intended.

But now, some users are padding the digital resumes of friends with oddball skills.

"You want it to be as weird and abstract as possible," says Rhys Wilson, who is a manager at a software start up.

Endorsements must be approved by the user they're given to, but often approval requests arrive in email inboxes during the day—and people accept them without reading the skills carefully. Others approve them because they find it funny.

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The endorsement feature lends itself to parody, says Matt Nicolaou, 26. "That's the interesting thing about millennials in the workforce," he says. "They want to work hard, but they want to laugh at the ridiculousness of a system that allows them to professional endorse people for things like sword fighting or birthday cakes."

Still, not everyone understands the appeal of the endorsement bombs. "It feels strange people would want to make a joke on their professional profile," Inouye says.

Douglas Franklin, a 23-year-old Logitech software developer, said he listed "humor" as a skill on his LinkedIn profile while still in school at Northeastern University. His college counselor called it unprofessional, but Franklin disagrees. "It think it adds to my character," he says.

And he secured a job anyway.

Endorsements are not the most important part of a profile, says Diane Spizzirro, director of career management at Columbia University, though recruiters at her private career counseling company do look at them.

Having a little fun with the skills can shed light on a candidate's personality, she says.

"I don't see a problem with something like birthday cakes," Spizzirro says. "When you get into 'fire alarms' that might be crossing the line a little bit" (Kanno-Youngs, Wall Street Journal, 7/25).

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