LinkedIn recently made a significant change to the way Recommendations are viewed, where you cannot see the name of the endorsing party, unless you are linkeded as a 1st-degree connection to that particular individual.

Instead of “I highly recommend Bob for his leadership capabilities,” by Tom White, CFO at Any Company, you’ll now just see the recommendation itself, with no information on who wrote it, their career level, or how they even know the original user. 

Given that one of LinkedIn’s strongest points has been the ability to gather and leverage public endorsements as references, this change strikes a blow to the credibility and usability of Recommendations – especially from a recruiting standpoint.

Some people read these endorsements as a measure of whether they’d like to connect with another user–and recruiters often take Recommendations as evidence of strong job performance. Now, they won’t be able to filter out the reciprocal (meaningless) colleague-to-colleague endorsements.

Taking it a step further, you are now prevented from allowing all LinkedIn users to view your Connections list. The options (go look this up in your Settings) are only “My Connections” or “No one,” meaning that if you want others to see your network, you’re out of luck.

Many of my clients have benefited from reviewing my Connections list and Recommendations in advance of hiring me, noting the caliber of executive and professional clients who have been thrilled with my work (although the overwhelming majority of my executive clients are in the midst of a stealth job search and we therefore do not link directly).

Without this information, the Recommendations list seems as if it has been reduced to volume only (“21 people have recommended Bob”).  Of course, endorsements can be written to add “I was a direct report to John at XYZ Company,” but how many people will remember to do that?

I’d like to hear your thoughts. Does this change water down the strength of LinkedIn as a networking or recruiting tool?