I love the LinkedIn recommendation feature because, IMHO, it humanizes what otherwise would be a very sterile snapshot of someone's professional life. But like anything, great recommendations aren't a sure bet for a great candidates or great bosses or great people for that matter. So what's your method of using these in your analysis of a prospect? Do you use them simply see what type of people that individual hangs out with? Do you analyze and quantify the number of recommendations given versus the number of recs. received? Do you look for euphemisms? Do you completely ignore them? I'm sure this community has thought of some pretty creative uses for them or at least some fun opinions so lets hear 'em!
Another thought, wouldn't it be cool if you could rank recommendations on LinkedIn as useful or un-useful just like you can on other sites that allow you to write reviews of things like products, restaurants, and services?
I think they are incredibly valid, if of course the person giving the recommendation has some credibility...If it's your next door neighbor, then obviously not...But I find it's a good way for people to get a feel for the type of recruiter that I am....Or in the context of this topic, what type of sales rep/web developer/marketer, whatever the person in question is.
Now this is not to say that you wouldn't go through formal reference checks when the time comes, but to give the added motivation to pick up the phone and call them, sure.
I think they are valid, but I look at them critically. Some people are better at promoting themselves than others - and often this could be manifested in asking people to "recommend" them on linkedin. I've seen some pretty mediocre people with lot's of recommendations.
As far as references go, it's best to call people and get the straight truth in regards to what job your recruiting for. It might be a different story than what they write on linkedin. Never take written word as the ultimate truth to one's character.
I think it makes sense to take the recommendations on LinkedIn (or anywhere else for that matter) with a grain of salt, but they don't usually hurt... And I do feel that people (managers/superiors especially) will be less likely to post a glowing recommendation in writing if it's unsubstantiated, and it's pretty easy to pick out the superficial ones... Plus, if I find someone who's background I like, it's a safe bet that some of the people who have either recommended them or vice versa might be up my alley as well - just another way to drill down to identify more names.
I can say that from the other side my own recommendations have been of great benefit to me. I find that when a new employee joins my company by way of my recruiting and provides a recommendation of the experience I typically get multiple contacts from their connections who are usually passive candidates I can't wait to get my hands on.