I’m fortunate and grateful to receive lots of requests to connect on LinkedIn.
I follow the advice I give to job seekers: I connect with most people who ask me.
- More people to learn from and communicate with
- More personal brand evangelists – people spreading the word about the value I offer, and
- More potential leads and clients.
If I followed the advice that you should only connect with people you know, I wouldn’t accept invitations from prospective clients, because initially they’re strangers to me. That practice makes no sense.
Same holds true for job seekers. People you don’t know who want to connect with you may be the very people who can help you meet your career goals.
Today I happened to receive an unusually high number of invitations to connect on LinkedIn, apparently due to strong engagement on a few of my recent LinkedIn posts.
As I was sorting through them, I had the chance to more deeply revisit my “whether or not to connect on LinkedIn” criteria.
I initially wrote this article about 10 years ago. My criteria (noted below) are about the same now as they were then.
Follow Someone vs. Connect on LinkedIn
Note that there’s a difference between connecting with someone and following them:
“When you follow someone, new content posted or shared by the person will be displayed in your feed. If you no longer wish to see the content of someone in your feed, you can always unfollow this person.
You can find people to follow from your feed, the Notifications tab, My Network page, or from the Search bar at the top of the page.
Unfollowing a person will hide all updates from them on your LinkedIn feed. If you’re connected to a person and choose to unfollow them, you’ll remain connected, but won’t see their updates.
They won’t be notified that you’ve unfollowed them. LinkedIn members will receive a notification if you begin following them again.”
The Various Ways To Connect on LinkedIn
According to LinkedIn, there are several ways to connect with new people:
- Member’s profile – Click or tap the Connect button on their profile page.
- Search results page – Click Connect to the right of the member’s information.
- Grow Your Network page – Import contacts using their email address.
- My Network page – Accept pending invitations.
- People you may know – Click or tap the Connect button below the member’s name.
- Leverage Connections – Ask a mutual connection to help you connect. Send a message to your existing network asking who can help you connect to a 2nd-degree connection.
Except for invitations sent from the “People you may know” feature in the mobile app, you can personalize your invitations to connect.
It looks like LinkedIn no longer automatically includes that dull default message in your invitation, something like “I’d like to add you to my professional network”.
Now, invitations show up on the “My Network” page of your account without any message, unless you include one.
How to connect with members:
- Go to that person’s profile and click the “Connect” button under their name.
- Click “Add a note” and add type in your message.
- Click “Send invitation”.
You may have noticed that on the “My Network” page, you’ll also see if someone is following you on LinkedIn.
When I’m deciding whether or not to connect with someone, I almost always will if they’re also following me.
2 Things That Keep Some People from Accepting Invitations To Connect on LinkedIn
Here are two things that make lots of people pass on an invitation . . . but not me:
A minimal, anemic LinkedIn profile
I don’t mind if you have very little content in your LinkedIn profile.
Maybe you don’t know how to use LinkedIn or are wary of it, so haven’t fully built out your profile. Or maybe you just recently joined the site and haven’t had time to do much with your profile.
These things often happen with potential clients for me.
As long as your profile tells me who you are and what you do, I’m okay connecting with you, if you meet my other criteria.
Not including a personalized message with your invitation to connect
I overlook it when people don’t include a personalized invitation to connect. I figure lots of people don’t know that you can or should do this.
But a lot of members do care and WON’T connect with you if you don’t include a personalized invitation. So it makes sense to take the time to do this. You’ll probably get more positive responses.
Here’s how to personalize your invitations:
- Navigate to the profile of the member you’d like to connect with.
- Click the Connect button located in the introduction section.
- Click Add a note.
- Add your personalized message in the text field.
- Click Send invitation.
3 Reasons I Won’t Connect on LinkedIn
Even though I accept most requests to connect on LinkedIn, I draw the line at some invitations.
Here are my 3 (mostly) hard-and-fast rules for turning people down:
1. No photo, a company logo for the photo, or some image that’s not you.
Some job seekers fear discrimination based on age, ethnicity, appearance, etc. so they don’t include a headshot.
If you think that HAVING a photo may rule you out as a potential job candidate, NOT having a profile photo is even more likely to rule you out.
For me, determining whether you’re someone I want in my LinkedIn network, I don’t care as much about the quality of your photo as I do about the existence of one.
- Having no photo tells me you may not be a real person.
- Using a company logo or some other image that’s not a person tells me you’ll probably try to sell me something, or this is a fake profile.
- Using a group photo is totally confusing. Which one is you?
2. Your profile has so little information that I can’t determine anything about you.
Although I said above that I’m okay connecting with people who have a minimal profile, it DOES have to say enough about you to help me decide.
I want to know SOMETHING about you before adding you to my network. If you’re just joining LinkedIn, fill out at least some information in the Experience section before you start inviting people to connect with you. Give us something to work from.
3. Something about your profile convinces me that you’re going to try to sell me something or otherwise impose on me.
If you include in your invitation to me that you have this great product or service that will help me with some aspect of my business, I’m going to pass.
In my experience, 9 times out of 10, shortly after I click on “Accept”, I’m going to get a hard-sell message about why I need your services, that will require several emails back and forth to shut down.
Then there are the people who use bots or other automated methods to send messages.
They create what they think is an enticing come-on and use software to blast it out to lots of members.
In fact, this practice is listed in LinkedIn’s User Agreement “Don’ts“:
“[Don’t] Use bots or other automated methods to access the Services, add or download contacts, send or redirect messages.”
We all get these messages from time to time, but they’re typically pretty easy to spot.
And I definitely won’t accept your invitation if you’re clearly using LinkedIn as a dating site.
It gives me the creeps when I accept an invitation only to receive a message from them asking me if I’m single and want to get to know them.
Over the years, I’ve received quite a few of these invitations. Sometimes they’ve been graphically lewd and downright scary.
I don’t know if men receive these kinds of invitations, but I know lots of women who have.
Get more tips on doing it the right way in my post How to Connect on LinkedIn with People You Don’t Know . . . and Get Action.
Don’t Worry If You Regret Connecting with Someone
As you can see, my criteria for connecting are kind of loose. I make mistakes sometimes and people I don’t want to be connected to slip through.
Usually it’s people who are trying to sell me something and they have a super smooth initial approach that I fall for.
Soon enough, their true intentions are apparent.
LinkedIn has a painless fix for these unwanted connections.
You can easily remove them as a connection. Here’s how it works:
- Go to that person’s profile and under their name, click on “More” and then “Remove connection” in the drop-down.
- A little pop-up appears saying “Connection to [member’s name] removed.”
They will not be notified that you’ve dropped them.