One of the LinkedIn things job-hunting executives most frequently want to know is how many LinkedIn connections they should have. They ask:
Does it matter how many people I’m connected to on LinkedIn, and who should I connect with – everyone who asks?
Opinions differ on whether it’s more important to amass a lot of connections or concentrate on building fewer high quality connections. Your strategy is up to you, of course.
I can tell you what I do and why.
How I Deal with LinkedIn Connections
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.
But even though I accept most LinkedIn connection requests, I don’t mindlessly accept all invitations. I draw the line at some. l check their profiles first.
I want to be sure they’re the kind of people I want to be connected to – not spammers, scammers or someone trying to sell me something who’s going to nag me to death.
I’ve even had quite a few men connect with me who treated LinkedIn like a dating site. I want no part of that.
- No photo, a company logo for the photo, or some image that’s not you.
- Your profile has so little information that I can’t determine anything about you.
- Something about your profile convinces me that you’re going to try to sell me something or otherwise impose on me.
But I know that, if I make a mistake and accept the invitation of a no-goodnik, I can always disconnect with them, and they won’t be notified.
Why Having a Lot of LinkedIn Connections Is a Good Thing
If you’re having trouble deciding what to do, think of it this way. The more people you’re connected with, the wider you’ve cast your net for opportunities, the more people you’re staying top-of-mind with . . . thus the more likely more good-fit opportunities will come your way.
And, the more connections you have, the more people who are likely to share or like or comment on anything you publish on LinkedIn – updates, articles, comments, etc. – therefore spreading the word about your personal brand and unique value.
And, once you reach the 500+ connections mark, LinkedIn says your profile will rank higher in search results, making you more visible and findable.
Why a Minimal, Anemic LinkedIn Profile Can Actually Hurt Your Executive Job Search
When people assessing you go to your profile, they won’t find enough of the kind of information they need to make the decision, and may not be willing to take the risk to funnel you into the interviewing process.
The hiring process as a whole is an expensive proposition for employers. The more they know about candidates beforehand, the lower their risk in bringing on bad hires.
A minimal amount of content in your profile does little to define and support your personal brand, and help you get found by people who can help you meet your career goals.
More Content = More Relevant Keywords = Greater Chance of Being Found
An incomplete profile and lack of activity on LinkedIn can age you, and mark you as a poor-fit candidate. You appear to be out-of-date with the new world of work, and not social media-savvy.
Your competitors in the job market may be more savvy than you, using LinkedIn to their best advantage. You need to do the same, just to keep pace with them.
So, back up your growing number of connections by making sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and communicates your personal brand.
Who Should You Connect With on LinkedIn?
You need to bring all kinds of people into your LinkedIn network . . . and proactively keep yourself and your personal brand top of mind with them. Here are some suggestions:
- Executive recruiters in your niche
- Hiring decision makers at your target companies
- Other employees at your target companies
- Business associates and vendors you’ve worked with
- Current and past colleagues
- Colleagues involved in the same volunteering and community projects
- Friends and associates
Think of everyone you know.
People in all walks of life can help you meet your career goals, but many of them may be strangers to you, or people you barely know.
You Might Be More Selective Than I Am
You will probably have different criteria for LinkedIn connections than the ones I use, as noted above.
If you’re more selective about who you will connect with on LinkedIn, you’ll need to spend time assessing each person before you send them an invitation to connect, or accept their invitation.
Recruiter Ed Han has some good advice on how to assess people on LinkedIn to determine whether or not to connect with them.
He suggests checking the “Activity” section of their LinkedIn profile to see just how active they are.
- Scroll past the “Name” and “Featured” sections to “Activity”
- Anything they posted (article, posts, documents) is now visible to you
- And if you click on “Show all activity”, that will show all of their reactions, too.
As Ed says:
“I refer to Activity as a Life Meter. It shows that person’s “life” on LinkedIn.
Perhaps as importantly: while people can say all manner of things about themselves on their profiles, they show you who they really are in their Activity.
Every article, post, comment, and reaction is another brick in the edifice of their personal branding.
This is how you vet out that a person who presents themselves a certain way actually manifests that way.”
What’s the Best Way to Connect With People on LinkedIn?
You can simply hit the “Connect” button on anyone’s profile, and they will be sent an invitation from you, with a weak default message, such as “I’d like to join your LinkedIn network”.
But they’ll be much more likely to accept, if you take a little time to craft a personalized message. Almost anything that shows you put a little thought into the invitation will probably convince them to connect with you.
Keep your message short. Just a sentence or two. The recipient could well be someone who receives dozens (if not more) of these invitations daily.
Make it easy for them by keeping the message short and to the point . . . and give them a reason to WANT to connect with you.
Also important. Write in grammatically-correct, typo-free, proper language. Don’t use texting shortcuts or other abbreviations.
I do connect with people who use the default message, but only after I’ve reviewed their profile to see whether we might be able to help each other.
I rarely connect with people who expect a favor before we even have a relationship.
A Customized LinkedIn Connection Invitation Works Best
No matter what the person’s situation, or whether we may be able to help each other, I will always accept an invitation accompanied by a well-crafted message, such as these two I received. Wouldn’t you?
“I am a loyal follower on Twitter and am very impressed with what you do in life. I was hoping we could connect so I can learn even more from you.”
And . . .
“Loved your recent post, 5 Ways to Keep Your Executive Job Search Confidential on LinkedIn. I shared it, along with others in the past, with several of my LinkedIn Groups. Would you like to connect with me here on LinkedIn? I feel like I already know you!”
No surprise, I will immediately accept and respond to this kind of personalized message.
I’m drawn to people who take the time to craft a personal message that let’s me know how they know me, why we should connect, and possibly, how we can help each other. And throwing a sincere compliment my way never hurts!
Here’s how LinkedIn Help says to bypass the default message and personalize your invitations to connect:
- Navigate to the profile of the member you’d like to connect with.
- Click the Connect button located in the introduction card.
- Click Add a note.
- Add your personalized message in the text field.
- Click Send invitation.