Networking your way into companies you’re targeting in job search is the best way to land a great-fit job. To build your network, connect on LinkedIn with all kinds of people.
Get back in touch with those you’ve neglected – as so many of us do when we’re busy in our professional lives – and connect with new people, to expand your network.
This is what LinkedIn is all about.
But I often need to convince job seekers to keep building their LinkedIn networks, including reaching out to people they don’t know.
It’s okay, in fact it’s good, to have a high number of LinkedIn connections, and keep increasing them.
It just makes sense that the more people in your network, the more opportunities likely to come your way.
For years (maybe since the beginning), LinkedIn sent a conflicting message to members.
Although reaching 500 connections, and beyond, will make your profile land higher in search results for relevant keywords, LinkedIn frowned on connecting with people you don’t know.
Don’t “invite people you do not know to join your network.”
With their Plus One Pledge initiative, LinkedIn actually encourages us to reach outside our networks.
Here’s how they describe the Pledge:
“It’s an intention to share your time, talent, or connections with people outside your network who may not have access to the same resources you do. By taking the Plus One Pledge, you’ll help others and strengthen your own network.”
Connect on LinkedIn with just about everyone you know, in both your professional and personal life. But don’t stop there. Some of the kinds of people to bring into your network include:
- Executive recruiters in your niche
- Hiring decision makers at your target companies
- Other employees at your target companies
- Employees at your current and previous companies
- Professionals in your industry
- Influencers in your industry
These people can help you meet your career goals, but many of them may be strangers to you, or people you barely know.
One of the Many Good Reasons to Connect with Someone
An essential, but often overlooked job search strategy is to conduct informational interviews.
These are informal conversations with people working at the companies and in the fields in which you want to work, or people who are within a few degrees of separation from them.
It’s not a job interview and these people do not hold the reins on any particular jobs.
Your mission is to gather information for your due diligence and to determine whether that company, the role(s) and you will be a mutual good fit.
Although the purpose of these interviews is NOT to ask for a job, the topic may come up.
Once you’re a first degree connection of someone on LinkedIn, you’ll have a much better chance of getting an informational interview with them.
Set the Stage to Attract People
If you haven’t put some time and effort into creating a fully fleshed out, magnetic LinkedIn profile, you may turn off potential connections right at the get-go.
Your profile needs to tell people:
- Who you are
- How you operate on the job
- What skills and qualifications you have that your target employers need
- How you’ve contributed to past employers
- How you achieved those wins
Put yourself in the shoes of the people you reach out to, to connect with.
They’ll probably go straight to your profile to learn something about you and determine whether or not they will accept your invitation.
I don’t know how many times I’ve done this very thing with people who asked me to connect, and then found these issues with their profile:
- No profile photo
- The default profile headline (your most recent job)
- Little to no content overall
- The About section left completely blank
- The About section had generic information that could apply to anyone like them
If you’re making blunders like those, I probably won’t connect with you.
Although I may be okay connecting with you if you have minimal content in your 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.
Make sure you have at least some information in the Experience section before you start inviting people to connect with you. Give us something to work from.
Get on the Radar of Potential Connections
Once you’ve determined who you want to connect with, work on positioning yourself in front of them and getting them to notice you:
- Comment on and react to their LinkedIn updates and articles
- Join the LinkedIn Groups they belong to and comment on/react to their posts there
- Interact with them on other social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
How To Generate Interest and Compel People To Want To Connect on LinkedIn
Crafting a LinkedIn invitation to connect with someone you don’t know can be touchy. Approach someone in the wrong way, and it can ruin your chance of having the message read and responded to in the way you’d hoped.
Just as you wouldn’t rush up to a stranger at an in-person networking event and blurt out that you’d like to “pick their brain”, don’t rudely put yourself in front of a stranger on LinkedIn and expect them to do you a favor.
One turnoff is using only the default message “I’d like to add you to my professional network” (or however the default reads right now). The recipient probably has no idea who you are. Your message and request may be ignored.
Another offense is sending a too-long message to them. 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. Don’t turn them off. Give them a reason to WANT to connect with you.
A Little-Used Way To Connect on LinkedIn
In a LinkedIn article, Bruce Johnston described 12 things he’s learned about using LinkedIn, including:
“LinkedIn can be used to find paths to people you don’t know via people you do know.
Every time you see a little “2nd” beside someone’s name on LinkedIn, that means you share one or more LinkedIn Connections with that person. You can ask your mutual connection for an introduction, a referral or for more background on your person of interest. And you don’t need a premium subscription to obtain this info or use it. This is a very underrated and underutilized aspect of LinkedIn.”
2 Quick Messages to Connect on LinkedIn
Here are two easy ways to circumvent the default invitation to connect message:
Mention a mutual connection
Our mutual connection, [connection name], suggested that you and I might benefit from connecting here on LinkedIn. I hope you agree!
Mention a mutual interest
Hi [first name],
I was talking with a mutual connection of ours, [connection name], about [important topic]. She/he/they said you were an expert in this area.
I’d like to connect with you to stay up to date with your thoughts and perspective on [hot topic].
Best Strategies to Connect on LinkedIn and Also Ask a Favor
Here are my suggestion on crafting a LinkedIn invitation in 3 short paragraphs that will get action. These are based on a Forbes article by The Muse from several years ago, but the advice is still good.
Paragraph 1 – Start the message by telling them who you are.
In one to two sentences, your first paragraph should briefly describe who you are. Assume the recipient won’t know you at all, or may not remember you, if they have met you.
Entice them to jump to your profile where you’ll really clinch the deal.
Make it easy for them. Include any names of mutual contact(s) or mutual LI Groups, tell them if you’ve worked for the same company, etc.
It may read something like:
“I’m a VP of Marketing at XYZ company in [location]. I learned a great deal from your recent article in [publication].”
Paragraph 2 – Quickly get to why you’re writing.
If appropriate, your second paragraph may read something like:
“I’m reaching out to you for some expert advice. I’m beginning a job search in the XYZ sector, and feel my expertise will greatly benefit [their company]. I have a few quick questions regarding [advice you need].”
Paragraph 3 – Wrap it up briefly and courteously.
Close briefly, say thank you, and add your name and tagline (if you have one).
Your third and final paragraph is where you add a call-to-action (if applicable), such as:
“Would you have a few moments in the near future to [whatever your request is]? Thank you for your time. I appreciate your consideration and hope you’ll also connect with me on LinkedIn.”
Advice from Experts on How to Connect on LinkedIn
In a Harvard Business Review article, various experts weighed in with example scripts for your messages.
Tim Herrera, founding editor of Smarter Living at The New York Times, recommends transparency:
“Whatever the ask is, the best favor you can do for yourself is not to beat around the bush. You’re teeing the recipient up to give you exactly what you want because they know exactly what that is. You’ve taken away the ambiguity for them, which will save them time and mental effort, and you’re also setting up the exchange to be as productive and efficient as possible.”
But, of course, always be courteous with your ask.
Here’s an example to adapt to your circumstances:
“Erica, your professional journey really stood out to me. I’m very interested in building my career as a [role]. Since you’ve been in that position, would you have some time to offer me a bit of advice on pursuing this? I would really appreciate a brief call at your convenience.”
And another example, if you want someone to review your resume or other job search materials:
“Hi Kristi, you’ve built a really interesting career in thought leadership, and [mutual contact] mentioned you were a great resource as she revised her resume. Since I’m hoping to advance from [my current role], I’d love to get your brief take on my cover letter if your schedule allows it.”
Or, if you’re asking about a job opening or the hiring process, Amber Naslund, principal content consultant at LinkedIn, suggests something like this:
“Hi Cameron, I saw that your company is recruiting a marketing assistant. Since it seems you’d work directly with this person, it would be wonderful to hear your thoughts on the role. I’m looking to get some clarity on the role and responsibilities before I apply. Do you have a few minutes to speak with me about it in the next week or two?”
Write in Grammatically-Correct, Typo-Free, Proper Language
Don’t use texting shortcuts or other abbreviations. Compose the message in a Word document so you can use Spell Check, then re-read it again yourself for errors before sending.
So, when you’re requesting something beyond just adding them as a LinkedIn connection, stick to no more than 3 short paragraphs, of no more than about 2-3 lines each.
The fact that you’ve taken the time to compose a customized message will go a long way.