“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”
Those of you that use LinkedIn frequently know the above quote well. It is the generic, prepopulated language that LinkedIn provides when you initiate an invitation to connect with someone. For me, it is like nails on a chalkboard. Or, for you baseball fans, not getting the runner in from third with less than two out. Well, you get the point. In prior blog posts I spoke about using a brag book, the need to stay in front of your network, the importance of networking, how to stand out and how to use a bio, but the focus here is LinkedIn etiquette specifically as it relates to inviting people to connect via LinkedIn.
You may not be accomplishing your goal of extending your network when using only the default language that LinkedIn provides when connecting with any other LinkedIn user because recipients will be less likely to accept your invitation.
I like to read why someone wants to connect with me because I receive a lot of LinkedIn connection requests. Is it because they read a blog post of mine or because I met them at a networking event? Maybe it is because they saw my fully optimized LinkedIn profile and think that I might be able to help them extend their network. All of these are great reasons as far as I am concerned. I really just want people to treat me as an individual and “connect” with me on some level.
Using Common Sense Online
Connecting on LinkedIn is really just like connecting off-line (in person): make conversation, establish rapport, establish credibility and express a genuine desire to help the other party. If you were at a networking event, you wouldn’t use an automated response. No, instead, you would react in a spontaneous, unique way based on the interests of the other person. A LinkedIn invitation should be equally unique and tailored to the recipient. Doing so will surely increase your acceptance rate.
In this same spirit, I think it is disingenuous to choose the “Friend” option that LinkedIn provides. LinkedIn allows this option so you can connect with a friend without having worked with them and without knowing their email address. But don’t use “Friend” if you don’t know me at all. Do you agree?
What To Say
I try to use a common connection, explain why I am reaching out and stress that I am trying to give as much or more than I get from my network. Since LinkedIn gives you a restricted amount of characters, you have to be succinct. Here is an example of a template that I have used over and over with great success (meaning many more acceptances than archives!):
“Greg, Harry suggested I check out your group. In the process, I came across your profile. I’m exploring new directions after a successful career in HR at Merck, Amgen and J&J. Maybe our networks can help each other. Would you be open to a brief networking conversation? Thanks, Matt”
Who To Invite To Connect
Figuring out who to connect with on LinkedIn is a hotly debated topic. There are varying schools of thought. On one side of the spectrum you have LIONs. This stands for LinkedIn Open Networker (LION). These users believe that you should connect with EVERYONE. “The bigger and broader the network the better for all,” they say. This is well and good until the uneducated LION runs out of LinkedIn connection requests. Yes, LinkedIn allows you “only” 3,000 connection requests. Seems like a lot unless you start trying to connect with everyone. Once you run out, then you can’t connect with people who you really want to reach.
On the other end of the spectrum are the ultraconservative LinkedIn users who apply strict rules on who they connect with and from whom they accept invitations. They believe it is important to keep your network pure and close to the vest. They only want to endorse people they know well. For example, I had dinner with a guy for two hours. We worked at the same company (though not together). We had common acquaintances. I sent him a LinkedIn connection request the next day. His response: “I’m sorry Matt; I only connect with people I have actually worked with.” Wow. That is a narrow view.
As an aside, when you receive a connection request you are presented with three choices: Accept, Archive/Ignore or I Don’t Know (IDK). I suggest never choosing IDK. If you don’t want to accept the request, simply choose Archive/Ignore. Why? Because LinkedIn will first suspend and then ban a user if they rack up more than a few (five, I think) IDKs.
I fall in between these two extremes. I believe in the social media doctrine that you can start relationships online and use them to establish offline relationships that never would have occurred otherwise. (Like pen pals. Remember that?) The power of networking is amazing. I have helped strangers that live in another country or across the US. I believe that this giving spirit will boomerang back at some point when least expected.
So, I encourage you to use customized LinkedIn connection request language. And if you are a recipient of a request that is well written, consider being a little more lenient in accepting these requests. The resulting larger network might really surprise you in beneficial ways you never dreamt of!
Remember, It Only Takes ONE!
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About the Author
Matthew Levy is a well-rounded HR professional and career coach with fifteen years of broad experience in both specialist (e.g., recruiting) and generalist (e.g., HR business partner) roles at blue-chip companies, including Merck, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson.
Currently, Matt works full time as a Senior HR Generalist for Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development. Prior to J&J, Matt relocated his family to Southern California to take a position with Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology company, where he led the talent acquisition function for Amgen’s commercial operations and corporate staff groups. Before Amgen, Matt spent several years at Merck, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. There, Matt held a variety of positions in both recruiting and generalist capacities.
In addition to his full time work, Matt founded a career coaching practice, Corner Office Career Coaching. Matt works one-on-one with professionals and executives providing them with customized solutions to their career challenges. As a 20-year corporate HR professional with a large network who has also successfully conducted his own effective, cutting-edge job search, he is well qualified to help others reach their career goals.
Matt graduated cum laude with a B.S. in Business Management from Ithaca College. He is an actively engaged member of several professional organizations including the Philadelphia HR Planning Society where he is on the Board of Directors and the Greater Philadelphia Senior Executives Group. He also regularly gives presentations on HR issues as well as how to manage one’s career using social media.
Matt lives in Doylestown, PA with his wife, daughter and son. He jogs through the Bucks County countryside to stay fit.