*

Should You Always Accept LinkedIn Requests?

To Accept or Not to Accept LinkedIn Connections? That Is the Question

In looking to negotiate the highest salary, the logic might look like this: In order to be in a position to negotiate, you need to have an offer. To receive an offer, you need to get the interview. The best way to secure an interview is through networking. And with more than 300 million members worldwide, LinkedIn.com is the top source for job seekers to build out their professional network online.

Whether you’re in job search mode or not, with more than 2 new members joining LinkedIn every second, it’s likely that a new request to connect is hitting your inbox on a regular basis.

How do you deal with these requests? Let’s get the no-brainers out of the way:

ALWAYS YES
If a friend, a co-worker, or someone you know well asks to connect, you should add them to your network. The same goes for the person you met at a party or a conference that you exchanged cards with, or someone with a legitimate profile that has several close connections in common.

You’ve established some kind of connection, and building a network now is a smart idea since you never know when you’ll need it in the future. Tip: LinkedIn has a “Relationship” section below someone’s profile (only visible to you) that lets you jot down a note to remind yourself how you met.

ALWAYS NO
The main reason to automatically decline a request is when you think the person is a spammer, which I’ll define for today’s purposes as someone that is going to contact you in an unwanted manner. This could be a “traditional” spammer (the obvious kind that would go straight to your spam folder in email), or a recruiter or online marketer that ends up contacting you weekly to offer what they think is your dream job or too-good-to-be-true business advice.

Then there’s the type of person that feels like it’s ok to use LinkedIn the same way they use Tinder. Johanna Dickson, a book publicist in New York City told me she once said yes to a stranger’s request to connect and “The guy wrote me a love letter. Seriously, a love letter.” The gentleman stated, “I am here online to look for my true love, a woman that has a big heart, ready for a serious and honest long term relationship. Your profile sparked an interest.” We can only hope that he crossed up posting a message on match.com vs. applying to a job on match.com.

The good news is, spammers are often easy to detect… possible signs are that they don’t have a profile photo, they don’t have many connections, their career history is vague or incomplete, or they’re based on the opposite side of the world from where you live.

DO I KNOW YOU?
The gray area emerges when you get a request from someone that has a legitimate looking profile -- but you have no idea who they are.

  • Is that the person that sat next to me on my flight from LA last month?
  • Were they in the crowd when I spoke on that panel recently?
  • Is this my next key business connection?

Do you accept their request to connect or not?

After all, LinkedIn itself states, “We recommend you only connect with those you know and trust.

In an unofficial survey I conducted with 30 people, the responses varied. Many people say no unless the connection meets one of the criteria mentioned earlier (have met in person or online, have mutual connections, or if they’ve sent a personal message).

One professional commented, “Accepting someone you’ve never met defeats the whole purpose of LinkedIn.”

The thinking here is that LinkedIn is most useful when you’re able to stand behind the people in your network, so that you can vouch for them and genuinely connect people when needed.

However, Joshua Waldman, author of Job Searching with Social Media For Dummies, says that thinking is outdated, and provides 5 reasons why:

  1. The Network Effect. This is a very studied topic, and its basic premise says that any network either excels exponentially or declines exponentially based on the number of nodes, and the number of nodes those nodes have. Larger networks are more valuable. Wikipedia cites the classic example of the telephone… the more people who own telephones, the more valuable the phone is to each owner.
  2. Swarm Theory (also known as Wisdom of Crowds). This states that large numbers of input create general trends that are more accurate then the direction of the individual.
  3. How recruiters use LinkedIn. Their results often appear in order of connectedness. If you have a small network, your chances of showing up on a search are exponentially limited.
  4. Theory of the Weakest Link. This states that the biggest leaps in someone's life often happen with non-first degree connections. In other words, just because you don't know someone doesn't mean they aren't someday valuable to you. You can still springboard for an invite even if you don't know them.
  5. Fear. I often ask people what's the worst thing that could happen if they accepted a stranger, and they will have nothing concrete to tell you. You can always remove the connection.

Several people shared his sentiment in “defaulting to yes” when connecting with people you don’t know:

“Yes. I always do. I don't know what the harm is otherwise.”
“Being in hospitality, everyone is a potential guest.”
“Yes; the more, the merrier!”

The policy each individual adheres to often comes down to what they do for work. The life coach that wants to help the world be a better place and views everyone as a potential client might accept without thinking twice. The executive that runs a platform for startups to get their companies noticed might be more guarded with whom they let into their inner circle, for fear of an implied “endorsement.”

One tip for those sending requests, as opposed to receiving them: Customize your message.

It only takes another 30 seconds, and people are much more likely to accept your request if you include a quick note such as, “I saw you speak last week,” “I read your blog,” “We’re connected through our mutual friend Sean,” or “We spoke briefly about mobile app development at a meetup in Brooklyn last month.” (Note that the message might not be seen if using certain apps).

Follow these tips to negotiate your way through LinkedIn, and you’ll soon find yourself negotiating your next salary.

What’s your policy?