Saturday, April 26, 2014

Handling LinkedIn Invitations From Strangers

Do you go to a conference, social party, or a popular local eatery and walk around the place handing out business cards to everyone?

My guess is that you don't.

But when it comes to the online world, social graces tend to get ignored more often than not, so it's hard not to get a bit irked about having to sift through invitations to connect from total strangers, especially when—after taking the time to look through their profiles—I realize that we have nothing in common, both professionally and as far as personal interests are concerned.

These types of invitations lead me to believe that the only reason they sent me the default "canned" invitation, was so they could grow their contacts list, and if by scanning the profile I confirm those suspicions, I simply ignore the message and (usually) click the "I do not know so-and-so" option.

However, if there are some professional or personal interest similarities, in those cases I may send a short message asking for more information, without accepting the invitation, yet.

The message I usually send reads something like this:

Hi (I use the person's first name),
And thank you for reaching out to me on LinkedIn.
I'm curious to know how people find me. Did you hear about me through a mutual connection or a search, and how do you think we can help each other?
Thanks again, and have a great day!
Luis Hernandez, Jr.

The best (and easiest) way to do this is to use LinkedIn's messaging system. But as great as the system is, to many it can be a little confusing. It took me a little while to figure out how to send a message without first adding the person who invited me.

To open the message inbox, click the little envelope at the top of the page, or the "Invitations" link.

Next, click the down-arrow next to the "Accept" button, and this shows you the option to reply directly to the sender, but without adding him or her to your contacts list.

When replying, you can send a personalized message.

I believe that if the person who sent the invite to connect takes the time to respond to my email, and does so in a professional manner, then they have given me the information and opportunity to make an educated final decision.

As far as my example above is concerned, Mike Shattuck did take the time to reply, so I accepted his invitation.

Note: Since I am a gearhead, I usually accept invitations to connect from people in the automotive industry, without necessarily going through the exercise outlined above. And since Mike works on Porsches and Maseratis for a living—according to his LinkedIn profile—I would've added him to my contacts list regardless.

The same applies to folks involved with e-commerce, the Internet, and marketing, to name a few. Defining your own set of standards is important.


If you are just getting started with LinkedIn, you may be tempted to accept all invitations that come your way. That's not a good idea, in my opinion. The best thing is to allow your network to grow organically over the years, and to remember that having thousands of contacts on LinkedIn is not a popularity indicator.

When I first joined LinkedIn in 2010, I really did not grasp the concept, so I invited a lot of my friends to connect. Nothing wrong with that necessarily, but at one point I started to realize that some of the comments to my posts resembled those on Facebook, so I spent a lot of time deleting inappropriate junk and sending messages to my friends, so they would not be offended. Thankfully, everyone understood.

But as LinkedIn continues to grow and differentiate itself from other social media channels by becoming more of the true professional network it is, you must ensure your contacts—and the resulting network—truly reflects your industry and who you are.

So when it comes to adding contacts to your LinkedIn network, develop a set of standards, and be picky.

Special thanks to Mike Shattuck for granting me permission to use his name, contact info, and screen shots for this article.