I can guarantee in every LinkedIn training class that we do, we are asked “should I accept an invitation to connect from someone I don’t know.”
Our response is “Yes” and “No”.
LinkedIn is a networking platform so you should use it to meet new people. People you don’t know yet. After all, you wouldn’t go to an in-person networking event where there were only people you knew. You go to get introduced to and meet new people. That’s networking.
So, yes, connect with people that you don’t know.
But, no, don’t accept every invitation that you get.
There are three criteria we suggest you look at before you accept a LinkedIn invitation to connect from someone you don’t know.
- Look at their LinkedIn invitation they sent you. Did they take the time to personalize the invitation? Do they mention why they want to connect? If they haven’t taken the time to write a personal message, they may be just trying to increase their network with no desire to actually build a mutually beneficial relationship.
- Look at their LinkedIn profile. Can you pick out something you have in common? Is there perhaps a way you could work together, either in a client relationship or as a referral partner? Is there something in their profile that speaks to you and says “I want to get to know this person?”
- Look at your mutual LinkedIn connections. Who do you both know? Do you trust the people that you know in common? How many of the same people do you know? If you are fairly connected in your community or industry, you should have more than 5 mutual connections. Fewer than that may be a red flag.
And the final litmus test…would you be willing to invest time in a phone call or coffee meeting to get to know the person better? If not, why connect with them?
Accepting a LinkedIn invitation to connect is like saying “Hello”. It’s the beginning of a conversation. Don’t let the conversation drop. Read our blog post You Had Me at Hello to keep the conversation going.