“Do I accept this LinkedIn invitation?” As a recruiter and career strategist, it’s a question I hear all of the time.
Should I accept an invite from that person who has been following me on Twitter? Or the person I regularly bump into at the gym? What about my boss’ girlfriend who sells tutus and tiaras online?
On the flip side, it can be just as trying to decide when it is appropriate to initiate the connection:
Is it okay to send an invite to Richard Branson? Should I connect with all of the people who work in my company, regardless of department or affiliation? Is it appropriate to connect with the manager who interviewed me for a job this morning?
The question of who to connect with can be puzzling, largely because LinkedIn serves a variety of purposes. It is a social media network, a public platform, and an incredible Rolodex file all in rolled up into one!
What do you want your LinkedIn profile to achieve?
When utilizing your LinkedIn profile, it’s important to consider how you want to build it over time and how it can be used to help you achieve your present — and future — professional goals.
Ask yourself the following:
- Am I using my profile to build my clout in my current position and organization?
- Do I hope to attract recruiters and hiring professionals who are using LinkedIn to recruit people with my background and talents?
- Am I planning to reach out to recruiters as part of my own job search efforts?
- Am I interested in growing my professional network and expanding my circle of influence in specific areas or industries?
- Am I looking to secure a Board position or find volunteer opportunities that complement my personal and professional goals?
- Am I interested in sharing my professional insights and opinions with the world at large in order to better position myself as a subject matter expert?
- Am I interested in simply communicating that I understand the importance of having a strong online presence and participating in social media?
There are dozens of good, solid reasons to be on — and utilize — LinkedIn. Use your reasons for being on LinkedIn to guide you in deciding what types of invitations you will accept and send.
Accept? Or not to accept? That’s the question.
My advice? Be selective about which invitations you choose to accept. Aside from concerns about privacy or potential spam, you are also opening up your network and sharing your connections with another person — in some instances, a complete stranger. Plus, the quality of people you’re connected with can potentially send mixed messages about who you are as a professional.
Before accepting that LinkedIn invitation, consider the following factors:
- Is this person someone I already know or have shared connections with?
- Is this someone who is associated with a company, group, or accomplishment that I am interested in or admire?
- Is the person’s profile content appropriate and professional?
- Does the person have a professional picture posted online?
- Is this person someone I am comfortably being professionally associated with?
- How might we both mutually benefit from this connection?
Do they pass the favor test?
In a recent article published in Harvard Business Review, Alexandra Samuel, author of Work Smarter with LinkedIn suggests applying the “favor” test. Ask yourself, “Would I be willing to do a favor for this person or ask a favor of them?”
These favors go beyond simply accepting the invitation. Would you be willing to learn more about their company? Are you interested in attending one of their conferences? Would you feel comfortable asking them to introduce you to someone within their network? If so, make the connection.
“It’s the people you’d go out of your way to help or whom you trust to go out of their way to help you, however modestly, who pass the favor test,” she says.
When extending an invitation, apply the same thought process and consideration in deciding whom to reach out to. If you do decide to send an invitation to someone you don’t know well, avoid sending a simple, generic “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” It’s best to include a brief, one-to-two sentence personal message that explains your reason for reaching out.
LinkedIn is a powerful way to grow your network and connect with like-minded professionals, both nationally and worldwide. Whether you accept or extend an invitation, create your connections wisely. Choose quality over quantity. You’ll see how quickly that having the right connections can be a benefit in many ways.