LinkedIn Etiquette: Using the Standard Invitation Request? Think Twice.

“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

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!


About the author:

Matthew Levy is a well-rounded HR professional 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.

You can see Matt’s bio by visiting his LinkedIn profile at He blogs at and can be followed on Twitter at
. Matt would love to answer your
career-related questions. You can reach
him via email at

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