A few weeks ago, I got an email cry for help from an HR colleague. Like many of us, she was on the receiving end of yet another generic LinkedIn connection request. The problem? Well, the requester wasn’t exactly putting their best foot forward. When Janine got the invitation, she replied politely and expected to start a conversation. This is what happened:
I want to thank you for your invitation to connect, and am always interested to start a conversation with people who want to connect with me.
I’m looking forward to hearing how we may be of service to each other.
Sheldon: Well as my tagline says, I am currently looking for a new opportunity.
Ouch! As you can imagine, Janine deleted Sheldon from her network, but not before sharing that conversation with her colleagues. Want to avoid being the object of attention? Then observe these netiquette rules when reaching out on LinkedIn.
Send customized invitations: If you’re reaching out to someone you don’t know, let them know how you found them and why you’re reaching out. You don’t have to write a massive missive, but at least give them something to go on so they can decide if they want to accept.
Polite Follow Up: Sheldon initially lucked out that Janine accepted his invitation. I wouldn’t, I would have replied first. (In your inbox, hover over where the accept button is and there is a little drop down menu that will let you reply, but not accept yet.) In any case, when Sheldon was notified that Janine had accepted his invitation, he should have sent a polite follow up along the lines of:
Thanks so much for accepting my invitation to connect. I realize that we don’t know each other, but I found your profile by (whatever) and as I am currently searching for my next position, I hoped that I would be able to speak with you…
Notice that I specifically said “speak with you.” Asking for a job, an introduction (from a stranger other than an open networker), or a leg up is just bad netiquette. Remember, they don’t owe you anything, so try not to make the recipient feel awkward in their own inbox.
Recover Nicely From Mistakes: There are several places on LinkedIn that are an invitation trap. When LinkedIn suggests people you might know, if you realize you do know someone and click connect, it automatically sends a generic invitation. The LinkedIn app (I’m seriously not a fan of that, sorry guys) also doesn’t offer you the chance to customize your invitation. If you’ve accidentally sent off an invitation before you had the chance to customize it, you’ll want to minimize the damage if you don’t know the person well. I once added the speaker at a presentation to my LinkedIn network using the app, and before I could customize it, the invitation was gone. I sucked it up, and went to introduce myself to him and explain the generic request. He’s still in my network today.
If that happens to you, try to follow up by email, or if you’re lucky enough to have your request accepted, like Sheldon, send the original message you intended to submit.
Questions? Comments? Have a netiquette faux pas you’re itching to share? All are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.