Stranger Danger: 3 Good Reasons to Reject a LinkedIn Connection Request
“If I’ve never directly worked with you or if you’ve never directly worked for me, don’t bother sending me a connection request on LinkedIn. It’s not gonna happen. I’ll just click ‘Ignore.’”
Those are the wise words of a friend of mine who works in New York City as a top executive at one of the Big Four broadcast TV networks.
At first, I thought she was being harsh. But as more and more LinkedIn connection requests trickled, then poured in for me from people I didn’t know any better than a random passerby on the street, I changed my mind.
I stopped accepting connection requests from total strangers. And I stopped sending them to people I haven’t met or haven’t actually worked with, too.
If I don’t know you, have never directly done business with you, and we don’t even work in a remotely similar industry and have zero connections in common, please don’t ask me to connect with you on LinkedIn. Like my friend said, it’s not gonna happen. Not anymore.
Your good name is on the line on LinkedIn. It’s not like Facebook or Instagram. The difference: it’s for professionals only. Well, it’s supposed to be.
Connection requests are nothing like friend requests. I think they’re much more serious and that the professionals I align myself with on LinkedIn should reflect nothing less than positively on me and I on them. That’s not something I take lightly. If you want to keep your professional reputation intact, you probably shouldn’t either.
Here are three reasons to shoot down LinkedIn Connection requests (hopefully politely, not like Kelly Blazek):
1. You don’t know the requester from Adam.
Connecting with someone on LinkedIn isn’t like introducing yourself and handing them your business card at an in-person networking event. It’s more like you’re both vouching for each other’s professional experience and skills. You’re entering into a mutual circle of professional trust. That said, if you don’t know someone at all and have zero connections in common, it’s probably best to ignore their request.
Even LinkedIn says you should only “connect with those you know and trust.” I can’t think of any strangers I know and trust. Can you?
"To be a connection on LinkedIn, I would wait until you have some kind of rapport," Lizzie Post, co-author of Emily Post’s Etiquette (William Morrow, 2011), recently told the Washington Post.
If you don’t recognize the requester’s name at all, you obviously haven’t established rapport with them and you probably have no idea what the individual’s professional reputation is.
It’s best to steer clear and skip the connection. If you do accept them (instead of clicking “Ignore” or “I Don’t Know [Name]”), beware: know that you’re granting a complete stranger carte blanche to your trusted professional network, which they’ll be able to freely snoop around in. They might even contact your connections to ask about you.
2. The requester was lazy and didn’t customize his or her connection request.
LinkedIn’s standard (and drab) connection verbiage, “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” is basically code for “I couldn’t be bothered to personalize my connection request, so please ignore it now.”
Not customizing an invite is like leaving a voicemail or sending a text or email that simply says, “My name is Kim. Bye.” It’s not enough by a longshot. Go the extra mile and briefly explain how you already know -- not merely know of -- the person, because, again, as LinkedIn cautions (via a link posted directly below the connection invitation personal note box), “Connecting to someone on LinkedIn implies that you know them well.”
Take the time to mention where and how you worked together before or how you are otherwise directly well acquainted. If that doesn’t jog the person’s memory, you probably shouldn’t have tried to connect in the first place.
3. The requester looks and feels like a spammer.
If you receive a connection request from someone you don’t know who is advertising goods or services, it might not be a person at all. It could be a spam bot. Or, yes, a real (sales!) person with spammy intentions. Both are equally lame and both deserve LinkedIn “Report as Spam” as option.
Spammers trolling LinkedIn often don’t have a profile picture. Follow this simple formula to avoid falling into their trap: No face = no connection. Another red flag: the perpetrator might also be from a far off country that you’ve never visited.
Reporting a suspicious connection invite that stinks of spam automatically archives the invitation and tips off LinkedIn so it can investigate. You could also just click “Ignore,” but it won’t do much to stop the spammer from bugging other LinkedIn users. Whatever you do, don’t open any attachments or click on any links within a suspect connection request.
Kim Lachance Shandrow is the former West Coast editor at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was a commerce columnist at Los Angeles CityBeat, a news producer at MSNBC and KNBC in Los Angeles and a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times. She has also written for Government Technology magazine, LA Yoga magazine, the Lowell Sun newspaper, HealthCentral.com, PsychCentral.com and the former U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. C. Everett Coop. Follow her on Twitter at @Lashandrow. You can also follow her on Facebook here.