February 2, 2013

Vetting LinkedIn Invites

The other day, my father called me with a pressing question. “I got this invite on LikedIn. I don’t think I know the person. Should I do anything?” This reinforces that I’m not the only person who gets invites that make me scratch my head and wonder who this person is, and should I accept the invitation to connect. Here’s some of my advice and justifications for why I add people I don’t know, and why I don’t add others.

LinkedIn is an interesting social network. Of its vast user base, I am sure few use it to its full potential. I am certainly one of those people who should do more to fill out the profile and use those connections for my daily work. I see LinkedIn as an online resume, and it benefits you to fill in information about your background. However, my focus here is on building your network.

My network is a bit diverse. As a journalist, I cover technology, internet, advertising, consumer electronics, video games, fitness gear and a lot more. Many of my connections are public relations and marketing people, other journalists and coworkers from over the years. So I’ve been wondering, for quite some time, (and have left the invite in my inbox just to keep the curiosity going), why a fireman from Orange County who has no connection to me, whatsoever, sent me an invitation to join his network. I’ve also wondered why people from developing countries or people with other backgrounds send me invites. That’s why I started vetting my LinkedIn invites.

When I get an email notification from LinkedIn, the first thing I do is look at it to make sure it’s really from LinkedIn. Spam that looks like it’s from the social networking site is on the rise. I quickly spot those by seeing that the email address and/or links are something other than “” That’s an easy spot and I can quickly delete those emails and move on to the next item in my inbox.

Next I click on the person’s name or “view profile” instead of “accept.” I quickly look at the profile and focus on two bits of information. I’ll look at the current information and past companies they’ve worked for to try to determine where I know the person. I also look at the breadcrumb trail of connections in common: “How You’re Connected.” This is located in the right hand column and usually pushed down toward the middle of the profile. This tells me how many people removed I am from a connection. It also helps me figure out the circle I can fit them in, since I dabble in a few different industries. Very often, you’ll find it is someone you know, but maybe it’s been a while since you shook hands or sat at adjoining cubicles and needed a little reminder.

Once you’ve grown your profile, you can use LinkedIn for many purposes. I often use the network to find sources for articles I’m working on. But there are many practical uses for you, as well. If it’s someone you’ve worked with, it could be someone who could actively, (or passively) just by being connected in your profile, be a reference for a job you’re applying for. The person might also be able to refer potential employees if you’re ever looking to fill a position.

There’s a larger referral base to consider as well. This connection might work to connect you to a vendor for services you might require.

For the most part, it doesn’t hurt to accept most invitations. There are a small number of people who try to link up with just about anybody. You don’t need those connections. However, most people that go through the trouble to send you an invite did so because there is some connection, even if it’s not an actual handshake. It could mean business or a new job down the line.

Image Credit: Robert Kneschke / Shutterstock

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