The importance of personalizing LinkedIn connections requests

Image credit: Monika Baraket
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Part of the nature of interacting with others on LinkedIn is that you’ll eventually be asked to connect if your interacting is substantive.  Unlike following on Twitter or friending on Facebook, connecting on LinkedIn carries a different purpose.  As LinkedIn is designed to be for professional networking, the objective should have something related to professionalism.

When I reach out to a recruiter on LinkedIn, I’m doing so because I’m interested in a position with their company.  Since recruiters are often filling a variety of positions, it’s helpful if you include the requisition number when you show interest.  Based on conversations I see on LinkedIn, the average recruiter receives hundreds of connection requests per day, and many are internal or from external stakeholders.  It could be that your request is seen during the last fifteen minutes of that person’s shift, and the last thing they want to do is spend extra time figuring out who you are and why you’re connecting.

Prospects think that because they’ve spoken with a recruiter previously, those conversation will be fresh in their mind, and their odds increase.  While any recruiter should strive to forge a professional relationship with prospects, ultimately, their livelihood depends on them finding qualified talent for their clients.  Prospects should also remember that when they speak to a recruiter (or anyone else that can connect them to employment), that it should be considered an informal phone interview.

Even though our world revolves around social media, there are professionals who may only get on LinkedIn once a day, or once a week.  Recall, that LinkedIn is not Facebook or Twitter where people stay connected to their friends and family.  Furthermore, for many professionals, it’s the only network they’re on, and it’s because their job requires it.  For those reasons alone, you want that connection request to be worthwhile and worth considering.

LinkedIn has always allowed people to add a short note to their connection requests for the purposes I articulated above.  There are many professionals who will ignore/decline any request without a note if they don’t recognize the name.  This is not to say that they won’t decline a request whose note is unsubstantial, but you run a greater risk of being ignored in doing so.

Personalizing a connection request shows purpose, intent, and a willingness to ask for something specific.  In the world of professionalism, it shows that you’re not simply looking increase your connection count.  The only exception to this would be internal employees or stakeholders.  Half of using LinkedIn is forming a professional relationship that goes beyond the “I’m a graphic designer looking for a position in your company.”  Since the prospect is the one reaching out to the recruiter or HR manager, it’s on them to make a good first impression.

An example of a personalized note (modeled after notes I have composed over time):

“Hello Mrs. Simpson,

I see that Acme, Inc. is looking for a regional manager (req #1130 via Monster).  I’m reaching out to you to show interest and to share my background and accomplishments.  Should my profile meet your requirements, I’d like to connect and discuss the opportunity further.

– Jack Smith”  (Note:  I’m not sure if that reply would fit into the “Add note” box, but I have written opening messages similar to this)

Doing this serves a few purposes:

  • Jack has done his research to see that Acme is hiring for a regional manager.
  • Jack made reference to the job posting on Monster.com.  This benefits both the company in terms of metrics and the prospect’s attention to detail.
  • By reaching out in this way, there’s some understanding that Jack likely has a background in this area, and is looking for a new employer.  Bonus points to Jack if he’s proactively researched the company.
  • He’s requesting a connection so that Mrs. Simpson will vet his profile to see if his background and education match what they’re seeking.  On a positive note, when she views his profile, LinkedIn will register a profile view on his side.
  • Jack’s message is clear, articulate, and professional in nature.  Nobody expects Jack to be an English major or scholar, but he shows good command of the written word.  There is a good chance that Mrs. Simpson stopped reading after the first sentence, but it’s the presentation that counts.

A few things can happen:

  • It could be the case that Mrs. Simpson was making a post referencing this position on her LinkedIn profile as she caught Jack’s message.  This could result in a reply where she views his profile to see that he’s currently the district manager for another company, but is looking for a change.  She accepts his connection and replies to his message praising the expediency of the message, and informs him that she will get back to him.
  • Maybe Jack’s message came in two weeks after the posting, and after three interviews have been conducted (two interal and one external candidate).  She informs him that she will get back to him, but without a profile view.  This could mean that either Jack won’t be in the running and her reply was a courtesy, or that she is still considering options.  It’s a common thing in companies, especially for the position Jack is applying, for there to be a month or two wait as all options are considered.
  • Jack’s InMail is completely ignored because despite the job posting going up, the decision is made to promote someone from within.

Between correspondence with LinkedIn’s teams and commentary on LinkedIn, I’ve expressed support for requiring a note for every connection, even though I know that many would simply throw text in to satisfy the requirement.

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About the author

Mike Rana

Mike Rana is one of those people who is hard to define, though he's not immune to being labeled for something. He likes to talk about many topics including technology, business, politics, education, psychology, and human behavior. In his spare time, Mike enjoys traveling, people watching, analyzing the world around him, writing about his life experiences, absorbing information from various social media channels, and trying to be the voice of reason in the political arena.