An interesting question came up on Twitter the other day. Do you accept Linkedin connection requests from strangers? I used to. Today I generally do not. Here’s why I used to, and why I changed my mind.
Whether you accepted connection requests from strangers really depends on what you’re trying to get out of Linkedin. If those connections don’t further your goals, simply don’t accept them.
Why people accept Linkedin connection requests from strangers
Early on, you’re just trying to get as many connections as you can. When you don’t have a lot of connections in your professional network, it’s hard to know who’s going to help you and who isn’t. When I only had a few dozen connections, I didn’t click reject unless it was someone who had a terrible reputation.
I met the best recruiter I’ve ever worked with through a stranger request on Linkedin. We met for coffee, talked about my background and about the companies he knew about, and he got me some interviews, including one that led to an offer. So that was good.
And it’s a bit of a numbers game. I had a coworker who would ask occasionally how many connections I was up to. He usually had more than I did but occasionally I could pull ahead.
Oddly enough, I had a few cases of mistaken identity. I’d find someone I thought I knew on Linkedin, send a connection request, and they’d accept. Then I could see their profile and realize it was someone with the same name, but not the person I knew. I’m not sure why they accepted my request, but maybe they were playing a numbers game too. When I post something that gets some traffic, a couple of those guys look at my profile from time to time, probably trying in vain to figure out where they know me from.
Why strangers send connection requests on Linkedin
I don’t generally accept connection requests from strangers myself, anymore. There’s a good reason for that. I got a few connection requests from people whose names sounded vaguely familiar, and they turned out not to be who I thought they were. That’s all well and good, but some of these people were super chatty. They posted dozens of things on Linkedin every single day. And I couldn’t see the things I wanted to see because my feed was so cluttered with posts that were interesting to people I didn’t even know.
I also ended up with a lot of low-quality recruiters in my connections. These were people who wanted to submit me to every single security job they could find just because I had CISSP in my profile. Ten years ago that was OK with me, because I didn’t have a specialty yet. I was willing to consider anything unless I was obviously underqualified for it. But those shotgun-style recruiters almost never got me an interview, and even those were never a serious opportunity. I’d get in and the interview might go OK, but never great. Some went less than great.
That was OK when I was in a job that wasn’t really going anywhere. Those interviews that didn’t go anywhere got me some practice, and they helped me get an idea what I might or might not be looking for. But 0nce I found my groove, all those job pitches got annoying.
How to get fewer requests on Linkedin
Here’s some counter-intuitive advice: Here’s how to get fewer connection requests on Linkedin.
First, Linkedin suggests people based on mutual connections. The more connections you have, the more you appear on other people’s suggestions list. And some people blindly click on every one of those, hoping to build a following. Or something.
It doesn’t hurt to go through and pare down the list. That recruiter who got you an interview four years ago and you never heard from again? Delete. No hard feelings, but neither of you are helping each other now. That case of mistaken identity? Delete. Again, no hard feelings. People you worked with four jobs ago, never kept in touch with, and you’re pretty glad you don’t work together anymore? Delete. Recruiters who submitted you for a bunch of jobs and none of them panned out? Delete. They probably have thousands of connections, and I get a lot fewer requests from randos now that I’ve pruned that crew from my connections.
I have two or three reliable recruiters who’ve gotten me placed somewhere. I keep them around, just in case. But just those.
Pruning your profile also helps. Go through your skills. If those skills aren’t directly related to the job you do now, or want in the future, delete it. I deleted almost all of my sysadmin-type skills from my profile. Sure, I can still do some of that kind of work, but having it on my profile was getting me weird job pitches. I used to get job pitches on a semi-regular basis for the job I was doing 15 years ago. Once I removed those skills, I got a lot fewer pitches like those. Keep your profile looking forward, not backward. That way, if you do get a job pitch, it’s more likely to be something that advances your career, not a lateral move that isn’t worth starting all over benefits-wise for. In the example in the image above, I clearly got the pitch because I mention DNS, web filtering proxy, and antivirus experience. I probably ought to consider removing those keywords.