Talent Acquisition

Social Recruiting: Making Sense of Connection Requests on LinkedIn

Networking plays a huge part in the recruiting world. Whether you’re trying to promote your own personal brand in the hopes of building your career or looking for some key talent to fill gaps in your company, solid networking is a key component of your success and should absolutely be part of your “tool kit”.

So, it shouldn’t be surprising that more and more of us are using LinkedIn, Facebook, AngelList, and other social platforms as an effective way to find new connections and recruitment opportunities.

When done right, this can help you get some great results. The problem? Not everyone seems to understand how to network appropriately…

Can you relate?

An all-too-common experience I’ve had on LinkedIn is when I receive a connection request with absolutely ZERO context. Nothing. Zip. Nada. All I get is the automatically generated message asking to connect.

Now if this was someone who I already knew in real life, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal. But more often than not, these personalization-free requests come from someone who I don’t know at all. We might not even have any connections or groups in common!

For me, it becomes exceptionally frustrating when my LinkedIn inbox fills up with these connection requests that arrive with no context whatsoever. Who are these people? Why are they trying to reach out to me in the first place? It doesn’t help when I send a message asking why they wanted to connect and I don’t receive a response. Not the best way to get started, would you agree?

I am completely perplexed by this topic and have had several discussions with others who suffer from the same issue. As a result of thinking about this “out loud”, I’ve come up with a few general guidelines to help navigate this often murky part of modern networking.

The good

Of the strangers who reach out to you on LinkedIn, who can you feel safe accepting? Let’s start with the good.

These networkers are the ones who are more likely to have included a personalized message in their connection request in the first place. If they didn’t (and I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt because the mobile app makes it harder to customize messages – keep reading for the fix to this dilemma), they provide a quick response when I ask why they wanted to connect.

Their reasons for connection are the most telling. They might already share a few professional connections with you, they may have referrals for the job you’re working on, they may be directly interested, or they might be looking to connect with other industry pros who they wish to learn from (yep, flattery can go a long way).

They might wish to connect because they enjoyed an article you posted online, or they could be looking to build meaningful relationships that will help them as they grow their own careers.

An active, polished profile is another hallmark of these people. They regularly share posts they find insightful or helpful, are dialed into their marketplace/industry, and regularly like or comment on articles that others share.

In short, you might not know these people in real life, but connecting with them could ultimately result in great recruitment and growth opportunities down the road.

The intriguing

Of course, not everyone is merely looking to build a network for sharing knowledge. This is especially true in the recruiting world—you probably regularly receive (and occasionally send) connection requests trying to tout why a particular job opportunity or service is worthwhile.

These opportunities can be quite intriguing, and it’s not always easy to decide whether or not you should accept or delete these requests. In my experience, I’ve found that any signs of true personalization usually merit a closer look (this applies both to the initial connection request or responses to any follow-up messages you might send).

Then there are those people who seem like a really intriguing connection, but when I reach out to learn more about why they wanted to connect, I don’t get any sort of response.

This leaves me completely in the dark as to why they made the request in the first place—did they like something I wrote? Are they looking for sales recruiting help? While looking at their profile can provide some clues, this often leaves me unsure of whether or not I should accept the request.

I wish I could say there was an easy answer about what to do with these types of requests. Ultimately, though, you’ll have to dig deeper into their profiles and decide for yourself on a case-by-case basis.

The downright ugly

While there’s always some potential with certain recruitment connection requests, there are always those messages that come in that are just downright ugly.

There are those obvious spam messages that come from accounts with incomplete profiles and almost zero connections—yet they claim to be a bank executive with a lucrative money-making opportunity for you (all you have to do is wire them a few thousand dollars).

Then there are those recruitment emails that have taken no effort to appear legitimate or worthwhile. You’re simply blasted with a canned message for a job that has little or nothing to do with your industry or career experience. These naturally merit an immediate delete.

Fellow recruiting comrades, for the love of all that is right in our world, DO NOT send canned, spammy template messages with ZERO personalization to those you’re looking to engage! I’m sad I have to mention this, but it’s still the rule versus the exception I’m afraid and total nonsense.

A few actionable, quick-fire takeaways

So, what should you do if you’re trying to form meaningful connections on LinkedIn or use it as part of your recruiting strategy? These are a few things you should always do if you want people to pay attention to your requests:

  • NEVER send blank connection requests to people you don’t already know.
  • When using the mobile app, click on those three dots next to a person’s profile picture. This will let you send a personalized message with your request.
  • When recruiting, tie your message into why you like someone for a job and explain how their profile makes them look like a good fit for important elements of the job – see my PSA above.
  • Consider why you’re sending the request in the first place—make sure your message matches (and explains) your motives.
  • If someone asks why you wanted to connect with them, ALWAYS respond!
  • If you can’t think of a good reason to connect with someone, there’s not much point in doing it.


There’s no denying that successfully incorporating LinkedIn and other social platforms into your recruiting and networking strategy can sometimes be a frustrating, time-consuming endeavor. But when you appropriately filter the networking requests you receive and take steps so that the requests you send come off as genuine, you’ll be far more likely to get the results you need.

About the author: Amy Volas is the founder and “Chieftain” of Avenue Talent Partners.

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