Wanting access to my network is different than wanting to be in my network

Ah, LinkedIn. I love it. It's a great tool for finding who is out there. We've made a number of hires off their job postings as well. But I still get connection requests from people I don't know. Sigh.

This week, I decided to take a different approach with the recruiters that contacted me via LinkedIn (two of whom were referred to me by another recruiting blogger they work with). Instead of telling them that I only connect with people I already know, I offered to get to know them and suggested a day that would be good for us to speak. I responded that I would be willing to connect officially after we chat. That's pretty fair, right? I don't have time to do this all the time (especially with people outside the industry), but I've spoken with a couple people that do this as a general practice (granted they both do consulting work so it makes sense for them to be spending time this way) and it works for them.

So what happened? One recruiter did not respond at all. The other said she'd call me yesterday and didn't. I'm not sure what to think about my little experiment. I don't want to assume that people only want to connect with me via LinkedIn to have access to my network, but what else am I to think?

I will continue to laugh at the LinkedIn requests that state "since you are a person I trust..." and I will still yell back at my computer monitor "Why do you trust me? You don't even know me!".

Comments (15)
  1. Heather,

    I think you were more than fair. We recommend people only invite professionals they know well enough to recommend them to their trusted colleagues. Part of our membership agreement is that members only invite people who at least know them, so most members click "report" to let us know they received an invitation to connect that was unwelcome and violated the membership agreement, which BTW applies to all of us and is designed to set some minimum (not recommended) standards that facilitate a positive and productive experience for all members.

    So by giving people a chance, you have been more than fair, and I think the response makes it clear those two were not really in it for a professional relationship, but just to inflate their network.

    Since we have offered the ability to break connections directly from the connection list, we find that more and more members are right-sizing their network to those people they feel make them look good when they introduce them to others. I personally only make an introduction when I feel the recipient is going to thank me for introducing the person to them. I think the result of fewer weak connections is a stronger network, which should benefit everyone.



  2. Rob Woolley says:

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one who feels this way.   I’ve been using LinkedIn for less than a month and I’ve already received 4 invitations from people I don’t know

    I’ve been politely declining and providing a similar note to yours.  One of the guys who sent me an invitation had 500+ links.  (Evidently after 500, LinkedIn refuses to count any higher.)  According to http://linkedin.pbwiki.com/MyLink10000 some people have links in the thousands.  It seems to me that at that point it becomes less like a list of connections and friends and more like a city telephone book.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hey Konstantin, thanks for the feedback. Interesting to know that people are "right sizing" their networks (funny use of that term). I find a ton of value in it but I have been contacted by more people I don’t know than I do. Most of these are job seekers and I understand their desire ot make a connection (my usual "decline connection" mail to them recommends we stay in touch via e-mail). I think you guys are doing the right things. Some people are simply out to collect as many connections as possible.

    Rob-I suspect they feel they are getting something valuable out of being connected to so many people (that being access to that humongoid network).

  4. Simone says:

    I still use the tried and true way of phone converstations and cocktails for now but LinkedIn sounds like a good idea if used wisely. Heather, how large is your network?

  5. Michael says:


    Very noble of you.  You are, however, one of the few who isn’t out there using LinkedIn as a massive spam tool.

    While I certainly appreciate Konstantin coming out to a public forum and commenting, I think it’s naive to view LinkedIn (except in some extreme cases) as anything but the following:

    1) A fantastic source of leads for recruiters and salespeople.

    That’s about it.  Networking is (was it ever) obsolete on LinkedIn, especially when you consider that it seems like most people’s definition of "networking" today is spam, cold-calling, and pestering.  LinkedIn, by the way, encourages this type of behavior by allowing people to email job openings, profile updates, etc., to their entire "networks".

    A better question for Konstantin is "what is LinkedIn doing about the following groups":

    LinkedIn Lions


    LinkedIn for Recruiters

    LinkedIn Innovators

    plus others in a similar vein?  Most of these groups exist to pump up the connection numbers of their members.  If they exist for any other reason, I fail to see it.

    I mean, there are people out there with 10,000+ connections.  Is that networking?  And isn’t that a clear violation of LinkedIn’s membership agreement that "members only invite people who at least know them"?

    Probably the wrong forum, but am interested in learning more from Konstantin.  And don’t get me wrong — I’m in the "LinkedIn" is great camp, but lately have started receiving up to 5 invites a day from people I have NEVER heard of.  I know I’m a popular guy, but still :-)…

  6. HeatherLeigh says:

    Now Michael, you may be a bit biased ; ) I don’t think networking is obsolete on LinkedIn. We make hires all the time from there. The idea behind being able to circulate your jobs, for example, is to get applicants to the job that are coming via people you trust. Not to just spam anyone with jobs. Also, I think users can search jobs (Konstantin?)

    I think it has the potential to be a spam tool (the point of my post), but that does not mean that the people that are using it the way it was intended are not deriving any value. I get lots of value, otherwise I would not spend my time and money on it.

    You getting those requests is about the people sending them, not the tool itself. There are some people (like Dave Mendoza) that seem upset that LinkedIn limits the number of connection requests they can make because they want to grow their "networks" as much as possible.

    Hate the player not the game

  7. Michael says:

    OK, I took a look at my comments again.

    Let me rephrase in light of what you said, Heather.

    I love LinkedIn.  I use it all the time as does the rest of my team, as do the recruiters at TheLadders.com (yes, I work for TheLadders, but, it should be said, represent, of course, my own personal point of view here).  LinkedIn is a fantastic tool for leads, and you’re definitely not the first recruiter I’ve heard that makes (many) hires/placements from the tool.

    The value of the tool though depends on people a) signing up and b) staying signed up.  I just haven’t seen enough that tells me that LinkedIn is serious about keeping their tools, well, serious.

    One of the things that we do here at TheLadders (remember, we have a free tool for recruiters to search out our candidates) is proactively monitor the messages recruiters are sending our jobseekers.  Of course we also rely on hearing it from jobseekers, but once a recruiter gets past a certain number of messages sent in one day, we review (by hand) the messages they are sending.  If they don’t comply with either the letter of the law *or* the spirit of what we are trying to accomplish, the recruiter is suspended, no questions asked and without warning.  Is LinkedIn taking similar steps?  I hope so because like I said above, I hope LinkedIn stays around *and* stays useful (because we use it every day).

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    LinkedIn is taking similar steps (which is what has cheesed off some of the more prolific linkers like Dave). Konstantin should comment.

  9. mrscrooge says:

    Interesting viewpoints. My network is ~30 right now and expanding. Hey Heather, we’re three degrees away 😉

  10. Drea says:

    I’m a bit behind on reading blogs, August is a blur, so my apologies for drudging up a post from weeks ago! 😉

    i have a few of those, shall we say, spirited linkers, in my network, but early in my LinkedIn days I found it really helpful to link to people with broad networks so I could find people I already knew that I had lost contact with.

    I think that’s one of the coolest things about LinkedIn. Back when I was in college, I wish someone had told me about networking and keeping in touch with people and how valuable that would be later. And I don’t mean valuable for recruiting, but just for maintaining strong relationships with people and knowing what’s going on. Even after recruiting for 7+ years, I actually enjoy reading profiles of long-lost friends and colleagues on LinkedIn to see what paths everyone has taken. And it’s without that scary pressure of sending out resumes or actually job hunting.

    I just hired my first person that I found on LinkedIn to work on my team. I like the perspective that people on LinkedIn are generally open to networking and helping, so chances are good you’re going to get a response. That said, it has to be an earnest request and you have to follow through, just like in any real world networking situation.

  11. Ivan says:

    Hi sorry for joining this discussion so late, but I still think my comments are relevant. I agree that you should connect only with people you know well on linkedin. Having said that I do see the benefits of addiing a few 500+ people that you don’t know so well. The main benefit is that it gives you access to names of people in the organizations that you would otherwise never find out. i.e. if it were not for one of these 500+ persons I would never have found this blog. Because I have these names I can address my letters as Dear Heather instead of Dear Sirs. Again I am talking about having a few (5-8) people that will give you the critical mass needed to find your next job opportunity. Now, if linked in was really serious about this  500+ proliferation issue, they could ban e-mail addresses from the name and occupation fields. It’s extremely easy to get to 500+ …just sort by number of connections and you will see that the biggest :networkers" are the ones that have aaa.bbbbb@yyyy.zzz printed in big letters next to their name 🙂

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    But getting rid of the e-mail address field would preclude you from contacting people you know by name but not by e-mail address. You can use inmails to reach out to people you don’t know. I’m connected to one of those 500+ people and I would rather he bear the burden of caring for his extensive network so I don’t have to.

  13. Ivan says:

    Aaaah, but then you will always have people that don’t know you wanting to connect, and you will have to spend time explaining to them why you don’t want to connect. BTW their user agreement says that we should not put our address (e.g. E-mail) in the name or title field. I guess the real problem is how do you stop the spammers from contacting you. I don’t mind if somebody that is looking for a job asks me to connect them with somebody I know. I know (or hope) this person is genuine and really needs help. What I find annoying are those people who a) Want to join my network so they can say " Proud XXXX+ connections". It’s not a competition. b) People who connect with me to then SPAM me with chain letters.  I like your idea of first connecting physically with the person (e.g. phone or in person), I think I will start using that argument to politely deny people entrance into my network.

  14. SPAMDOZA says:


  15. HeatherLeigh says:

    OK, I wanted to delete that because it makes no sense to a big % of my readers but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Pretty funny.

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