LinkedIn: When to Ignore a Request to Connect

By February 28, 2011Communications

My friend John posed this question via Twitter, “Say you don’t know someone and they send you a LinkedIn invite. I usually summarily reject. Are there cases where I shouldn’t?”

It’s a good question, and I know that people have differing opinions on this one. There are two schools of thought, as in most things, one is “white hat” the other a more “black hat” or not-so-ethical approach. I am steadfastly white hat; that’s what you get from someone with a background in professional communications, public relations and reputation management.

That being said, I believe in preserving the sanctity of what LinkedIn has set out to do; create business networks of people who actually know one another. I will extend this to fairly loose connections and relationships — I don’t have to know you in person or have worked directly with you to connect with you on LinkedIn. I do, however, need to have context that indicates our commonality — where we met, a common group or community to which we belong. I speak to large audiences frequently and sometimes am invited to connect to someone who I met during that speaking engagement. I often accept these, if I’m given that context and made a personal connection with that person at that event.

This leads to how we send those invitations to connect with others. Several years ago I received an invitation to connect that was so well-written, I have cleaned it up, generalized it, and used it as a best practice example ever since. A good invitation to connect looks something like this:

As you may know, I resigned my position as [TITLE & COMPANY]. It was a rich experience and I value the privilege of access to a very high level of thought leadership during my years there.


As I value our relationship and appreciate the depth of experience you bring to your profession, please join my network so we can stay in touch on this and more.

Warm regards,

It’s helpful, when you reach out to someone to connect, to give them context — the when and where of your meeting or interaction. Some of us meet and work with many people and our memories are not as clear as we’d like. I may have simply forgotten your name, and if your note says only “I’d like to add you to my network on LinkedIn” that doesn’t do anything to differentiate you from the guy who is just trying to build his numbers.

That brings me back to the concept of the black hat social networker — occasionally you will get invitations from people who are so far outside your network you can’t even figure out why the invitation has arrived. There are people simply playing a numbers game; don’t be tempted to join this tribe or contribute to it by accepting. It devalues the network and the strength of the relationships in it.

What do you think? When do you ignore a request to connect on LinkedIn?


  • Again, thank you for a timely post! I have received most all of my LinkedIn education and etiquette from you . Although I’m probably not as active as I should be, I stick to certain basic principles. I absolutely do not ever send an invitation to connect without typing a personal message as to why I would like to be connected to that person. It is very rare that the invitations I receive have any personal message. Extremely rare in fact. Now, I can understand if we know each other fairly well and you just think of it and hit the button, but if there is value in us being connected, then I should at least be worth one line saying hello again. If I may not know you personally but have worked with your co-workers or friends, I would like you to introduce yourself. If the connection is not worth changing out that generic message, then how valuable is that relationship really going to be?
    I do not want to be rude to anyone. I love to meet new people. How do I handle these requests from people that I know I have not met that do not tell me anything about why they want to connect with me?

  • Marijean says:

    You can always send them a message (without accepting the request). I have done that, asking them to remind me where we met or how we know one another. It’s perfectly acceptable to do so and weeds out the people you’re not entirely certain but suspect are spammers.

  • Pat Simpson says:

    I so agree. Getting that generic LinkedIn message shows a lack of interest and lack of effort that makes me wonder why I would want to connect with you! I always personalize my requests, just as I introduce myself when I initiate a phone call.

  • I pretty much accept all LinkedIn requests – my thinking is it is as much about the individual that is asking as the folks they are connected to. That said, I want to see a photo, a bio and some information about the person before I say yes.

    If you have a specific reason to connect with me, go ahead and let me know that too.

  • Tonya says:

    I understand the rule connect with those you know or someone you have something in common. I dont understand why people links on their websites and/or blogs if they arenet interested in connecting with those outside their network. I almost feel as though someone has stuck their hand out for a greeting and snatched it back when I say hello my name is “Tonya”.