While it's not so difficult to add a connection on LinkedIn when you already know the person, approaching someone you don't know, like a hiring manager, recruiter, the head of the department you want to work for, or a contact that can help get you through to the decision-maker is a different story.
Here are five tips on how to approach people you don't know, or don't know very well, and what you can say to get them to connect with you on LinkedIn:
1. Have A Reason To Connect
Don't send a blank (or default) invitation to connect. It's unlikely that the person you're trying to connect with will accept it.
If it's a hiring manager who interviewed you, but you didn't get the job, it may still be a relationship worth maintaining. Your message could say, "Thank you for the interview opportunity. I would love to be considered for future positions that come up and have you as a professional connection no matter where we may possibly cross paths again."
The act of simply taking the time to write a personal message with your invitation makes you worthy of consideration.
2. Share What You Have In Common
In your LinkedIn connection request, find ways to form an instant bond by sharing what you have in common. For example, when you're both a member of the same group, club, or volunteer organization, it's easier to approach the individual.
People also want to know or be reminded of how you know them or found them. So you can say something like, "I'm also a member of XYZ on LinkedIn. I noticed you're the head of the marketing department at 123 Company, and I was hoping you could share some advice on how you got started in your career because I'm looking to pursue a similar path."
This approach is less likely to come off like a cold call. If there are other things you have in common, like a similar education or background, share that as well.
3. Mention A Mutual Acquaintance
Whenever possible, it's easier to start an introduction with the help of a mutual acquaintance. After the help of an introduction, it's up to you to build rapport.
If you connect with someone who works for a company you want to work for, you may consider a message like, "I'm a former colleague of John Smith, who's told me a lot about you and your work. I'm considering a position at 123 Company. Would you mind if I ask you some questions related to your experience with the application and interview process?"
The saying, "It's not what you know. It's who you know," has never been truer. Take advantage of your current connections and use them to expand your professional network today.
4. Don't Ask For A Job On First Contact
Avoid sending your resume on first contact, or asking if your new connection knows of any job openings at their company. Your first message to a new connection should focus on starting a conversation, and you can effectively do that by asking for general advice rather than inquiring about a job.
Also, remember to keep questions open-ended so you can build conversation, not end it.
5. Congratulate And Give Recognition
Who doesn't like to be greeted with a nice word of recognition like "Congratulations on the recent award!" or "Great article! I found it really insightful"? It informs the individual you admire their work, making it easier to get their attention and find a reason to connect with you.
If you're already connected, giving kudos to this person will strengthen your relationship and make them more willing to help you in your career.
Having a good network of connections is NOT about quantity but the quality of the people and the strength of the relationships. Take the time to really evaluate who is worth connecting with, and when you do try, have a compelling reason why you want to connect with them so they will sincerely consider your request.
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This article was originally published at an earlier date.