LinkedIn etiquette: The right way to request new connections

Real connections require real interaction

We've all done this: You sign into LinkedIn, glance at the "People You May Know" box and recognise a few names. Perhaps they're former colleagues, friends from university, or maybe they're people you've never met before, but you know they'd be a good connection to make. You click "Connect," choose how you know him or her, and fire off the invitation with the typical boilerplate, I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

Good, right?

Not if you're serious about making the connection, says Lewis Howes, author of LinkedWorking: Generating Success On The World's Largest Professional Networking Website.

"Never send an invitation to connect with anyone without making it a personalized message," Howes says. "You want to be remembered; you want to connect with them on a personal level."

[Want more LinkedIn tips and tricks? Check out a collection of articles here.]

Here are three steps to follow the next time you're serious about making a connection on LinkedIn.

1. Do Your Homework

Before job seekers interview for a job opening, they research the company to learn everything you can about it, right? The same holds true for connecting with people on LinkedIn.

Before you click "Connect," browse their profile to obtain an understanding of who they are. Where are they working? What jobs have they held in the past? What LinkedIn groups do they belong to? What are their interests? Do they have a blog? Having an understanding of the person before you interact with them is key, Howes says.

2. Find Common Ground

After researching the person you want to connect with, find and jot down at least two or three things you have in common, Howes recommends. This could be anything from sharing an alma mater, to belonging to the same LinkedIn group, to having another connection in common.

3. Craft A Personal Note

Now you're ready to connect. Instead of sending out the impersonal, standard message that accompanies LinkedIn invitations, Howes recommends combining the information above to generate a memorable introduction before you tell them why you want to connect. An example:

Hi Megan,

I noticed that we were both in the (fill in the blank) group on Linked In, that Jeff Smith and John Rodgers were mutual friends and that we grew up in the same city.

I've heard great things about (fill in the blank) and thought it would be great to reach out and connect to learn more about it from you.

Would you be open to a quick call this Tuesday at noon or Thursday at 3pm to discuss it? Let me know if e-mail works best for you instead, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Connecting with them on a personal level breaks a barrier," Howes says. "People only do business with people they trust, so you want to try to make them trust you right off the bat," he says.

Staff Writer Kristin Burnham covers consumer Web and social technologies for CIO.com. She writes frequently on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. You can follow her on Twitter: @kmburnham.

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Kristin Burnham

CIO (US)
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