How Not to Write a LinkedIn Invitation

"LinkedIn Invitation"Even LinkedIn can’t seem to write a compelling invitation to connect.

I wrote about how to write a LinkedIn invitation two years ago and it is still the most popular post I’ve ever written. It’s always at the top of Google Analytics.

Is This LinkedIn’s Best?

I was quite surprised to receive the LinkedIn Blog with this suggested invitation to reach out to Very Important People (VIP) you want to connect with that you don’t know and your connections don’t know:

Subject line: Request from fellow Detroit native inspired by your TED talk

Dear John,
I recently viewed your TED talk online and, as someone who grew up in Detroit, I was particularly inspired by your story of success as a journalist. I am currently transitioning from teaching into journalism and I was wondering if you could offer any advice or resources specifically related to launching a career in digital journalism. I know you are very busy, so any guidance or suggestions would be deeply appreciated – a particular niche you recommend I pursue, blogs I should read regularly or even a news outlet that you might know is hiring in the Detroit area. Thank you for inspiring me and for considering my request.
Best regards,
Lindsey

Why Should I Connect With You?

Let me look. Is there a reason why John would want to connect with Lindsey? Not that I can see. I personally don’t think it matters a bit that John and Lindsey grew up in Detroit. He probably left years ago and what value does that add to the conversation? Here are Lindsey’s specific requests:

  • Advice on launching a career in digital journalism. Hello. Have you heard of the Internet? I turned to trusty Google and typed in “careers in digital journalism” and found many articles and videos on the topic. Do your own homework.
  • Can you recommend a particular niche?  Do you want to write about sports, space aliens, Outer Mongolia? How can you expect him to recommend a niche when he doesn’t have a clue about your areas of expertise, experience, education or interests? What subject did you teach?
  • What blogs should I read? See above. One source says that currently there are 164 million blogs out there. How the heck should he know?
  • Can you point me to a job? Ah, now John knows why you’re writing. You need a job in the Detroit area and you want him to find one for you. Wouldn’t your own research tell you where the job openings are in Detroit? Go on to the websites of local media. Network in through your local business contacts.

Sorry If I’m Too Harsh

"How to write a LinkedIn invitation"Sorry, Lindsey, if I come across as too harsh. I’m sure you’re very nice and talented. too. I’m no VIP and I receive LinkedIn invitations that I can’t believe have been written by serious people. About 90% of the time I receive the dreaded default LinkedIn invitation:

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”

Why? Even close business colleagues send the default invitation. I guess they assume I can figure it out. But most of the time it’s from people I’ve never heard of. Those I ignore.

Here’s the invitation that prompted me to write my first blog post about how to write a LinkedIn invitation. I didn’t know Al. But note that he didn’t ask me for anything. He asked if he could help me.

Good evening Jeannette, we are both members of NYEBN. I viewed your profile and based on your experience and expertise, I feel you would make a great connection. Please let me know if there is anything that I can help with.
Would you mind connecting?
All the best,
Al

I accepted because he used my name, he politely asked if I would like to connect and signed off with a nice closing.

How Lindsey Could Write Her LinkedIn Invitation

So getting back to Lindsey’s invitation. I don’t think I’d even send it if I were her. I’d follow my advice above and keep networking until she found someone who could connect her — you know, the six degrees of separation and all that.

If Lindsey is still determined to write to her VIP, here is how she might craft her invitation. By the way, the recipient, who may not only be a VIP but also much older, might not appreciate the use of his first name:

Subject line: Your TED talk inspired me to write

Dear Mr. Jones,

Your TED talk reinforced my decision to switch from teaching political science to a career in journalism. I’m sure that your updates on LinkedIn would be very helpful as I gather the information I need to make this transition. Would you be willing to connect with me on LinkedIn? I’d be very grateful and please don’t hesitate to ask if there is anything I can do to be helpful to you.

Sincerely,
Lindsey

Assuming that he accepts her invitation, Lindsey can begin to build a relationship by sending him relevant articles, commenting on his conversations in groups, replying to and liking his updates. Then she might ask him for advice. Give first.

What do you think of Lindsey’s original LinkedIn invitation? How would you write to the VIP to get him to accept your invitation to connect?

Leave a Reply

Comments

  1. Yes your version is better Jeannette.

    However, even Lindsey’s invitation is a VAST improvement to the LinkedIn default invitation.

    Like you, 90% of invitations I get are “I’d like to invite…” . Have also started to ignore those invitations for the simple reason that they frequently are spammers.

    Actually think the spammers on LInkedin are a worse problem than people not knowing how to write an invitation. Am really tired of getting newsletters and unsolicited offers from members of LinkedIn that I have accepted to connect with. Remove them immediately from my contacts.

    • Catarina — As I advised Lindsey at the end of my post: give first. Too many people try to sell first. Not a good idea. I find Twitter is even worse. If I decide to follow someone I’ll often get a note back trying to sell me something.

  2. Jeannette we both know and agree that you have to give to get. But unfortunately the majority of members on social media have no interest in giving – just taking.

    One of the worst invitations I ever got on Linkedin was a US executive that wanted me to be his private headhunter and get him a job in the Middle East. A) I’m not a headhunter B) he didn’t even offer to pay me C) why would anyone in their right mind recommend a person they have never even heard of before, above all not in KSA. Just pressed ignore:-)

  3. I like the way you framed the request by Lindsey. On some occasion, when I did want to connect with a ‘celebrity’, I scanned their profiles, saw the groups they were on, joined those groups got to know them, ensured through my participation in these groups that they got to know me and then I sent them an invite to connect.
    I agree you need to give first, sometimes you need to give even before becoming a connection.

    • Lubna — thanks for supporting my POV. I agree with everything you say. In fact, it would be an even better idea if Lindsey did the things you suggest, and THEN ask to connect.

  4. Hi Jeannette:
    Good post! Yes, I almost always try and change the default LI invite. There is a very small % of the time when I might use it if I’m in a hurry and the person knows me well. But I will almost never use when when I’m attempting to connect with someone I don’t know very well or just thru a LI group, etc.

    It’s amazing that your example (Lindsey) wasn’t bright enough to realize that most people just don’t have time to respond to such a time-intensive request for assistance and info.

    • Doreen — yes, I was surprised the official LinkedIn blog would recommend that sample invitation as one to emulate. Even I couldn’t take the time to personalize a response to a request for so much information, and I’m not a VIP!

    • I agree with Doreen here. There are times where using the default LI invitation. There is no need to tailor the invite to a person close to you – even literally sometimes sitting right next to you.

      For me, when receiving requests to connect, even though I appreciate somebody having taken the time to personalize the request, I do not differentiate between personal and default but check the persons profile regardless and base my decision on common interests and future potential.

      Also noticed that a high number of very personalized request usually come straight with a paid offer, subscription or event participation which I do not appreciate. If somebody wants to sell something to me some rapport should be built first.

  5. I have to admit that I use the default to ask to connect to someone. In my defense, these are people I already know and usually are expecting the invite.

    Aside from that admission, I do agree with you. I have not accepted any invitation for someone I don’t know or have some mutual connection with. I have been burned in the past and prefer to keep my contacts to a smaller list.

    If I were to request and invite or receive one from someone, a well written and well thought out message certainly would encourage me or the person I am reaching out to, to consider connecting.

    • Susan — No need to feel sheepish about how you connect. It’s a very personal thing. But I’m glad you agree that a personalized invitation might persuade you to connect.

  6. Cheryl — If that works for you, then I’d keep doing it. But I myself value a personalized invitation, even if it’s only a line or two.

  7. I’m one of those – picky connections. I want you to kind of woo me – let me know you looked at my profile, tell me what’s in it for me if I connect with you, and PLEASE avoid sending me the default invitation. I’m right there with you on this one Jeannette.

    • Pat — As you point out, the person issuing the invitation needs to keep in mind the “what’s in it for me” for the person receiving the invitation. Why should that person connect? That’s why Lubna’s approach of commenting on their posts and starting to build a relationship before you extend an invitation is such a good idea. I know people who will not accept default invitations from people they don’t know.

  8. I too have only sent the default invite. Granted, personal is always better. My English teacher brain is always at work though. This would make a great classroom assignment! Oh wait, LinkedIn would probably be considered a “dangerous” social network as well and student would be banned from even browsing profiles…

    • Jeri — it would make an interesting class assignment. LinkedIn is probably the least dangerous social network there is!

  9. Kristine — Glad that you found my post helpful. The person you’re inviting needs to feel there is a reason to connect. I hope my sample invitation was helpful.

  10. Hi Jeannette; I rarely use the invite form any more because I have exceeded my limit for them and have too many people who have decided not to accept. I would probably have a much higher success rate if I had read your post a long time ago. However, I do send in mails and have a 5 star rating with only one of them ever flagged by the recipient. I will take your suggestions to heart for future mails. Thanks and take care, Max

    • Max — I’m not sure I understand. Do you already of 3,000 connections? I think that’s the maximum LinkedIn allows. I’m glad that you found my advice helpful.

  11. Guilty!

    Out of sheer laziness, I find myself sending out those generic messages. Thanks so much for this reminder Jeannette! I must (must, must) pay more attention to it in the future.

    • Eve — I know, it’s so much easier to take the easy way out with the default invitation. But you will build better relationships with a personalized invitation. I know how much I appreciate one that’s been personalized just for me.

  12. Yikes! I feel so badly that I have always used the default invitation! But no more, thanks to you. This is so helpful and when I stop to think about it, what is the value in connecting with folks just to connect? The only way this really works is if there is a common goal…give and take. This was wonderful Jeannette…glad you called me out on my churlish behavior.

    • Jacquie — I’m glad I’ve made a convert of you! I know for a fact that some LinkedIn members will not accept the default invitation. They delete them. It will be interesting for you to see if personalizing your invitations results in more productive relationships.

  13. Totally agree with this Jeannette! I love the second invitation. It’s all about giving, for sure. I think number two is much more professional, to the point, and will be of value to Mr. Jones and Lindsey.

    • Laurie — what surprised me is that LinkedIn wrote the first invitation as an example of a good invitation. Yikes.

  14. Jeannette, I loved the re-wording for the invite. I would like to add a pet peeve of mine. People who connect with you only to send you a sales pitch – sometimes even the same day! Would love to hear your straight talk in a blog post on that!

    • Sue — that is a real no-no and I’ve been on the receiving end of those invitations, too. Sometimes, the sales pitch is included in the invitation!

  15. Lisa — LinkedIn needs to fix that. Mobile is increasing in usage and people should be able to personalize their LinkedIn invitations. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

  16. I always think it’s so strange to use a default notification when you are trying to “connect” with someone. I feel the same way about auto direct messages on Twitter. But you make a good point that a nicely worded request isn’t much better if it doesn’t offer you some reason to connect. As always, I think networking is about genuinely reaching out to people, and you can tell when you read a request whether that person really wants to connect with you, or is just trying to get something from you.

  17. I seem to always get the default generic invite from people, but I always try to send something more personalized. If it’s someone I know, I still personalize it, but my invite might be only a sentence or two. I’m with the other people here who only connects with people I know, or people I’ve at least interacted with.

    I like the way you gave an alternative example for Lindsey’s invite, Jeanette. I wonder if so many people only send the generic invite because they don’t know how to write a good one. Of course, part of it could be laziness, but part of it could also be a lack of good examples. Thanks for putting one out there!

    • Jennifer — I don’t think it’s the length of the personalized invitation. It’s the acknowledgement that you cared enough to personalize the invitation and give a reason for the connection.