LinkedIn is an effective online tool for professionals. Now that digital networking is in full swing, you’re probably noticing a growing number of LinkedIn invitations coming from strangers. On the one hand, they could be spammers on the hunt for your sensitive data. On the other hand, if you don’t connect with people on LinkedIn, you won’t succeed in broadening your network. If you’re not sure whether to accept these connection requests or to ignore them altogether, this post is for you. 

To Accept or Not to Accept? The Risk Is Real

Some experts advise accepting all LinkedIn connection requests, even when they come from people you don’t know. This train of thought is understandable: more connections equal higher chances of landing your dream job. However, expanding your network requires exercising some additional caution with the functionality the service provides. 

Based on LinkedIn's recommendations, you should only connect with people you know personally or trust as professionals. This approach could limit your online networking endeavors, it’s true. But then again, opening up your profile to strangers reveals both your personal background, as well as your contact information and connection history. 

The risk is real. In April 2021, a group of hackers selling LinkedIn-based personal information was discovered by the officials. According to LinkedIn, those cybercriminals didn’t even have to hack the service’s system. They just pieced together the details from the platform’s listings, the main source of which were random connections within the app. Voilà!

Rules of Thumb for Accepting LinkedIn Requests

Declining connection requests from people you don’t know in person is basic common sense. The same goes for recommending people via the service: never judge ‘a book by its cover’. Always make sure you only recommend someone you’ve worked with personally and preferably long-term. This rule of thumb is logical, however, it shouldn’t always be carved in stone. 

Below, we’ve touched upon 3 choices that will aid you in safely and most effectively reacting to incoming connection requests from strangers:

  1. Reply without accepting the request. Yes, you can do that on LinkedIn, and it’s a wonderful option. Tell them you only connect with people you know in person. Offer them to get to know each other. Ask them if they have any questions about the services you provide. Monitor their reaction. You’ll instantly notice someone who’s not for real by analyzing their response.

  2. Accept the request and get the conversation going with the person who initiated it. Have a look at their profile. If you figure out you have a mutual friend/colleague or work in the same field, discuss it. 

  3. Ignore connection requests from strangers without wasting time on all the aforedescribed ice-breaking. Don’t worry. LinkedIn will not notify them of your rejection.

Cutting to the Chase: Learn to Trust Your Instincts

To cut a long story short, we recommend that you keep laser-like focus on the quality-vs-quantity aspect and connect only with the right people on LinkedIn. For example, if you only work with customers from the U.S., connecting with people from other areas should be of no interest to you. Before opening up your profile to someone, ask yourself: ‘Would I want to exchange business cards with this person’. That’s a very effective way to figure out if you should accept or decline their connection request. All in all, knowing potential risks, trusting your instincts, and thus connecting only with valuable people you feel comfortable with is the best strategy.