Networking is the best way to expand your career, and LinkedIn is one of the best tools at your disposal. But there’s more to successful networking than a huge number of connections. In fact, there are many types of unfamiliar connections you should avoid on the platform.
Remember, quality is more important than quantity in your networking efforts. Make sure you’re cultivating a meaningful community by avoiding these types of questionable connections.
The mysterious user
A mysterious unfamiliar character walking boldly into your life might be cool in a Western film, but on LinkedIn, it’s far less appealing. If you receive a connection request with no headshot, it’s a huge red flag.
“It begs the questions: Is this a real person? Is this some kind of scam or phishing expedition? Are they hiding something? In terms of perception, putting your pic on your profile is similar to signing your name to a legal document.” –William Arruda, Forbes
LinkedIn is a social media platform, and it isn’t uncommon for other platforms to be filled with anonymous or parody accounts. But LinkedIn is for making professional connections, and if someone can’t put their face on their profile, it just looks shady. Make sure your own profile has a clear, professional headshot!
Similarly, a LinkedIn profile stingy with personal information isn’t someone I want to connect with. LinkedIn has numerous features that can help you stand out from the crowd, and even simply having a well-developed “About Me” section can put you streets ahead of others on the platform.
While Forbes’ William Arruda says that while being able to use as few words as possible to explain your accomplishments is impressive, you need to make some sort of effort filling each section out. A person with minimal information sending requests your way can’t be counted on to offer anything of value if they couldn’t even be bothered to make a complete profile. In addition, a profile littered with typos and bad grammar is worth avoiding for the same reasons.
The company roleplayer
Roleplaying can be great in the right context. Dungeons and Dragons is one of the world’s most popular activities after all! But roleplaying on LinkedIn is a common and unfortunate red flag.
LinkedIn’s Rafael Magaña says that often salespeople will create profiles simply to push their company’s services—not foster a human connection. These profiles will often use the company’s logo as their photo and have overly “salesy” taglines. Unless you’re looking to be sold to, stay away from these profiles!
Overly aggressive sellers
Some LinkedIn sales merchants can be a little more subtle than the company roleplayers, but that facade won’t last long.
Inc’s Chris Ronzio says that some will be blatantly obvious. They’ll send a copy-and-pasted bio or selling attempt in their connection message. Others will wait for you to accept their connection before spamming their selling point.
“It is the digital equivalent of the flyers I find on my car’s windshield or the supermarket coupons that I can’t seem to rid from my mailbox. I didn’t ask for this. Mark as spam.” – Chris Ronzio
If you see generic, sleazy texts like “Make money while you sleep” or “Double your revenue,” quickly ignore, block, or report these accounts, says Rafael Magaña.
Some connections will appear “thirsty” in less obvious ways. They clearly want something from you and aren’t afraid to be aggressive, but it isn’t always clear what exactly they want.
Chris Ronzio uses people desperate to get you on the phone as a good example. They’ll want to schedule a quick call to get to know you but won’t offer much more than that. Most people aren’t willing to take phone calls from strangers, let alone shady anonymous connections from the internet.
William Arruda points to people pretending to make a personal connection as another example. These scammers will often use bots to gather information from your profile to make it seem like they care about your work before dropping their hard sell.
Finally, watch out for more literal thirsty connections—bozos who try to use LinkedIn as a dating site.
Some of these connections are simply misguided about how LinkedIn connections and good networking etiquette work, but many are actively trying to scam or harm you in some way. The internet is a beautiful and powerful tool, but as long as it has existed, ne’er-do-wells have always found ways to use technology to scam the uninformed.
Aura’s Alina Benny points to phishing scams, catfishing scams, crypto and investment scams, employment scams, and tech support scams as just a few of the common ways scammers will try to get your information. Each one has its own nuance, and it takes practice to identify a scam. Generally, if something sounds too good to be too, it usually is. Read Alina’s piece for more detailed information on each type of scam and how to avoid it.
Networking should be a mutually beneficial arrangement. We’ve discussed in various articles how to sell yourself as having value to offer potential partners. But a connection should bring value to you as well, and the above connections rarely do. Whether it’s someone trying to increase their own clout, attempting spray-and-pray techniques, trying hard to push an agenda, or straight up stealing something from you, these types of connections are best left on read.