The LinkedIn Etiquette Every Professional Should Know

Dana Covit

At a recent meeting, the MyDomaine editors all agreed that LinkedIn is a surprisingly tricky, mysterious beast. Though we are all on the career-oriented networking social platform, we use it rather differently. Some among us are secure in our tactics, forging new relationships left and right, while others are totally befuddled and bashful to admit that it’s been awhile since we’ve done some housekeeping or invitation cleanup. So, intrigued by the discrepancy, we set out to shed some light on the website and learn some tactics for using it to our professional advantage. Scroll for the must-know etiquette every professional should abide by.

Make your profile public. But hide your activity. You probably don’t really want your colleagues to know when you’re deep in a job search–related profile overhaul—red flag! That being said, you still want people to be able to find your page. You can set your privacy settings so that your network isn’t notified when you edit your profile.

Quality over quantity. It’s ultimately better to have a smaller amount of connections who actually matter to you and pertain to your career than to have a ton of clutter that simply doesn’t. So, rather than requesting to connect with people without any tactic or game plan, do your research, make a plan, and connect with purpose.

Respond promptly. Whenever possible, accept invitations immediately and respond to messages in a timely manner (one to two days). LinkedIn is a social network that’s all about professionalism and goal-oriented behavior.

You can say no. If someone tries to connect with you but you don’t wish to add the person to your network, simply “X” out the invite. There’s no need to select “I don’t know this person,” which is more of a slap in the face than you probably need to start handing out.

Personalize your communications. Reaching out to someone randomly? Let him or her know the reason for connecting. Do not—we repeat, do not—send the pre-populated connection message.

Only send a request once (or twice). If you’ve submitted a personalized invitation to connect, don’t withdraw it and just try again. It reads as forceful and a bit rude. Instead, consider revisiting what you said in your first message and, if you weren’t forthright in what you were hoping to achieve, direct-messaging the person once more to clarify.

Be mindful of people’s preferences. LinkedIn lets you set parameters regarding how you wish to be contacted. Check this section of the person’s profile, and be respectful and mindful of it. You’ll run less of a risk of rubbing someone the wrong way. 

Take it slow with new connections. Developing fruitful professional relationships with new connections is absolutely possible—but take it slow! Don’t ask for too much too soon. After you’ve invited someone to connect and he or she (fingers crossed) accepts, send a follow-up thank-you message reiterating the purpose for your wish to connect.

Don’t give it all away. Your LinkedIn profile ought to function as a best-of reel for your career and achievements. As opposed to a C.V., where you might list the nitty-gritty details of your responsibilities at a job, a LinkedIn description might include just a few highlights. That way, people are intrigued enough to reach out to hear more and, hopefully, have you in for an interview.

Be active. At its root, LinkedIn is a social media network, so it functions, in a way, similarly to Facebook, rewarding its most active users. Post updates, share links, and connect with people you know: This will lead to more invitation requests and opportunities.

Don’t go overboard. Yes, you want to be active on LinkedIn, but you definitely don’t want to go overboard posting more than once a day. The limit should probably be one update a day at the most (so, active Twitter users, you definitely do not want to link your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile).

Use, don’t abuse, endorsements. Don’t ask new connections or people you don’t know for endorsements. Definitely don’t go crazy endorsing people left and right for things you don’t know they actually are good at. Do endorse people whose work and ethic you know and respect.

Recommendations matter. When writing recommendations, take an extra moment to be thoughtful and specific.

Above all, be professional. Only share information and news that relates to your business or career. This extends to your photo—no puppies, babies, or Instagram filters. Keep it crisp, legible, and friendly!

Add your co-workers responsibly. It’s a great idea to add your co-workers to your connections after a few months, but do so responsibly: Connections will see your activity (and might notice if you’re sprucing up your profile or connecting with new people in anticipation of a career move).

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Have you forged any meaningful professional relationships on LinkedIn? Share your experiences with us in the comments!

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