LinkedIn solicitations - deconstructing our collective nightmare

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed December 17, 2013
I went back a full year to see if I had received a single effective solicitation of any kind via LinkedIn. The results were terrifying.

Crouched in a Box
In HR circles, 'social recruitment' is one of the terms du jour. LinkedIn figures prominently in such discussions; there are enterprise professionals who swear by LinkedIn. I am not one of them. I tend to swear at LinkedIn.

There are few things I dread more than the (un)solicitations I receive in my LinkedIn inbox. As an experiment, I went back a full year to see if I had received a single effective solicitation of any kind via LinkedIn. I had not. I did, however, receive many that are too bad to keep to myself. Wouldn't you like to see them?

Prior to this absurd display, we should level set. Since the hallmark of LinkedIn is one-to-one connections, shouldn't the solicitations you receive on LinkedIn be personal also?

Why is solicitation so hard?

Help me out please: if you solicited a connection or industry expert on LinkedIn, wouldn't you quickly cover the following?

  1. Greeting from person to person - first names only
  2. Reminder on who you are and where you work or where you met (if needed)
  3. Why you are reaching out? (What made you pick the recipient in question for this message)
  4. What is the benefit for the recipient? (The 'what's in it for me?' factor).

Pretty simple flow, right?

I must be off somewhere, because in the last year I have not received a single solicitation that meets these criteria.

Oh, but I have plenty that don't.

Shall we look at a few of these train wrecks? (Note that my thought upon receiving the inquiry is listed in italics). Oh, and disclosure: Once upon a time, I was a recruiter; I also managed IT recruiting and training firms.

'This is a long shot, but I have a job opening' - the recruiter flare shot (with line-by-line recruiterspeak breakdown):

'Thanks for the connect!'

me: Uh-oh.

'Do you know of any good HANA independent contractors that are available for a mid-February start date?'

me: This phrase may sound simple and harmless, but it is actually toxic. First off - if you know the HANA market, you know that a HANA independent contractor is a needle in a technical haystack right now (it takes a while before a skills ecosystem forms around a product, and independent contractors are the final demographic to arrive in quantity). Second, HANA has quickly become like any other major enterprise product - be it from Workday, Oracle or SAP. There's no one-size-fits-all  HANA person. Without significant details on the nature of the position, this is not enough information to be able to refer someone - even if you wanted to. It's certainly not enough information to contact someone you trust - you would come off completely clueless and disconnected from the actual hiring manager. So what are the details of the position? Well...

'I have project specifics, but I'd like to speak with any consultants that you could recommend before sending the details.'

me: ah, so you have relevant details, but you don't trust me with them. However, you want me to risk a breach of trust with my own contacts by floating this by them without any credible details and see if they bite. All righty then. Let me get right on that. So what is my time and expertise worth to perform this futile exercise?

'Thanks again!'

me: amazingly, no mention of how the financial relationship would work for referrals or even if there is to be a financial relationship.

my response: the archive button.

'Can you help me out?' - The generic Linkedin message blast

Nothing is more satisfying than taking time off your own deadlines to help someone in need - especially when that person has specifically approached you on LinkedIn - well, along with at least ten other individuals who are cc'd on the same generic request.

Here's one I (and a number of others, also cc'd)  got recently:

'Hi, I would really appreciate if you would complete this quick questionnaire for me. It is completely anonymous

me: yes, anonymity is a strength of the Internet, though I prefer partial anonymity myself

and it will take the time of an espresso!

me: hmm - espresso might be too long. The time of a regular coffee might be better for me. How many questions are there?

Please be honest

me: about what?

I really appreciate your contribution.

me: enough to spam me personally! I can tell you are counting on me.

The more answers I get the more my profile will improve and grow.

me: oh, this has a benefit to you? Because I wasn't clear about that.

I would do the same for you!

me: always good to know there is someone out there who will fill out an espresso-length survey for you!

I guess there is a vague attempt to address the 'what's in it for me' aspect on that one. Would it not have been much more effective, however, to say something like:

In exchange, I will never email you again.

Now that would be a benefit worth considering!

Or: 'In exchange, I will send you a $10 gift card to iTunes.' (Of course, a gift card would never be offered because that would mean a true business transaction and not smarmy LinkedIn grafting).

Here's another. Same deal - at least 10 people were cc'd:

'Can you please help me "promote" my "Thought Leadership" skill on LinkedIn by choosing it from my skills?'

I don't think I have to comment further on that one. And yes, that was the entirety of the message. On the plus side, we have our final nail in the coffin of the farce that is LinkedIn skill endorsements.


That's just a sampling - I could go on. Amongst other highlights, I was personally invited to try a couple of new services with personal messages I later found verbatim on Google search. I was also invited to attend a virtual event that was billed as a 'limited-time one week event' I turned that one down, however, in favor of an unlimited time event happening that same week.

'Social anything' is a double edge and the view off the side is not always pretty. Having said that, while I scrolled through my inbox in search of blog fodder, I did see the trails of personal exchanges from old contacts that had either found me or vice versa. These personal exchanges are the real currency of a network like LinkedIn. I like knowing who these folks are, and how to find them.

I like knowing I can spam them whenever I want. Because I have a survey I need them to fill out - soon. Come to think of it, I'd appreciate it if you could fill it out too. Contact me on LinkedIn and I'll send you a link. I really, really appreciate it. You know I'd do the same for you. How do you like your espresso?

Image credit: Crouched in a Box © olly -

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