Why you should (and shouldn’t) accept LinkedIn requests from people you don’t know

To accept or not accept — that’s always the question when it comes to random LinkedIn connection requests.

Just about everyone has encountered unknown requests, from accounts that seem fake to people with many shared connections who still seem like complete strangers. It’s been said that growing your network is advisable because you can never know when one connection might be valuable.

Sadly, there’s no going back to the old ways, either. You can’t rely on in-person networking these days. In this age of remote work — with a fear of contagious viruses — that kind of socialization has all but become a memory. Experts encourage professionals to build their networks virtually.

So what are you going to do about all those pending requests in your LinkedIn inbox? Below we share the reasons why you should — and shouldn’t — accept invitations from strangers.

Why you should accept random LinkedIn requests

Does it benefit you?

Ask yourself what accepting a connection invitation does for you. If they have mutual connections or work in your industry, then it could lead to future opportunities and more networking.

But if you work in tech and they work in some unrelated field, it’s probably not going to help you out in the short or long term.

More connections, more publicity

Seasoned advisor Jay Palter penned a blog post explaining that by having more connections, you’ll appear more often in searches.

“The most compelling reason I’ve come across for accepting a larger network of connections, including many people you don’t know, is that this can help you appear in more search results,” Palter wrote. “Since search results draw only from a person’s first, second and third-degree connections, a larger network of connections means you will appear in more search results.”

“That presumes that being found primarily through search is something that’s important to you. Say, if you’re looking for a job and have specific skills, appearing in more search results might be a really good thing.”

This could also lead to more job referrals if someone you didn’t know connected with you; you already have a foot in the door since you’re on the same network.

There’s really no harm

Unless you work at a company that wants all of its workers to be influencers, accepting requests from people you don’t know won’t really cause headaches. It can also be flattering; getting noticed may be a form of professional recognition within your industry.

Why you shouldn’t accept random LinkedIn requests

What LinkedIn has to say

According to the company’s website, LinkedIn says they strongly recommend that users only accept invitations from people they know because when someone becomes a connection or a first-degree connection, they are given access to any information that you’ve displayed on your profile.

That means they have access to:

  • Personal information (email, phone number, website)
  • Work history (your resume)
  • Other connections (colleagues, former colleagues, friends, etc.)

Would you really want a stranger to access all of that information?

It’s not a popularity contest

Like any social network, we’re consumed by numbers. On Twitter, it’s the number of followers you have and who engages with what. On Instagram, people want more likes, the same as on Facebook.

When it pertains to work, popularity shouldn’t be at the forefront. Consider this: having Elon Musk as a connection on LinkedIn may be a cool brag in front of your friends, but how does it help you?

Speaking to The Washington Post, careers expert Nicole Williams said that your connections should reflect your professional network.

“It does not reflect who you are,” they said.

It could be spam

Like everything on the internet: if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Job scams run rampant on the internet. It’s been estimated that victims have lost more than $2 billion annually to these scams, even on trusted networking websites like LinkedIn.

Any request or message that you receive on LinkedIn and other networking sites should be thoroughly vetted. That means looking out for several red flags, like messages asking for sensitive information (bank account numbers), dodgy job postings (typos and errors give them away), and most importantly, making sure whoever is sending the message is a real person and works for the company they claim to be employed by.

By accepting someone, you allow them to bypass LinkedIn’s “InMail” service, which charges users to reach people that are not connected. Basically, they can get to you for free.

See also our guide to Linkedin and how to be a LinkedIn power user.