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LinkedIn Connections, how many are needed?

LinkedIn Connections

LinkedIn isn’t just about the numbers

LinkedIn connections question

I recently received a question on LinkedIn connections from one of our interns.  His goal is to become a wealth manager where network cultivation will be critical. I thought it was a great question and should be shared. The guy asking the question is smart, has initiative and holds leadership positions within his school and fraternity (not your stereotypical douche fraternity guy) and I am confident he will be successful. Consequently, I figured if he is asking this question, others are as well.  

His initial question is below (with permission):

“Is it the goal to make as many LinkedIn connections as possible  For example, I have had multiple recruiters invite me to connect, but I am curious if it (LinkedIn) is meant more for the personal/meaningful connections or is the shotgun – “connect with everyone you can”, approach the best? 

Before I present my answer to this question, I know there are very different views on this topic. I am at a point in my career where I am limiting my LinkedIn connections and social media in general. Currently, I fall into the quality vs. quantity camp. I know some very smart people who I look up to and admire that will accept any and all invitations to connect. The below is my opinion and I expect there will be some counterpoint. Comments welcome.   

Advice to the intern

Until you are a couple of years into your career, no one is going to look at your profile and say “This guy only has 50 LinkedIn connections, he is a loser.” As a junior in college, we are at a point in our career where I don’t think it is fair to expect as many professional connections. With only a few years of experience, we haven’t had an opportunity to meet many professionals. Folks with 5 plus years of experience will have had many more opportunities and more time to build a network.

LinkedIn profile, have or have not 

Before I go on, I need to say the following: If someone is looking for a corporate job and doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile (or I am not able to find it) THIS IS BAD. This is veddy-veddy bad. The hiring manager is using LinkedIn, the recruiter is using LinkedIn and the head of the department is using LinkedIn. We should make it easy for these decision makers to find us. I blogged about LinkedIn profiles here, and I take the above paragraph one step further.

I recommend that candidates add a hyperlink on their resume that directs the reader to the LinkedIn profile. This would be at the top of the resume right next to the contact information. If we know that hiring managers will search for this profile, we should make it easy on them. Let’s not ask them to do a Google search on John Smith + LinkedIn.  OK, I got that off my chest. 

LinkedIn connections as a ratio of years worked

If someone is in a business development role/sales role, holds a senior position (7-10 years of experience) and doesn’t have 500+ LinkedIn connections, that is bad. Roles like these are being paid to network and it is assumed if you are in this group, you are shaking the bushes.  These candidates will have a tough time gaining credibility when they are not able to prove they have a network. Yes, we can artificially inflate the number of connections, but the number is a lead indicator.  

Quantity vs. Quality

Back to our intern’s question: Personally, I am striving for a network of quality vs. one built around quantity. I am not sure what a recruiters motivation is to connect with someone who is a junior in college. I don’t think they are reaching out to you with the hopes of recruiting you or asking for financial advice. Make sense? Accept a couple and see what happens.

I think it is similar to our Facebook and Insta profiles. When we first created our social media profile, we wanted to connect with anyone and everyone that was interesting, attractive, or both. We literally asked our friends, “How many friends do you have on Facebook?”

With experience, we realized that our social streams were filled with chaff and we began to limit and cull our connections. We are OK with fewer connections and want relevance in our networks.

As an HR person, some managers will get paranoid that employees with large networks could get recruited away. I say this is short-sighted and these employees with large networks can help bring in revenue or candidates for job openings. Candidates are not leaving because they have large networks. They are leaving because the current employer/manager isn’t doing enough for them. 

My question to the intern

If we are asked: “Hey, I see you are connected with John Smith on LinkedIn, can you make an introduction?” and we don’t know them from John, all we can say is:

“Uhh, Dude, I don’t know that guy. He must have just reached out and I randomly accepted. Sorry, I wouldn’t feel right making an introduction to a stranger.”  

If the only thing we have done with a LinkedIn connection is hit the “accept connection” button, will that help either of us? Will we use that connection to make an introduction to a job posting or to do a deal? What do we think when we are approached by someone we don’t know or remember? 

For the record, I think it is completely OK to connect with a stranger on LinkedIn. As long as their profile picture isn’t a windowless van with “Free Candy” painted in Krylon AND our intent is to start a dialogue. But to just start reaching out to build up the numbers may be short-sighted. 

Requisite dating analogy

I ask a super-hot girl to hang out with me. She says yes, but when we are sitting down to coffee, she is answering texts, checking out guys and not paying attention to me. It takes two to tango. If we are not going to put equal effort into the relationship, then it doesn’t matter who we are connected to. One-sided relationships, whether we are face to face over a glass of wine or over the Interwebs are not helping anyone. The connection should be beneficial to both. 


See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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