In April, I was interviewed by Alexandra Samuel for a book she was writing for Harvard Business Review Press. Here are the questions she asked, and my answers–including the one underlined below, which made its way into the book. If you’d like to read more from Alexandra and the others she interviewed, Work Smarter with LinkedIn is available now–and it’s just $4.
Alexandra Samuel: What is an example of a relationship you initiated through LinkedIn? How did you make the connection?
AJ: It’s rare that I initiate relationships on LinkedIn; they usually begin somewhere else and a connection on LinkedIn follows. However, there are exceptions, including relationships that begin in LinkedIn groups and evolve to become more substantive. For example, answering questions from fellow group members or having them answer mine sometimes leads to a connection.
AS: How do you decide which connection requests to accept? If you turn some people down, how do you do it?
AJ: The first question I ask is, “do I know this person”? That doesn’t require a real world connection; it may just be that I know him or her from online interaction. However, I tend to be more restrictive in accepting connection requests on LinkedIn than I would be on Twitter. If I don’t know the person making the connection request, I’ll look for guidance from him or her in the way of a personalized connection request. In other words, did the connection request include background on why connection is being sought? It’s rare that this guidance is given, but when it is I usually accept. Finally, I’ll ask whether it’s immediately clear how we could be resources to one another. A connection request from someone who works for a client–even a very large company–will probably be accepted; a request from someone at a company I’ve never heard of and/or that’s outside my market probably won’t be. I generally just delete the request and move on. I rarely click on “ignore,” knowing that users can be penalized if that action is taken too often by those with whom they seek to connect.
AS: Are there any red flags that immediately turn you off when you are viewing a LInkedIn profile? Anything that makes you immediately think, wow, I’ve got to meet this person?
AJ: I’m turned off by profiles that suggest the person is more inclined to overtly sell a product or service than be a resource to his or her connections. Keyword stuffing is also a huge red flag. There’s no one quality that makes a profile stand out in my mind; it’s more a matter of whether the person has skills or knowledge that would be helpful to me and those with whom I’m connected. Also, less is more. I’m more likely to read a short, well-written summary than a lengthy one. Five sentences is often better than five paragraphs.
AS: Have you used LinkedIn in any ways that go beyond recruiting/job hunting? What do you think is the most under-used or unappreciated use case for LinkedIn?
AJ: Most of my use of LinkedIn is entirely unrelated to job search. To me, the primary benefit of LinkedIn is the way in which it helps professionals nurture and enhance their existing relationships. It allows me to keep in touch with my connections in a way that mitigates the labor intensity that can come with keeping in touch. I always say that if professional relationships are important to you–even if you have no interest in changing jobs–than LinkedIn is likely worthy of your time and attention.
AS: What is your favourite targeting strategy/hack on LinkedIn? Any clever combinations of terms or filters you use for specific purposes?
AJ: I use advanced search in a pretty straightforward way. Still, I think advanced search is one of the most underappreciated features of LinkedIn because of the way in which it exposes the interconnections in your network.
AS: Do you use LinkedIn to help you make or follow up on new contacts when you are on the road? If so, how?
AJ: LinkedIn’s mobile apps have improved dramatically in the past few years. I spend a lot of downtime just browsing status updates and clicking “like” when something resonates. It’s amazing how much that can mean to one of my connections.
AS: How do you maintain your own LinkedIn presence? Beyond maintaining your profile, what do you think are the most useful LinkedIn features (groups? updates? other features?) and what is one that you use regularly?
AJ: I always say that status updates are “the engine that drives LinkedIn.” If I rely on my profile as the main way in which I share my story, then I’m assuming people will think of me, seek me out, and digest the considerable amount of content in my profile. I think it’s much better to tell your story one sound bite at a time via status updates. Doing so allows you to make an impression without needing to be sought out (since they’re automatically populated to your connections’ news feed on the home page)and position yourself as a resource in a specific area or as a subject matter expert. The key is consistency. I try to update my status once a day, Monday through Friday, posting the most interesting thing I’m working on or have to share in a given day. Collectively over time I think those status updates do more to describe my work than my profile ever would.