Turn LinkedIn Connections into Constructive Conversation

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A reader recently emailed asking if people who connect with LinkedIn members have landed jobs based on those connections. “If they have, what did they write to introduce themselves?” he asked.

When he reached out to professionals from companies he is interested in, many responded to his connection request. But when he “politely asked if we could speak by phone” the communication broke down. Any suggestions on how he can boost his chances of connecting in a way that will lead to an interview?

How would you react to a cold call from someone you’ve never heard of?

That’s what a LinkedIn request to speak by phone really is — and it’s why this job seeker isn’t getting the response he’s looking for.

“LinkedIn connections to employers you don’t know are basically the cold call in job seeking today,” says Fraser Traverse, who runs a job board for people looking for political and policy work in Washington, D.C. and beyond. “That means the likelihood of a response to a request for a phone call is super slim. Most people will only do that as a favor to a personal friend or colleague.”

In fact, Carla Diaz, co-founder of Broadband Search, says asking for a phone call is one of the biggest mistakes a job seeker can make. “It will likely make people not want to talk to you,” Diaz says. “People are so busy these days that a phone call straight off the bat isn’t a viable option. Just imagine 100 people are looking for a job with the same company and all ask for a phone call. That just becomes a waste of time.”

So how can a job seeker get LinkedIn connections to respond? Here are some tips from industry pros:

Connect with the right person. Who you reach out to is almost as important as what you say. As Diaz explains, “There is no point in contacting a developer or accountant for a company and asking them for a list of the job opportunities. They are likely not going to know because that is not their responsibility,” she says. “If you are going to reach out on LinkedIn, make sure you reach out to [someone in] HR.”

Reach out after you’ve applied for a job.Vicki Kunkel, an instructional design consultant and author of “Instant Appeal: The 8 Primal Factors That Create Blockbuster Success,” suggests connecting with a department manager, recruiter or HR rep. “Say something like, ‘I came across your profile as I was researching XYZ company, and I’d love to connect,” Kunkel advises. “If the connection request is accepted, follow up and let them know you applied for a job, why you are interested in the company, and include a brief statement about why you want to work for that company.”

Then close with a simple request. Kunkel suggests ending with this: ‘I first came to know about [company] when [anecdote of your first interaction with the company’s product or service] and have been a fan ever since. I’ve applied online for the [job title] position and attached a brief cover letter that outlines specifics of how my background aligns with the position. If there is anything you might suggest I can do to improve so that I can earn a job with your company, I’d be very grateful.’

“This approach is humble, respectful of the person’s time, and makes a non-threatening request,” says Kunkel. “In nearly every instance when I have used this approach, I have had people either refer my name internally directly to a hiring manager or reach out to me for more information.”

Use email. “If you want to extend your conversation outside of LinkedIn, your best bet is email,” Diaz says. “If your [email] discussions turn out well, maybe at some point you will get a phone call or even a meeting.”

Think outside of the LinkedIn box.What are some current issues your connection might be interested in? Once you’ve determined that, Traverse says you can get your contact’s attention by writing a short blog post on a relevant topic, then sharing it with him or her.

Has the company or your contact been in the news? Have you seen a news story about the industry in general? If so, consider sending a message of congratulations or praise, Traverse suggests. “That’s likely to at least get a ‘thanks’ in return, and maybe even a little discourse for a message or two,” he says. “Not every connection will bite the first time, but by staying top of mind, you may land an interview before a job opening goes public.”

Be creative. Morgan Taylor, the CMO and co-founder of LetMeBank, has hired many people through LinkedIn. Job seekers who take a creative approach is what impresses her most. “The best way to grab our attention has always been silly personalized video introductions,” Taylor says. “Some people have even sent celebrity introductions through Cameo, which was both hilarious and effective. We don’t like switching to phone calls. We go straight from LinkedIn conversations to video conferencing. Asking to talk on the phone, at least in our case, indicates you are less technologically aware. It’s up there with wanting to fax us your email address.”

The bottom line? It will take patience to turn LinkedIn connections into constructive conversations.

“LinkedIn connections,” concludes Kunkel, “must be cultivated and nurtured — not barraged with time-consuming requests such as calls.”

(Article written by Kathleen Furore)