Many people talked with me about this dilemma: do you accept connection requests from strangers? Accepting the invite could be a foot in the door in the future, even if you don’t know this person. However: I believe that by having a connection with someone, you would vouch for this person during a solicitation. A few month ago I solved this problem with one simple trick: start talking to everyone who invites you.
Adding someone to LinkedIn feels the same as handing your business card to someone during an event. What would you do if someone silently handed you their business card? Probably you would ask them who they are, what they do, and what their interests are. This is what I started doing on LinkedIn.
After I receive a request from a stranger I start by accepting it (but only if this person looks genuinely interesting). After that, I send them a message along the lines of:
Thank you very much for adding me to your LinkedIn network. I was wondering what you are working on, and what your interests are.
When I started sending these messages, I expected no response at all. The best I hoped for was a short reply with “just look at my profile”. Instead, many connections sent elaborate stories. From telling me what their startup is working on, to compliment about work I did: every answer I got was a great answer. Every connection I made this way is a valuable connection.
Some people did not reply at all. I consider these people spammers who are worthless connections. Would you keep the business card of a creepy guy who gave it to you without talking and walked away immediately? Would you recommend this guy to a friend searching for a new employee? If no: delete this person if you did not receive a reply within a week. On their profile page you will find the remove connection button to banish this person from your network.
To add or to ignore strangers on LinkedIn: it has been a dilemma since the day LinkedIn started. Hopefully, you can give this method a try to improve your connections and build a stronger network.