We’ve all been there. A casual glance at your profile, an occasional request to connect, and suddenly you’re faced with the ultimate decision: do I accept or reject?

No we’re not talking about online dating – we’re talking about LinkedIn. While LinkedIn serves as a fantastic tool for managing and expanding your professional network, it also exposes you to a multitude of reputational threats that must be carefully managed.
Whether it’s a complete stranger, a personal acquaintance, or even a family member, use the below tips to help decide whether that next LinkedIn contact request will ultimately boost or detract from your online reputation.

1)    Stay True to Your Vertical. LinkedIn is a professional social network, and your contacts should reflect just that. Ensure that existing and new contacts complement your professional background, current job focus, and your future career goals. This will help you craft an extremely strong online reputation that recruiters and potential employers may use to impact recruiting and hiring decisions.

2)    It’s OK to Have the Occasional Outlier. We all have one or two connections, whose job title has no remote bearing on your professional career. However, keep those outliers to a minimum to create a strong, focused LinkedIn network. This will help you get the most out of your LinkedIn account, as news, job listings, and posts will be better tailored to your professional needs.

3)    Stick with Who You Know. Depending on your vertical, job title, or company, you may receive a large amount of connection requests from strangers. While it’s good to expand your social network outside of your intimate professional circle, ensure that these new contacts are at least relevant to your industry, and job market. Even if you don’t know them personally, if a potential contact shares a LinkedIn group or has several connections in common, they may be a great addition to your professional network.

4)    When In Doubt, Do Your Research. Many LinkedIn requests come from professionals overseas, at companies you’ve never heard of. Before ruling them out entirely, do some digging. Find out a little more about their company, visit their website, and try to pinpoint whether this individual will legitimately add value to your network, or is simply trolling LinkedIn to amass a larger network.

At the end of the day, don’t be afraid to reject a LinkedIn request that you’re unsure about. As they always say: ‘it’s not personal; it’s business.’ By leaving the personal networking to more casual networks like Facebook and Twitter, your LinkedIn reputation will be a strong supporting facet for continued career growth.

Burchard & Associates specializes in accounting and finance recruiting across all business sectors, including manufacturing, retail, wholesale/distribution, healthcare, financial services, and more.