As you get more comfortable with using LinkedIn, the day may come when you start connecting with other professionals that you may not know very well. I am not referring to becoming a LinkedIn LION or open networker, but connecting with people that you may have had a chance to meet at a networking event and added to your LinkedIn network yet do not personally know very well. Soon after connecting with this new acquaintance on LinkedIn, you may all of the sudden receive the following type of request:
It was a pleasure meeting you recently at the [Insert Event Name] event! Hope you’ve been doing well since then.
Today I came across an interesting job opening for a [insert Title] at [insert Company] and noticed that an employee at the company, [Insert Name], is one of your 1st degree connections. I would love to have the chance to chat with this person about working at the company as well as seeing if they have any advice for the open position. Would you be comfortable in reaching out to [Insert Name] about my interest in [Company Name]. Thank you so much for your help!
What do you do if you don’t feel comfortable providing a referral for someone you don’t know to a close friend?
My advice would go something like this:
1) First of all, do you want to develop a deeper relationship with this person? If he or she asks for a referral, why not meet again for a face-to-face meeting to get to know this person, and their requests, better? They may be a good person with good intentions, and having a chance to meet them may shed some light and bring your relationship to a new level. This may also make you feel more comfortable at referring this person to your friends.
On the other hand, if you still want to keep at arms length, for whatever reason, or you meet this person and still don’t feel comfortable referring them to your friends, I believe you have two choices:
2) Tell them flat out that you do not give referrals to close friends unless you know the person really well. Period.
3) Pass on the Introduction request to your friend (without cc:ing the person who asked for the referral) and let your friend decide. Tell your friend that a LinkedIn contact that you still don’t know very well would like to be introduced, and let your friend decide what they want to do. If they want to pass on it, at least you have done your job. And, who knows, maybe they may want to meet this person themselves for whatever their reason may be, you never know. You may not think that this person has value to them, but they may think differently.
Not that I would recommend the 3) approach in every instance, but one of the key concepts behind Windmill Networking is that sometimes something very trivial to you could be a godsend to someone else in your network.
Obviously, there is no standard golden rule for giving LinkedIn referrals other than never do anything that you are not comfortable with. If you were in this same situation what would you do? Please share your thoughts with the world!