TIME Career Strategies

5 Ways to Not Get Rejected on LinkedIn

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By now, most of the Internet has heard about (and commented on) the bizarre response a self-professed “passionate advocate” for people looking for work gave a young job-seeker who had the nerve to contact her on LinkedIn.

“Your invite to connect is inappropriate, beneficial only to you, and tacky,” Kelly Blazek wrote, blasting what she called Diana Mekota’s “sense of entitlement” and noting that the “green” 26-year-old job-seeker “has nothing to offer me.”

While it’s stunning in its nastiness as well as its stupidity (apparently it never occurred to Blazek, who bragged about her “960+… top-tier marketing connections,” that Mekota might share her tirade with the entire Internet), there’s a lesson for the rest of us here.

No, you’ll probably never receiving a scathing reply that goes viral in response to a LinkedIn request — you’ll just be ignored. If you’re looking for a job, you can’t afford to shoot yourself in the foot when it comes to cultivating your LinkedIn network: Recruiting software company Jobvite found in a recent survey that 94% of recruiters use the site to search for candidates. So, here’s what career experts say you should do to get potential connections to hit “reply” instead of “delete.”

(MORE: 5 Reasons Your Job Is Making You Miserable)

Keep it short. “Be conscientious of their time,” says Jobvite CMO Kimberley Kasper. “If you’re going to send an email for advice, don’t send 20 paragraphs. Be quick and to the point. The more succinct you are, the more likely the person is to respond.”

Play up mutual connections. If you’re looking for a job and you have a good sense of what title would be responsible for hiring someone in your position, do an advanced search for that title within a 50-mile radius, advises social media expert Patrick O’Malley. “The ones that show up at the top are second-level connections,” he says, which means you have a point of common ground. “Use the name of the common connection in your subject line and you’re more likely to get the attention of that person,” O’Malley says.

Don’t ask for a job. “No job seeker should ever reach out to a connection for the first time for the purpose of asking for a job. That comes after the relationship is established,” Lauren Milligan, CEO of resume and job coaching company ResuMAYDAY. What do you say instead? “The truth is that I connect and engage with people much quicker when they tell me they read an article in which I was quoted, or that I had recently helped one of their associates with a job search dilemma,” Milligan says. “If nothing else, tell me what jumped out at you in my LinkedIn profile.”

(MORE: 7 Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Job)

Make yourself useful. “Follow them on LinkedIn to see the status updates they post,” O’Malley says. “If they ever ask a question or they’re particularly interested in something, see if you can find the solution to their problem.” Send them the answer or some useful resources in a connection request, he says. “Now, all of a sudden, they look at you as a valuable resource.” Again, don’t fish for a job, but O’Malley says it’s OK to say something like, “I’d like to connect with you in case you’re ever looking for someone with my skills in the future.”

Don’t drag out the exchange. “Understand that if you’re a job seeker and asking for help, the person may respond maybe once or twice and will not go back and forth 10 different times and respond to the question several times over,” Kasper says. “Know when enough is enough.”

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