Developing Relationships Through Mutual Connections
A Lack of Fruitful Outcomes
Although LinkedIn connects professionals from around the world, it doesn’t allow them to gauge each other’s interest(s) and need(s).
Consequently, many are unable to develop relationships with with recruiters & professionals that lead to fruitful outcomes because:
- They aren’t sure what to say through the messaging platform
- Recruiters & professionals don’t seem to want to develop a relationship with them
Why “Connections” Aren’t Developed
After interviewing users who used LinkedIn to look for professional opportunities & develop relationships with recruiters & professionals, my key findings were:
- Most users do not or no longer have premium
*because they don’t think it results in tangible outcomes — e.g. internship or job offers
- Most users don’t know what to do with recruiters or professionals after “connecting”
*because they don’t know what to say or how to communicate their intentions
- Many users don’t reach out to recruiters or professionals they have not met in real life
*because they think sending those make them look desperate, awkward & unprofessional.
How Might We Help Users Develop Connections?
- Referrals: Leveraging mutual connections to introduce oneself & develop deeper relationships with professionals* (chosen)
- Company Resource Page: Creating a dedicated group of professionals that users can reach out to for questions, concerns, and mentorship
Leveraging Mutual Connections
To better understand the compatibility of a referral system, I sketched and conducted a low fidelity usability test with users who identified as requesters, senders, or receivers of references.
The feedback I received made me realize that a referral system addresses the people problem well because:
- Potential connections are more likely to consider invitations with references because they trust their connections more
- Mutual connections can help communicate interests and needs
- Users feel empowered knowing that they can leverage their own network
Asking for a Reference
In trying to iterate from the perspective of a LinkedIn designer, I chose D not only because it allowed for the quickest way of requesting a reference but also that it would fit the business model as well as the look and feel of the current way users connected: fast and seamless.
How to Ask
While the above explored different entry points, I also needed to figure out the experience after clicking on “request”. I ended up going with C because it allowed for a user to write an in-depth letter of intent while having the option to “scroll, see more” and “request featured skills” complete the experience.
Making it Count (Introducing LinkedIn Premium)
What happens after a user completes the process of “requesting” from one person? Are they able to keep requesting?
This leads to both pros and cons. While we want to empower the user to fully leverage their own network, we also want to prevent spam and disingenuous requests. Allowing an unlimited amount of requests can lead to inconvenience not only for the individuals receiving requests, but also the prospective connection who will be reading through all of the references.
I ended up going with D because it combined the strengths of B (visually differentiates the selected v.s. unselected) while maintaining LinkedIn’s brand consistency from C, as well as being less aggressive & “in your face” than A.
To further flesh out the idea of 1 reference request per non-premium user, I focused on the experience one might encounter when interacting with D.
I ended up changing the “requested” button to “unrequest” to better indicate the possible action. Further, I decided that a pop-up warning would be adequate given the amount of work a user might lose if they unrequested. Finally, I chose to fade up both the smaller cell at the top as well as the entire screen to provide a transition back to the initial screen after connecting.
Final Flow For Requesting a Reference
Reflection & Further Exploration
The rest of the case study is still ongoing as I continue researching & building out the experience for the receiver of the reference request and the receiver of the connection request. I’d like to thank Cornell AppDev, Jonathan Lee, and Ji Tae Kim for their feedback & support throughout this process.
Receiving Reference Requests: Entry Point
Because My Network had already been established as a space to receive connection requests, through a process of elimination, I decided to choose notifications as the entry point for receiving reference requests. Messages was also considered but ultimately not pursued because it had less structure compared to notifications.
Three Pronged Approach
I chose to break up the notification card exploration into 3 parts: icon, button, text. After evaluating my ideas in each element separately, I felt that the combination of D for icon (easy to tell who is trying to add who while also sticking to LinkedIn’s visual guide), B for button (a user will choose to “view request” if they know the requestor), and A for text (best compliments hierarchy of icon) were the best fit together.
New Page vs Messaging Page
Once the prospective reference clicks on “view request,” they open up an entire new space that has yet to be determined.
After sketching and talking to LinkedIn users, I realized, that of the two possible opportunities, A (new page) would be better suited for viewing the reference request over a B (messaging page) because the problem with going back:
If users wanted to click “back,” which back were they going to end up in? “Back to the messaging section” or “back to notifications” where they first saw the reference request?
Designing for a New Page
To establish the content in the new page, I broke up the explorations into 4 key content blocks: header, letter from requestor, skill endorsement requests, decision space.
I ended up going with D for header (continues the narrative from notifications & allows viewing of both profiles), D for Letter (consistent with LinkedIn’s visual style e.g. no see less, only see more & no hold to expand like Instagram), C for skill endorsement request (consistent with LinkedIn’s visual style e.g. one skill per line but not showing other profiles due to lack of relevancy), and C for decision space (floating button allows user to freely engage with other text heavy content while also having the ability to write reference & send anytime).