Developing Relationships Through Mutual Connections
Inspired from Personal Experience
Although LinkedIn connects professionals from around the world, students and aspiring professionals are unable to develop meaningful relationships with professionals on LinkedIn, often times even after connecting with them.
Research: Why “Relationships” Aren’t Developed
After interviewing professionals such as professors at Cornell and students like myself who used LinkedIn to look for professional opportunities & develop relationships with recruiters & professionals, I found the people problem to be:
Relationships are often not developed on LinkedIn because
- Students reaching out to professionals struggle with communicating their intentions even after connecting
- Professionals are busy and do not want to or have time to talk to people they do not know in real life
User Feedback: Could it work?
To better understand the compatibility of a referral system, I sketched and conducted a low fidelity concept & usability test with users who identified as requesters, senders, and receivers of references. Through these interviews, I learned that referrals from mutual connections can work because:
- Professionals trust current connections more than strangers
- Professionals tend to know their connections better than students
- Mutual connections can help communicate interests and needs of students
- Users feel empowered knowing that they can leverage their own network.
*Connections is arguably LinkedIn’s biggest asset
Final Design: Finding When & How to Ask
The process of requesting a reference is a very long process. For this case study, I chose to focus specifically on exploring scenarios for when and how to ask.
Design Iterations: Exploring When to Ask
Take 1: Before they connect
Pro: Encourages more personalized and well-thought-out invitations.
Con: As an entry point, it interrupts the experience of being able to easily connect by placing an additional step. Interaction of the “X” at the top can be interpreted as “cancelling the invite itself.”
Take 2: Separately in messages
Pro: Enforces LinkedIn’s brand of “real connections” by making one ask people who they know well. *Familiar, email-like networking interaction.
Con: Barrier of entry might be too high. Less accessible/visible entry point. Unclear who should be “to” and who should be “cc.” Difficult to manage after sending.
Take 3: Wayyy after they connect
Pro: Clearly distinguishes the experience of connecting with requesting reference. User doesn’t need to wait for reference.
Con: Time waiting for reference might become irrelevant if prospective connection doesn’t see it attached to the initial invitation. Two buttons on top of each other makes the cell too tight (easy to mis-click).
Take 4: After connecting (ASAP)
Pro: Fast & seamless to have both verification connecting and see reference on the same page (filter accounts for edge cases)
Con: Risk of abusers, first time users might not know what to expect
Inspiration & Explorations
Design Iterations: Exploring How to Ask
When thinking about what’s needed in a reference, I chose option 4.
- Nothing (Quick but Not personal enough)
- Write up (Personal but Not enough flexibility)
- Write up + Skill Endorsement (Personal and Quick)
- Write up + Relationship + skill endorsement
(Provides Immediate Context)
Future Considerations: Preventing Spam While Adding Value to LinkedIn Premium
From my initial research, I also discovered that Many users no longer have LinkedIn Premium because
What people say:
“It doesn’t result in tangible outcomes” — e.g. internship or job offers or even finding a mentor
What I’ve deducted:
They can get pretty much the same results out of a free account, so there is no need for premium
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.
I am in no way affiliated with LinkedIn. This case study was done for my personal explorations.