What I can and can’t help you with

What you can and can’t ask a stranger on LinkedIn

Noor Ali-Hasan
May 18 · 6 min read
Photo by laura adai on Unsplash

Ever since I started writing about UX and UX research on Medium, I’ve had a steady uptick in private messages and connection requests on LinkedIn. Writing on Medium and these types of connections with random people I don’t know on the internet remind me of what I loved about social media and the internet when I first started blogging back in 2001. Not only was it a way for me to explore my ideas in writing and play around with content and design but it was fun to think someone else was reading my writing and responding to it. Back then, social media wasn’t toxic or overwhelming and it took a bit of effort to get involved. Most of the interactions I had back then were positive and usually with likeminded people. At the time I was living in a small town in Illinois and trying to figure out how to break into tech so the internet and personal blogs felt like a lifeline to a world I wanted to be a part of.

I get the sense that for a lot of early career UXers Medium serves the same purpose today.

This all brings me back to the point of this post. If you’re interested in a company or a specific position, you can pretty much find almost anyone who’s connected to that company or role on LinkedIn. And if you have a question, it’s easy to message that person with your query. But I would urge you to stop and think about the nature of your request and the time commitment you’re asking of a random stranger on the internet … especially given the size of the UX community (it’s a lot smaller than you think).

A common request I get is to “have coffee.” Usually what people want is a 30 minute meeting to network, chat, or ask questions. As much fun as these sound, I usually turn them down because I simply don’t have bandwidth to meet with every person who asks for a meeting (and I want to be fair). But I really don’t want to discourage you from making these requests on LinkedIn because there are other people whom I know who will take you up on the virtual coffee. But just know that there’s a good chance you might get no response or a no. And if you get a no, remember to thank the person for considering your request.

Sometimes the requests I get are comically and naively involved. I don’t think people have bad intentions when they make these requests. I just don’t think they realize how often I get these requests and how involved the request itself is. For instance, sometimes people are going through the interview process at Google and they want me to connect them with someone on a certain team, pass their resumes around to hiring managers, talk to them about the hiring process, or tell them who’s hiring. Assuming that I even know any of this information, take a moment to think about the amount of work you’re asking someone (again who’s a total stranger on the internet) to do on your behalf.

Here’s the deal: I don’t know who’s hiring. I don’t know about every open UX or UXR role at Google. I can’t pass your resume to hiring managers. You know who knows all this stuff and who’s whole job is to do this for you? Your recruiter! I know how frustrating trying to get a job is, especially if you love the company and just wish they’d give you a chance (I’ve been in that boat, too). But trust me when I say this — you’re in good hands with your recruiter. They’re doing their best to find you a team match and to pass your information to hiring managers. Their performance rests on finding candidates to fill open roles so they’re invested in your success, too.

Now in terms of connecting you with a specific person or someone on a specific team, that’s a tough ask because I don’t know you. So if I connect you with someone and the interaction doesn’t go well, my reputation is on the line.

And when it comes to talking about the Google hiring process, there are lots of resources online that describe it. And I’ve written a lot about interviewing for UX research jobs. I really won’t have any more to say if we chatted directly (I’m not sure I even have any more to write about the topic at this point). One thing you should know if you’re interviewing at Google, you can request an informational call with a Google UX researcher. Your recruiter can set that up for you. Heck you could even ask for me directly — I do these types of calls with candidates pretty regularly. If my schedule allows it, I’d be happy to chat with you.

Along the same lines, sometimes people ask me to review their resumes and/or portfolios. Again, this is a really big ask to ask of someone who doesn’t know you. You’re essentially asking me to spend about an hour (if not more) reviewing your work and providing you feedback.

Do you work for free?

I bet you don’t and I don’t either. Now you might be thinking but what about volunteering or doing something for the good of humanity? Writing on Medium is my way of doing that and I love that it is a way for me to that at scale. Sure, I probably could spend an hour giving specific feedback to one person about their portfolio or resume. But that’s not fair to every other person who asks me for the same favor. It makes more sense for me to spend that hour of my time writing an article here where hundreds or thousands of people can read it and get some benefit out of it.

If you’re still in school, I bet your program has a career development office. You can usually meet with someone who’ll coach you through writing your resume and review what you’ve written. I did this several times as an undergrad and in grad school and found it extremely valuable. I’d encourage you to do the same.

I’m one of those people who thinks LinkedIn should be reserved for people whom I actually know. Maybe we’ve worked together … maybe we met at a conference … maybe we had an online exchange. I usually decline most of the connection requests I get from people I don’t know except sometimes I’ll accept your request ….

  • If you’re a person of color (especially a woman of color). Working in tech is hard enough let alone if you’re not white and if you’re a woman (I speak from personal experience here). I figure all of us who are underrepresented should help each other out.
  • If we have some common connections.
  • If you accompany your request with a personal note stating why you want to connect.

I realize all of this might make me sound like Oscar the Grouch. I really do love hearing from people who read my writing. And I usually do try to reply back, even if it is just to say that I don’t have bandwidth to commit to the request. And I should note that not every message I get requires a lengthy time commitment. If I can answer your request with an email, Medium comment/reply, or LinkedIn message, I usually do.

Not everyone on the internet will have the same boundaries I do. I’m sure some people would be happy to review a resume or take a call. But if they don’t, don’t take it personally. Remember that people have work and family commitments and sometimes stuff going on in their life that you don’t know about or that they’re not writing about on the internet.

And remember to always say thank you.

UX Research Journal

Start your UX research career with advice from a veteran UX researcher.

Noor Ali-Hasan

Written by

I’m a UX research lead at Google, where I help teams design and build desirable and easy to use products. Outside of work, I love art, Peloton, and Lego.

UX Research Journal

Writings on starting a career in UX research from Noor Ali-Hasan, a UX research lead at Google with more than 15 years of experience in the field.

Noor Ali-Hasan

Written by

I’m a UX research lead at Google, where I help teams design and build desirable and easy to use products. Outside of work, I love art, Peloton, and Lego.

UX Research Journal

Writings on starting a career in UX research from Noor Ali-Hasan, a UX research lead at Google with more than 15 years of experience in the field.

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