Is it rude to not reply recruiter messages right away on LinkedIn when you are not actively looking for a job but might start looking in 4-6 months?
Most recruiters that are "cold calling" people on linked in expect a lot of non-responses. It is just about as rude as not responding to senders of spam that arrive in your email daily. They have a list of hits from the linkedin database and spam the same email to all of them.
In short, no it isn't rude to not respond if you are not interested.
It's up to you and I agree with Raze that they are probably expecting a fair amount of non-responses.
What I do is provide a response that is commensurate with the level of professionalism I receive. If there is a request to connect from a total stranger that has only the generic LinkedIn message, I assume it's one of the following:
- A recruiter that's not very serious and is just looking to mine my contact list based on hot job skill matches
- A recruiter that might or might not have something but didn't want to tell me anything or couldn't take the time to explain why he/she wanted to connect
- Someone that is contacting me in error
In those cases I would ignore the request. But if someone trying to contact me has made an earnest effort to introduce themselves in a professional manner and put some information in, then I would be more amenable to responding.
If you're worried about losing a professional contact, don't be. LinkedIn will keep the invites in your inbox and if you ever need to contact them again you can, assuming they are still recruiting (recruiters in my experience are fairly transient; I've worked with very few that more than two years later were still recruiting). And if you should want to contact them later, and they have something you're a match for, they'll happily work with you because at that point you're not a human anymore, you're a chunk of bloody meat in the water.