What is Wrong With So Many LinkedIn InMails

Posted by Eric Putkonen on 11/19/2015 in Recruiting articles |
Thank you Esther Vargas (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Thank you Esther Vargas (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I was carefully reading Steven Lowisz’s report, “Real Recruiter InMails to Fictional Passive Candidate on LinkedIn.”  It was a two year study of LinkedIn InMails sent to a fictional Java developer.  I recommend reading it thoroughly.

What I did see was that we are far too impersonal, lazy, demanding, and self-centered in our initial messages to potential candidates.

For example, do you send emails or LinkedIn InMails to potential candidates with the subject line of something like one of the following:

  • Awesome/Great Job Opportunity
  • We Need You or Urgent Need
  • Looking for a (job title) or simply listing the job title after “Urgent need:”
  • You’re a match for (job title)

First of all, why are so many recruiters going right into a sales pitch?  Do we truly know enough about the candidate’s skills and experience – not to mention their needs and career goals – to know if this person would be a good fit for our position?  Do we even know this would interest him or her (specifically)…and not just be viewed as spam?

Secondly, we are we so self-centered and just thinking about our needs and filling our position?  Often the title and following message shows little interest in the specific person we are contacting.  What about what they want…their needs?

QuestionGoing into a sales pitch right away makes you seem uninterested in the specific person, but just selling your job to one of the masses.  We can’t call it a “Great” or “Awesome” opportunity, because it may not be very good for this specific person…and we don’t know enough about them yet to know if this would be a good opportunity for them.  Not to mention this is cliche and overused…everyone says their job is a great opportunity.

We simply just don’t know enough about the specific candidate we are contacting to take these kinds of liberties.  Other such liberties include the initial emails or LinkedIn InMails:

  • asking for referrals
  • asking if they are interested in relocating
  • asking them to send a resume or apply through your system

We must start really asking ourselves (as recruiters), which comes first…interest in the candidate or filling the job?  Are we trying to build relationships or just sell products (our jobs)?

If we are trying to build a relationship, then we really need to get to know the person and resist the urge to sell the job to him or her.  Then in getting to know candidates’ needs and goals, we are better able to sell the opportunity…perhaps at a time we have learned through the conversations would be a time they would want to hear about the opportunity.

Steven Lowisz said a recruiter’s job in the initial InMail (or email I would think) is to simply pique the interest of the person…to simply intrigue him or her.

I would add it is also to initiate and build a long term relationship.  No one wants a long term relationship with a car dealer or insurance salesman that constantly is referring to what they are selling and sales pitching to you.  It is annoying.

We need to take it more slowly.  You don’t go to a speed dating event and start proposing to the people you just met.  It is bad manners and a real turn off.

So I would suggest maybe using a title for your Inmail or email message with something along the lines of

Is ABC Company a place you would like to work for someday?

If you are an unknown company (with little or no brand), this might even be too forward.  But if you are fairly well known, this might be a good initial message title.  Then within the email you could say something like the following:

I saw your LinkedIn profile today and I liked a lot of the things I saw (like x,y, and z), and I was wondering if you have thought you might like to work for ABC Company some day.

You are probably not looking at new opportunities today, but I would like to know what are your career goals and the next steps in your career where we might be able to bring you here down the road.  What are your main priorities and criteria when considering job opportunities and companies to work for?

I would certainly like to learn more about you, so if you would like to work for us some day, I invite you to have a phone conversation with me.  I will be available between 9 am to 4 pm on Tuesday and Thursday at 555-555-5555.

In this way you will be able to speak with candidates to learn about their experience, skills, dreams, goals, and needs…and determine if they really would be a good fit for your company.  If so, then you can add them to a very occasional check-in list on a CRM, a Talent Community, or otherwise add them to a pipeline.  Also, as you build the relationship and trust, you can ask them for referrals.

Thumbs upWe need to stop selling and start building relationships.  We need to stop being self-centered by only thinking about our own needs and start thinking about the needs of the person we are contacting.  We need to stop being impersonal and start being personal.  We need to stop being lazy and start putting some effort into it.



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  • Keith Severtson says:

    AMEN! You would not believe the multitude of emails I get from recruiters who tell me their database shows that I have extensive experience in Java programming for example and they have a fantastic opportunity for me. I confess it does say Java on my resume under skills I have recruited for but you don’t want me writing code. All this person has done is mass emailed every resume that popped up on their Job Board search. Its insulting and a waste of my time. A 5 second investment of reading the first part of my resume states that I have 18 years of experience as a Technical Recruiter, I don’t write code. And these people have jobs but here I am on the market. Amazing!

  • Michelle says:

    Wonderful read, with valuable information. Sometimes as Recruiters we get caught up in the speed of having to deliver and the relationship building gets pushed aside. This is a great reminder on why the relationship building piece should be at the forefront of all of our sourcing efforts. Thank you!

  • Joe Anderson says:

    Good points. I do disagree about asking for referrals, however. Acknowledging someone as an “industry expert” and target one to two levels up from the position you are recruiting for works. Asking for “help” from an industry expert sparks an individuals inherent nature to want to help, especially if it is in an area where they are a perceived expert. I never pitch the job in this type of inmail, just a couple of bullet points of what you are looking for.

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