“The people you want to reach the most are the ones who, by default, delete emails” - Seth Godin
How many messages do you think top candidates get from recruiters every day?
It’s a lot.
Social networks like LinkedIn have democratized recruiting, and suddenly everyone is accessible. Any recruiter can bulk buy LinkedIn In-Mails and send messages to anyone they want.
This makes it hard to avoid reducing candidate outreach to a numbers game. Some recruiters have developed the mindset that if they send enough messages, they’ll get results.
LinkedIn is essentially encouraging this mentality with the metrics that it highlights:
The LinkedIn sales department will tell you that you’re hitting it out the park if you get a 25% In-Mail acceptance rate.
Hold on for a second.
That’s a 75% failure rate. If you were unsuccessful ¾ of the time in any other business function would your boss be happy?
There’s one other important detail here too:
25% of candidates might be opening your messages, but the actual response rate the important bit is far lower.
The best candidates are literally swamped.
Top developers get hundreds of messages every week. Most are just the same, recycled template, and as a result, most great candidates have become completely de-sensitivized to recruiters.
Ironically, sometimes these messages are so totally untargeted that recruiters end up sending them to other recruiters!
To stand out to these candidates, we need to be different.
We need to use more advanced messaging techniques, and take the time to craft templates that at least seem personalised.
What are the tactics you need to start using to get candidates to stop ignoring your messages?
When you sit down at your desk every morning and sift through your emails and LinkedIn messages, how do you decide which ones to open and which ones to delete?
The subject line.
The words you use here can have an enormous effect on open rates. Up to 35% of recipients will only open your message if the subject line resonates with them.
If you’re sending an unsolicited, cold message, the subject line is even more important. You need to make the most of it, and grab the candidate’s attention.
Here are some tactics to help you write subject lines that get results:
This is the gold standard for unsolicited messages.
Use LinkedIn’s ‘How You’re Connected’ feature to see if you have any shared connections with a candidate.
If you do, try mentioning your mutual acquaintance in the subject line to get the candidate to sit up and take notice.
Ask your shared connection for a direct introduction to the candidate. This is an even more effective tactic. See how to find shared connections below:
If you have met the candidate before make sure you mention it!
Don’t assume that they’ll will remember you from your name alone. Adding a quick nudge to the subject line reminding them who you are can make all the difference.
Make sure you’re very specific with your reminder. The best format for this is something along the lines of:
“met you at”
Including personal information in your subject line proves that you’re not sending a generic message!
Ideally you should try and mention the recipient’s first name, their company or a particular project they were involved in.
Check their LinkedIn profile to see if they’ve published any recent posts and do a quick Google search to see if their company has any big recent news.
Doing a tiny amount of research here can make a huge difference to your open rates, even adding a first name to the subject increases open rates by 26%.
Brevity is one of the keys to a successful LinkedIn message, you need to keep it short and sweet!
There are a few ways you can make sure you don't get to end up writing each candidate an essay:
It’s unnecessary to waste words with a personal introduction.
Your name will appear in the header of the message, so the candidate can see exactly who you are. Candidates can also click on your LinkedIn profile to see more information on you if they want. There’s no need to stick to the conventional format “Hi, I’m….”.
Instead, use the first sentence to grab their attention.
Browse their LinkedIn profile to see if they have published any posts and check their updates for any recent personal achievements.
Referencing these at the start of your message is far more effective than a standard introduction.
I imagine it might have felt nice the first time that a passive candidate was complimented on their LinkedIn profile by a recruiter.
Now everyone does it. It is part of most generic recruiter templates, and it can come across as insincere.
Unless you’re going to be specific with your flattery and reference particular things that a candidate has done I would recommend leaving it out altogether.
The average reader spends between 15 and 20 seconds scanning your message. If you don’t get to the point quickly, you’re going to lose them..
How much can recipients digest in that time? Well, the average English reader takes about 20 seconds to scan 50 words.
50 words isn’t very many!
This is why it’s essential you tackle the important stuff right at the start of your message. This gives you the best chance to keep the candidate’s attention
Dive straight in and tell the recipient exactly why you’re getting in touch, and give them a brief overview of your opportunity to get the best result.
This might sound obvious, but only message candidates who are suitable for the role you’re trying to fill.
LinkedIn makes it so easy to find candidates that it’s pretty tempted to go for broke with your messages and cast a pretty wide net.
Recruiters can get better results though if they focus on a smaller group of individuals, as opposed to playing a numbers game.
Hiring for a specific skill?
Make sure that anyone you message has that particular skill. It sounds obvious, but if you stick to this policy you’ll create a relationship with candidates.
They may not be interested, but at least they know you send them relevant opportunities and they’ll be more likely to open your messages.
You also have the added bonus that if you limit the number of messages you send, you will have more time to make the content of each message personalised and engaging.
Try and engage candidates on social media before you message them. LinkedIn data suggests that if you do this, they’re 2x more likely to accept an In-Mail.
The way you sign off each message is crucial. You need to give candidates a clear next step.
You’re sending that message for a specific reason, usually to draw attention to a job or opportunity, so make sure the candidate knows that!
Possible next steps could involve:
Being vague won’t help you convince a great candidate to come in for an interview. According to research by psychologist Robert Sutton, people are more responsive and willing to help if they’ve been given clear directions.
How can you put this into action?
Be specific with your next step. If you’d like to arrange a call, provide a few times that work and ask the candidate to select one.
This reduces the mental energy that candidates need to expend answering your message, and makes it far more likely that they’ll respond.
Like every great salesperson, every great recruiter knows the power of the follow up. It’s often the key to messaging candidates on LinkedIn.
Despite this, the follow up often doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
There are 2 key reasons for this:
i No one wants to appear pushy
It’s easy to tell yourself if the person really wants your job, they will reply themselves. Fall into this mindset, and you may feel pushy following up.
ii No one likes getting rejected
If your attempts at following up are unsuccessful, it’s not uncommon to suffer feelings of rejection. Studies show that rejection affects the human brain in the same way as physical pain, understandably something recruiters would want to avoid!
There are a number of legitimate reasons why a candidate hasn’t replied to your message.
For starters, they’re busy. Replying to your message probably isn’t their top priority, particularly if they already have a job!
It’s also equally possible that they didn’t see your first message. Top candidates have a pretty full LinkedIn inbox, your message may well have gone unnoticed.
If your first message was completely cold and you have never had any interaction with the candidate, follow up once or twice. You really don’t have a relationship that gives you permission to do much more than that.
If you’ve already had some kind of interaction and that interaction was not a clear NO, then follow up as long as it takes to get a response.
Never stop till you get a response.
Here’s a great follow up timeline that you can borrow:
LinkedIn messages are a powerful recruitment tool. If they’re used thoughtfully, they can be enormously effective as a way to connect with candidates.
We’ve outlined the steps to creating LinkedIn messages that get results, but you might to learn more outbound sourcing techniques and tools. If that's the case, you should look at some of the guides in our Academy, or check out the Beamery Recruitment Marketing University below.
Ben Slater leads marketing globally at Beamery. He typically writes about the future of work and talent transformation.