Recruiter InMail and Other Communication Strategies that WorkGetting Personal with LinkedIn InMail

Today I read an article by Catherine Byers Breet, a self-proclaimed “recovering recruiter,” on “How to contact a recruiter on LinkedIn.” As you can imagine, recruiters get bombarded by InMails and connection requests every day, and it truly takes something to grab their attention. The same goes for other decision makers. But don’t let this stop you. Getting the right person to open your InMail might not be as hard as you think.

The question is, how can you write an InMail to a recruiter or other decision maker that they will actually read?

First Things First

You need the capability to send InMail in order to send an InMail – which means you probably need to invest in a premium subscription. Or, you might be able to send an attention-getting connection request and communicate via regular messaging after that, but you’ll have a more difficult time without InMail.

Get Personal

After handling the logistics, it’s a simple trick to inspire people to open messages: Write something personal!

Yep. That’s it. All you need to do to increase the open rate on your InMails is to establish a personal connection. If you don’t, you can be sure that approximately half of your intended recipients will not read what you’ve written.

Nevertheless, you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother to take a few minutes to customize a message when seeking to get what they want. The response to their generalized outreach? Radio silence.

The Bystander Principle at Work

It’s not just on LinkedIn where people are getting lazy about their communications. Take this situation I encountered recently:

“I sent out my blog to everyone in my network and asked them to comment, and not a single person did it!” lamented a new blogger friend of mine.

What do you think went wrong here?

Perhaps her friends read her blog and were afraid to tell her they didn’t like it. Sure, that’s plausible. Perhaps she has low quality connections who don’t support her enough to do what she asks. Kinda doubtful. What’s more likely, I think, is that she did not personalize her invitations sufficiently.

When I first started blogging, I went to my closest and most thoughtful friends and family, and specifically, individually asked them to read and comment on my articles. They all helped me out, and many of them still comment on my articles to this day. Thousands of others read the articles and don’t say or do anything.

(Hmmmm…. Maybe I should be asking more people in my network for their feedback on specific articles!)

The fact is, when people get what looks like a general email with a request, they often don’t do what they’re asked. They’re so busy! And anyway, someone else will do it if they don’t, right?


You might have heard of the “bystander effect,” a phenomenon where a crowd of people will stand by and not help someone in need; people don’t feel important or needed when they are the recipient of a generic request. But if someone points and says “You – I need you to call 911!”, the person will almost always help.

I kept this phenomenon in mind on my birthday this year, when instead of creating a Facebook event, I wrote individual messages to people I wanted to invite. This was a riskier strategy than sending out a generic invitation, and I was more vulnerable. The result? My friends felt wanted and actually scheduled their Father’s Day plans around my birthday party. It worked!

Getting Personal with LinkedIn InMail

When you’re not reaching out to friends who have an automatic personal connection with you, you need to establish one. Breaking through that barrier might be as simple as mentioning a mutual connection (someone you really know). Or you could refer to an article written by the person you want to connect with, or that mentions the person. All these points of connection can be found with simple LinkedIn searches.

If your LinkedIn investigations come up blank, try googling the person and their company. Look at their blog if they have one, or their company website. You’re likely to find some interesting information that you can use as a conversation starter. Ms. Byers Breet discovered a mutual interest in SCUBA diving with her intended connection and was able to get creative with that, going so far as to mention seahorses in her subject line! She got a response within 10 minutes.

If you’re not so fortunate as to discover an eclectic mutual interest, you can always try the direct approach. Byers Breet suggests: “I’m a healthcare data analyst. Do you ever need folks like me?”

Another pointer: The shorter the better. Start with your main point and don’t go much beyond that. You’ll need to catch their attention in the first 255 characters, which is what will appear in the notification about your message.

I highly recommend Byers Breet’s article for sample emails to recruiters that include humor and sizzle. Model after those, whether you’re writing to a recruiter or someone else!

Do you see anywhere in your life where you’re sending out a general request when a personalized one would work better? Please share – and if you try something new, please report the results!

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