Worst InMail Mistakes on LinkedIn and How to Fix Them

August 12, 2013

Whether you have a LinkedIn Recruiter account or an individual account, InMail messages are an important part of your sourcing and communication strategy with potential candidates. They’re a quick and easy way to immediately contact potential candidates. Sometimes a little too quick and easy.

If you’re not putting in the right amount of effort and using LinkedIn in a targeted, specific way, you’re not only impacting your own effectiveness and personal/employer brand, you’re also impacting the overall perception of recruiters on LinkedIn and the overall experience. We certainly don’t want that!

Let’s take a peek at a recent InMail message I received from a fellow recruiter.

inmail sample

Wow. Does this message look familiar to you? I hope not!

Let’s break down what’s wrong with this InMail message and what this recruiter should have done differently…

1. The InMail Strategy / Intended Target:

The WRONG Way – I’m a longtime-recruiter-turned-recruiting-trainer  and this InMail is sharing a position in the structural engineering world. Needless to say I know nothing about this area -- I’ve felt a few earthquakes since moving to San Diego but that’s the extent of my expertise. I don’t have a PhD and I live just about as far from Boston as you can get without ending up in the Pacific Ocean. This recruiter clearly found some keyword somewhere on my profile that triggered their blast email. This is the good ole “Spray and Pray“ method of blasting a hundred “maybe” candidates and hoping someone responds… Certainly not a best practice, but unfortunately a common occurrence on LinkedIn. You’re not a lazy recruiter, so don’t put forth that perception to potential candidates!

The RIGHT Way – In my experience, it’s MUCH more effective to do a little research to fully understand the role, the team/company culture, the requirements and then identify 10-15 perfect candidates, reaching out one-by-one with a specific, targeted message uniquely crafted to each recipient. You’ll have better quality submittals, a much higher response rate and you won’t alienate dozens of InMail recipients who just got spammed with an impersonal and irrelevant job blast.

The Subject Line:


The WRONG Way – This subject line of the InMail is just a job title. As a potential candidate, there is nothing in that line that’s interesting to me or compelling me to click on the message to open it. There’s no indication that this person knows anything about me, my career goals or is reaching out to me specifically. (The fact that the job has ZERO overlap with my actual career path and is located in the opposite corner of the country is just adding insult to injury.)

The RIGHT Way – Always put a personal touch in the subject line that indicates that you’re reaching out to that person specifically and not sending some bulk message to dozens or hundreds of people just because you can. Include their name, their company name, their industry, something specific to that person. It’s a great way to get their attention and show that you actually looked at their profile and crafted a message unique to them.

The Greeting:

The WRONG Way – The only thing worse than “Dear Trusted Contact”, “Dear Sir / Madam”, “Dear First Level Connection” or “Dear Tracy” (when my name is Stacy) is NO greeting at all! Really? How impersonal can you get? You might as well just include a line at the top that says “This is a bulk message that went out to a bazillion people at once.” It’s pretty crystal clear to your reader that that’s the case. Oops!

The RIGHT Way – Always, always, always address your message to the person directly. Use their name. Spell it correctly. Don’t mess up your chance to make a positive first impression. Those go far, ya know! And a bad first impression does too.

The Intro:

The WRONG Way – I really can’t think of a worse way to start off a cold-call message than with the words “I need…” Clearly, it’s all about this recruiter’s needs and they’re not hiding that fact one bit. And it’s a surefire way to turn off your reader, right off the bat.

The RIGHT Way – Always kick off a cold-call message by clearly referencing something specific about that person’s background or experience that impressed you and caused you to reach out. Maybe you reference a person that you both know in common or how you found out about them. Do it early in the message before you have a chance to lose them. There’s a reason you chose to contact this particular person over the 238M other members on LinkedIn, right? Articulate what it was that made them so appealing and acknowledge some of their accomplishments. They’ll appreciate you for taking time to read their profile and highlight their strengths, which they’re undoubtedly proud of and likely happy to talk about!

The Message Body:

The Wrong Way – There’s no reason to paste an entire job description into an InMail message. They’re long, dry and laborious to read. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that they ENJOY reading job descriptions so why subject your target to one unnecessarily? Not the best sales approach, in my opinion. Link out to the job posting if you must but don’t paste the whole long thing in there, please!

The RIGHT Way - Keep it short and sweet. Keep it conversational. Put yourself in THEIR shoes and think “what’s in it for them?” “Why should they respond to my message?” Make it about THEM and you’ll get much further. And rather than going for the kill - “Are you interested in my job?” – just get the ball rolling and start a conversation. (That’s what REAL social recruiting is! Two-way conversations and relationship-building.) Maybe let them know that you’d love to chat with them about a career at your company, but keep it casual and open-ended. Maybe let them know that you’re really impressed with their background and would like to chat sometime to learn more. Maybe you just let them know that you’d love to network a bit since they’re clearly an expert who’s well connected in their space. Hey, a little mystery about what you have to share might not be a bad thing! Ease into the conversation rather than spewing job specs first thing. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger at a networking event and do that, would you? If you wouldn’t do it in real life, don’t do it on LinkedIn.

6. The Closing:

The WRONG Way – Wow. This one just cuts off mid-sentence (without a period even!) and jumps to the email signature. Not the best “close” if you’re in the selling business, is it? (And let’s face it… recruiters have to be good salespeople to be effective!)

The RIGHT Way – Thank them for their time. (Hey, they read all the way to the bottom, which doesn’t always happen, does it?) Politely reiterate your interest in chatting soon and give them a few ways to reach you. Again, conversational is best, in my experience. Be friendly. Be interested. Be social.

Closing Thoughts:

The main thing to remember about LinkedIn InMails is that just because you CAN message a lot of people at once doesn’t mean you SHOULD. You can use templates (I do it all the time!), but if you don’t customize that message to be specific and uniquely targeted for that specific candidate, then it’s likely just spam. Glen Cathey shared the following quote in his recent sourcing webinar that sums up this targeted InMail sourcing strategy perfectly. Try it out and you’ll see a much higher quality candidate pool and response rate!


What’s YOUR Favorite InMail Strategy?

Jump in the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #killerInMails and let us know what works for you!

For more practical advice on how to succeed in engaging passive candidates, even if you don't have a well-known brand, listen to Lou Adler's expert advice here.

Stacy Donovan Zapar is a fifteen-year recruiting veteran, CEO and Founder of Tenfold Social Training, and the Most Connected Woman on LinkedIn, where she has 36,000+ first-level connections and is the #8 most connected person worldwide.

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