Recruiting on LinkedIn: Expert Tips & Tricks

Ah, LinkedIn. With a membership of over 470 million business professionals, it’s a goldmine for recruiters... but it’s also a crowded marketplace.

Odds are high that when you message a hard-to-reach candidate through InMail, you are competing with other recruiters for time and attention. It’s therefore extremely important to be thoughtful and informed in your approach.

There is a lot of conflicting information out there about how to best use LinkedIn as an employer:

  • Should you use InMail?
  • Should you pay for a LinkedIn Premium account?
  • How much personalization is too much?

We checked in with Ashley Ryall, Founder and Social Selling Strategist for UntapSocial, who has extensive experience with successfully recruiting via LinkedIn. Here are her tips and tricks for getting the most out of this popular channel.

Do Your Research Before Reaching Out

Ryall’s first and biggest piece of advice is to really dig in and do your research about a candidate before ever reaching out to them. Her explanation?

“When a candidate hears from you, they want to know that you’ve taken the time to understand their background, interests, career trajectory and that you’re reaching out with a purpose."

She recommends combing through the candidate’s profile line by line. In particular, she recommends that, beyond looking through experience and job history, you look at a candidate’s:

  • Personal website and any other online profiles (Twitter, github, etc.). Here, candidates may explain more about themselves and their interests than they do within the more “professional” confines of LinkedIn.

  • Publications or projects. You can tell a lot about what a candidate is passionate about and what other skills they have by looking at their extracurricular activities. Plus, if a candidate has gone to the trouble of posting publications or projects, you know he or she’s a go-getter!

  • Non-business interests and hobbies. These help paint a picture of who the candidate is as a person and whether they will be a good culture fit

Once you’ve completed your research, it’s time to get strategic about how you’ll reach out.

Craft a Compelling Subject Line

In Ryall’s opinion, the single biggest factor that determines whether the candidate will read your message or not is the subject line — and the data backs her up. It turns out that if an email subject line isn’t compelling or personalized enough, it will be ignored by the recipient three out of four times. How can you make your message stand out?

“Make it short, sweet and tailored to the candidate. It’s not about you at this point,” she advises. “Don’t even mention that you have an awesome job opportunity.”

Instead, she recommends mentioning a specific piece of information about them. For example, if you see that a candidate recently spoke at a conference, you might use a subject line such as, “Your recent talk about content marketing predictions.”

The first word in this subject line is particularly important. Ryall has found time and again that using “You” and “Your” in the subject line leads to a much higher open rate.

Create an Effective First Message

The purpose of your first outreach is simply to develop rapport with the candidate. To accomplish this, Ryall has three pieces of advice about crafting your first message:

1. Keep The Content Relevant and Engaging

The same criteria for the subject line applies to the message itself — short, sweet, and not about you. “Never lead with your pitch, who you are or even what your company does,” Ryall says. Instead, say, “Hey, I saw you’re very active on Twitter and just saw your tweet about the event you went to. What did you think of it? Is that something you recommend I be a part of?”

2. Personalize The Message

If your message isn’t personalized and candidate-focused, more often than not your message will end up deleted or simply unopened. So while it’s okay to use a template as a guideline, be sure to customize it with details about the candidate. While this approach takes a little more effort, the results will show in the open rates.

3. Have a Call to Action

Every marketer knows the value of a call-to-action, but this best practice applies to recruiting, too. To that end, Ryall recommends that you end every email or message to a candidate with a call to action. Here are two great calls to action to try:

  1. “I’d love to take you out to coffee and learn more about your experience in this area,” or;

  2. “Here’s what I’d like to offer you, do you have time to connect next week about this?”

“Make it completely specific,” Ryall recommends. “Don’t ever end it with ‘thanks for your time’ or ‘let me know.’”

Your Profile Matters, Too

Remember: It’s a two-way street. Most candidates will take the time to check out your profile on LinkedIn before ever replying to you.

What are they looking for?

“They’re looking to see if you’re someone they want to work with,” explains Ryall. “They want to know your approach, your personality style and your process.” She recommends displaying this information in the Summary section of your profile, where it can be easily found. “The Summary is the most critical part of your profile,” she adds.

Also in your summary, “Explain what type of candidates you help and the roles you are looking to fill,” says Ryall. Rather than saying “I place IT professionals in the Boston area”, be even more specific: “I place desktop support technicians at biotech companies in the Boston area.”

Unlike a candidate's profile, your profile should not read like a resume of boastful accomplishments. “Candidates can actually be turned off by statistics like how many times you’ve hit your quota, because that tells them you’re an aggressive recruiter,” Ryall explains. Instead, include a compelling candidate testimonial or two, and put it in your Summary.

“You should also ask candidates you’ve worked with to write recommendations for you,” she adds. “If a recruiter has a lot of LinkedIn recommendations, that helps a candidate get an understanding of how they can help them.”

Leverage LinkedIn’s Free (And Powerful) Recruiting Tools

While LinkedIn does offer premium recruiting tools, they can be expensive. Even with the new interface that LinkedIn launched in February, there are many ways businesses can still leverage LinkedIn’s free features for hiring purposes.

The first feature is LinkedIn’s search tool. While the Advanced Search option is now behind a paywall, they kept several filters and you can still use the Boolean search option. This means that as a recruiter, you can filter candidates by the level of connection, general location, company name, industry, profile language(s), education, and a few more criteria.

Here are the filters you can use to refine your search:

  • 1st, 2nd, and 3+ connections
  • Locations
  • Current companies
  • Past companies 
  • Industries
  • Profile language
  • Nonprofit interests
  • Schools

For a small business, often these filters are more than enough to identify highly qualified candidates. But here’s an extra little trick.

Under each person’s name is another goldmine: "Shared Connections." And once you click into their profile, you'll have access to "People Also Viewed" on the right-hand column. 

These are often people who are in the same role or who have a similar career progression. “With all of these features, small businesses have a lot to work with!” says Ryall. 

Use LinkedIn, But Use It Wisely

LinkedIn can be a powerful, effective recruiting tool, but only when you use it right. It often helps to put yourself in the candidate’s shoes for a moment to understand what type of outreach would best resonate with them. But above all, make it personal. The extra effort will show itself in higher open rates, close rates and an overall great experience on LinkedIn.

One last tip from Ashley:

LinkedIn’s proprietary messaging app, InMail, is often a crowded place where your message can get easily lost, even if it’s carefully crafted. Plus, many people don’t check theirs frequently… or ever! Highly skilled candidates in particular are bombarded with LinkedIn messages, so to keep candidate engagement high, you may want to consider moving the conversation over to a less crowded platform.

First, connect with the candidate on LinkedIn following the steps we’ve outlined above. Once they’ve accepted your LinkedIn invitation, you will have access to their email so that you can continue communications through their regular inbox; a far less noisy and more personal environment.

Looking to expand your qualified candidate pool beyond LinkedIn?