How not to write an InMail

I got really annoyed by a LinkedIn InMail I received earlier this week. An InMail! Even though my contact details are splattered all over the web. I would rather receive a tweet, be contacted through messenger or even a call on skype. No other messaging service seems as inconvenient as LinkedIn’s and about one in ten messages I receive there gets lost for reasons I can’t quite explain.

I was annoyed because it reminded me of how little training is offered to those starting their career in recruitment. The issues in our industry are often attributed to low barrier to entry – but what if we were to offer better training and development? I believe if we teach recruiters not to follow a template approved by their managers, but rather learn building relationships through well researched, personalised messaging, we might all see a positive change.

So here’s a short guide on how not to approach people based on the message I received.


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To begin I analysed the message step by step, not in an attempt to ridicule anyone but to point to a better way of doing it. Below is my take on the parts that didn’t quite work together with thoughts on how the message could be improved. Here we go…


Opportunities at …


What’s wrong with this?

“Opportunity” one of the most overused (and vague) words in a recruiter’s vocabulary. It has completely lost its meaning in this context, especially when so often it appears in messaging that isn’t in any way personalised. Instead of intriguing the reader, it implies that the writer hasn’t done any research to come up with something more specific.

What can you do instead?

Research what would make this role an opportunity for the recipient.
Does it involve travel, which they happen to enjoy?
Would it mean they’d work on bigger or more interesting projects?
Is it something new they haven’t tried yet?
“Opportunity to work abroad.” Is a whole different story and a case where the word can elicit a positive reaction in the reader.

Alternatively, avoid the word altogether. Did you know some people (and some employers) will automatically block emails that contain this word and mark them as spam? Well they do, and just because they can’t do so on LinkedIn doesn’t mean you’ve found a clever workaround.

Be honest with your recipient. You don’t even have to make the subject line about them. An alternative may be “We need your help with…” This may get better results simply because you help them imagine the impact they could have.

The best advice here really is to study how someone structures their profile on LinkedIn and other platforms. By mimicking their language patterns, you should be able to get their attention. Or at the very least, avoid having your message discussed in detail in some random blogger’s rant!

I hope you don’t mind receiving this InMail.


What’s wrong with this?

Whenever I read this in a message I think it looks a little like I’m being provoked… a recruiter who knows what they’re doing doesn’t have to “hope” that people “don’t mind” getting their messages. They do the work, research the recipient and then they expect them to get all excited when they read their message! I mean recruiters are really professional storytellers, why would you set the bar so low? And why would you think I’d like to work with people who do?

What can you do instead?

There’s really nothing to replace this sentence with. Just avoid it – especially since our brains are not built to process negation that well. I read this sentence, worse, I skim the InMail, all I can remember is that I mind…

I came across your profile and wanted to see you if you were open to hearing about potential opportunities at …?


What’s wrong with this?

Most recruiters will tell you a shorter message is always better. You’re wasting valuable space to repeat what you’ve already mentioned and add information that can be gathered from the very fact you’ve written this message.

What can you do instead?

Tell me something I don’t know, offer some additional insights into why you’re hiring or what the team looks like. And don’t ask the recipient if they’re open, just make sure that they are! If you don’t have the time to build a relationship first or, at the very least, exchange a few messages before you get to the point, just make sure your message is interesting and matches their profile. Remember: if it really is an opportunity, people will be open to hearing about it. So once again, this all goes back to doing some research and targeting the right people.

We are currently looking to hire a Tech recruiter to our Zurich/ London or Dublin team and a Technical sourcer to our Zurich/ London or Dublin team.


What’s wrong with this?

This one is wrong on so many levels… First of all, I’ve already figured out you’re hiring. This is the third time you’ve mentioned it and by now anyone that would be referred to as a “passive candidate” is probably just bored. I’m not even sure what the “Zurich/London or Dublin team” bit means.

Being vague doesn’t make it intriguing, I don’t feel compelled to reply and ask, I just feel confused. And then, to make things worse, you have to once again remind me you didn’t read my profile: you don’t even know which role I’d be best suited for.

What can you do instead?

Don’t repeat what you’ve already said, add some new information or try to (buzzword alert) engage your recipient. If you have two roles and can’t figure out which one would be best for them, why don’t you just ask them what they want? How about saying something like “we have both a sourcer and recruiter role available in our EMEA team, I see you’ve done both in the past and was curious which one you enjoyed more?”. Yes, it’s as simple as that. Sure, that could probably be phrased even better, but even this is already far better than the original. And when you ask people what they enjoy about work, it makes them feel like you care and this isn’t just a transaction you have to complete in order to collect your paycheck at the end of the month.

The job description you can find here for Tech Recruiter:
and for Technical Sourcer:


What’s wrong with this?

When you send your candidates links to job descriptions instead of giving them a short outline of what it is, it feels a little like you’re asking them to do your job for you. While you get paid for recruiting, they don’t get paid for being recruited. So this is just not ok in any way.

When your job descriptions are poor it really just means that you’re adding to the horrible experience of reading through an InMail that wasn’t great to begin with. Just to explain how the job descriptions added to the confusion:

  • The sourcing role is based in Dublin, the responsibilities are extremely vague (solve problems, produce solutions, communicate and partner with…) and doesn’t even mention sourcing!
  • The recruiter role is based in Zurich and the main responsibility is… sourcing! It also mentions following up with clients. I sure hope you mean internal clients but personally, I like to work for companies where it feels like we’re all playing for the same team, you know.

So the location at the very least is still a puzzle and I’m really curious why none of the roles mentions London… just not curious enough to reply and ask.

What can you do instead?

Give the candidate a short outline of what the role is about. Don’t reveal too much, you don’t want them to decide they’re not interested. You want to give them enough so they ask you a question… after all, getting a reply is the goal when you’re contacting people.

Both roles are permanent.


What’s wrong with this?

It’s not exactly wrong, but it seems quite random to mention this. And, again, it reminds me the recruiter hasn’t read my profile. I only stayed at one place for a year once. Yep, I’m the Hiring Manager’s worst nightmare really, I’ve jumped from one place to another fairly regularly. Good luck selling my profile to your internal client, I know how hard that can be. And when it turns out you can’t, you’ll only have yourself to blame for wasting your time with the approach in the first place. For me, nothing feels worse than rejecting a candidate after they’ve already invested their time in your process, for something you could have read in their profile before even sending out an InMail.

What can you do instead?

Avoid any unnecessary detail. If you get someone to reply once, they’re more likely to reply again. If they happen to ask if the role is permanent, then you give them that information. Otherwise, you could have gone with “both come with free lunch”. We all have to eat but not everyone (especially a job hoping millenial like myself ;)) will appreciate the illusion of job stability a permanent contract brings.

Can you let me know if this is something you would be interested in hearing more about?

Since I didn’t really appreciate the message, the simple answer is no. Sure, if I just happen to be looking for a job and desperate enough to go against my instincts, I will maybe check out the role and reply. But if I don’t want it, you’ll never hear back from me and I don’t even get the feeling you really expected me to.

If so, please contact my colleague … directly at …@….com and send her on a copy of your recent CV?


What is wrong with this?

Wait, what happened there? You just asked if I can let YOU know and now you’re asking me to contact some other random person I’ve never met? Also, there’s a huge difference between expressing interest and sharing my personal details, especially a CV. Not to mention, an innovative company (first line of the job ads) really shouldn’t have to see my CV when they already found my LinkedIn profile. That’s just so last century.

What can you do instead?

Offer your recipient a chance to reply. Don’t ask them to apply or contact anyone else. Why would they have to? If you don’t have the time to speak to them and own that relationship, why not just ask your colleague to send them a message instead?

Remember, you have to make it easy for a recipient to reply to you. And not LinkedIn easy, think more about convenience. How about “You can reach me by replying to this message or via email at …”? If you know they’re on Twitter or use messenger, offer to speak to them there (but only if you check your messages regularly). You’re the one paid to chat with the people you approach, be flexible with them and let them decide what’s best. An InMail gets lost easily and I keep losing them in my inbox anyway. I’m probably not the only one, so for the sake of the response rates LinkedIn so conveniently tracks for you, get them out of the platform as soon as possible!
Even though I didn’t like the message in it’s entirety, I wanted to mention the one detail I actually liked about it. You may have spotted I omitted that one when analysing the message:

My name is … and I am a recruiter for … EMEA.


Why did I like this part?

Very often when dealing with people through social media, we forget some of the simplest rules to follow. I know opinions will vary on this one, but personally I strongly believe in introducing yourself when writing messages to people you haven’t yet interacted with. If it feels a little strange, try imagining the opposite: someone approaching you at a networking event and starting a conversation without letting you who they are.
If you’re worried that you’re repeating what’s already there (LinkedIn will show your job title above your message), you can add some additional insight into what the job entails, e.g. finding candidates for technical roles or recruiting candidates into a specific location.

The bottom line is…

…the messages that get the most traction are those that feel authentic and you can’t really be authentic when your using a template someone else prepared for you. I’ve done this, just as many other sourcers before me, at the beginning of my career just to gain enough confidence to start writing my own approach messages. Not only did I see a big change in my response rates, it was easier to be consistent in my messaging (after the initial approach, I had to write my own messages anyway!) and I had way more fun at work.

If there’s anything to be taken from this, it’s a simple message: don’t be afraid to think for yourself. This is what you were hired to do, your employer as already shown that they trust you. So go out there and be awesome, in your own individual way! :)

Social Recruiting geek turned trainer @ Lightness, networking enthusiast & blogger. Love travel, sci-fi & all things employer branding! I travel between London and Poland a lot and so some of my social posts will be in Polish :)

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