LinkedIn InMails, Expanding Your Network, Social Networking, Writing a Job Search Email, Exploratory InterviewNeed help making the most of LinkedIn’s InMail Feature?

As one of LinkedIn’s Experts serving as a Moderator for the Job Seeker Premium Group, I offer this advice to executive and professional job seekers on how to optimize the use of LinkedIn’s InMail feature and increase the likelihood that your InMail will receive a response.

As a former executive recruiter, I used the InMail feature to reach out to candidates, and as a prolific networker, I often use the InMail feature when it makes sense to do so.

The use of InMails can help you reach out to people that you have had difficulty reaching otherwise. It is not the magic elixir of communication and should not be the first means of contact for most people, in my opinion.

(For that, read the 7 Quick Fixes to Accelerate your Job Search.) However, to help you optimize the use of your InMails, consider the following tips/steps:

  • Before you send an InMail, see if the person is active daily on LinkedIn. If the prospective contact has a sparsely populated profile, no status update activity over a two week period, and very few connections (i.e. under 40 or 50 connections), that person is probably not a prolific user of LinkedIn. If the person is not a daily user, the person will unlikely to see your InMail until they log into LinkedIn — and who knows when that will be. Send your InMails to active users of LinkedIn to increase your chances of it getting read, as those users probably have the LinkedIn-generates emails (InMails being one form of those) forwarded to their regular email account to increase the likelihood of the email being read. (One Great Tool to Expand & Enrich Your Network.)
  • When crafting your InMail content, use the same social norms that you would use in cold calling, in-person networking, emails, and many other forms of relationship development communication tools. Those same relationship etiquette rules apply to the use of InMails. Be polite–’Please’ and ‘thank you’ go a long way. Be specific—Don’t embark on your whole professional history in this initial email. Don’t be too forward too fast–but be direct. Keep it short and sweet. Show interest in the person you are speaking to/emailing by including why your request may be beneficial to them (if it truly will be).
  • Be sure to ask for appropriate-level information (about their experience, advice, or opinion) in a short, actionable request. For example, if the person you are InMailing is someone you never met before and have no mutual connections, asking that if they know of any open jobs to refer to you may be too forward for some recipients. Most people receiving this type of email will ignore it (I would, anyway) and you will not receive a response. Use flattery in a modest manner.
  • Think about how you would want to be approached as a general guide as to how to approach others. To drive this point home, would you ask someone to marry you upon meeting them for the first time? Would you want someone to ask to vouch for them in a professional setting, when you have not met them before? Again, use LinkedIn InMail as a relationship starter with new contacts (5 Secrets for Using Industry Groups in Job Search) and not as a transactional exchange or a deal closer.
  • Keep your request short and sweet. Less is more. Long manifesto requests rarely get read (Think about it, how motivated are you to read lengthy emails from people you do not know?). Ask a short, actionable question that makes it easy for the person you are asking to say yes and help you. I suggest asking for an exploratory conversation, commenting on a post they made, suggesting a 10-15 minute call, in a short note.
  • Optimize your profile, so when the recipient looks at your profile attached to your InMail, they are impressed with your background and your choices made to present yourself. When I am approached with an InMail request asking me for a favor or pro-bono assistance, if I look at the person’s profile and see that they are not the most professional in their LinkedIn presentation, it can make me wonder about their judgment and it can slow down my response. (Cleaning Up & Polishing Your Online Image.)
  • Before sending the InMail, see if you can find other contact information on the person and reach out to them using that other means (Email, Twitter, Facebook, etc…). By reaching out to the person using another medium, maybe a medium the person tends to use more, you are preserving your InMails for times when you really need it and increasing the chance of you getting a response—which is what this game really is all about.

Having access to InMails are very helpful, but given the limited about members receive and the limitations the format brings, it is important that they are used properly to bring about desired results. Simply having access is not the answer and LinkedIn Premium members are not guaranteed a response to InMails, simply because they have access to the use of them.

Use them selectively and wisely, ensuring you are positioned properly to attract the right people and improving their response.

Photo via