It used to be that the response rate from candidates on LinkedIn was 60 to 70 percent. Now it’s below 10 percent! What happened?

Well, for one thing, it doesn’t help that we’re all fishing in the same pond. According to many reports, 94 percent of recruiters are on LinkedIn, but I would wager the number is more like 99 percent.

What Isn’t Working?

What does it mean that we’re all beholden to this same oversaturated source? All too often, we try to compete by carpet-bombing the applicant pool. Day in and day out, we badger candidates with InMails saying, “Hey, I’ve got a great opportunity for you.” Is it any surprise that people don’t respond?

Don’t get me wrong, LinkedIn can work. It can be a helpful tool. But there are other tools as well. It’s only one option—and most of us are not even using it right.

Why do we waste so much time on it? After all, we know that much of the information people post on their page profiles is highly unreliable. What you see there may not be a flat-out lie, but it is almost certainly, um, embellished.

Bottom line: you don’t know who you’re recruiting until you actually talk to them.

All Linked Out

Think about how LinkedIn operates. It’s all a keyword search. As a recruiter, you type in what you’re looking for, and if the word is not in somebody’s job title or in the body text of their profile, there’s a high probability the candidate is not even going to show up. We miss out on some of the best talent this way.

And what about the candidates who do show up on the search results? Do we even know how or why LinkedIn is ranking them in the way it does? We do our keyword search and LinkedIn’s algorithm serves up a list of candidates according to relevancy. This sounds great on the surface. But how do we know their methods are trustworthy and unbiased? Could it be that the best candidates are being buried on the third or fourth page of results, never to be seen again?

We’re not doing ourselves any favors as recruiters by using LinkedIn this way. Even worse, we tend to spam InMail. We reach out to candidates without any thought to how we’re coming across. Our words are careless and impersonal.

Let me show you what I mean. Most recruiters use the same basic pitch: “Hey, I’ve got a great opportunity for you. Saw your LinkedIn profile. This would be perfect for you.” Chances are, they know next-to-nothing about the candidates they’re reaching out to. They’re just using LinkedIn as a glorified database. They haven’t spent any time to learn about the person by truly reviewing their profile.

It happened to me just a few weeks ago. I had a recruiter reach out about a recruiting job. When you look at my LinkedIn profile, it shows that I own a recruiting firm, that I speak on the subject, and so on. I asked her, “Hey, what was it about my profile that attracted you?” Her answer made it clear she hadn’t even looked, and I told her so. That was the end of our conversation, unsurprisingly. But her behavior is indicative of how way too many recruiters use LinkedIn.

When will we learn that spam mailing doesn’t work and that candidates don’t like it?

I know because they tell me. I have reams of data on it. There are even LinkedIn user groups where they bash recruiters for sending them solicitations to positions they are not even remotely qualified for!

I talk to candidates about how they’re approached by recruiters, and across the board it’s the same feedback: they hate it. They think it’s probably an automated bot doing the InMailing, not even a human being. I’m surprised they don’t assume we’re also trying to impersonate a Nigerian prince and asking them to wire us money!

In all seriousness, we have to stop blasting people this way.

Recruiters: enough with the spam. Enough with the “InMail and pray.” By taking the time to research your candidates and personalize your correspondence with them, you’ll get more responses and, more importantly, find better fits for the roles.


This article was adapted from the book Recruiting Sucks… But It Doesn’t Have To.