Research Driven Recruitment

Do InMails work?

What are InMails?
When I joined Oxford Knight as an inexperienced, untrained graduate it was made clear that I would need to exploit every possible angle in order to establish myself within the competitive world of recruiting. One of my earliest tasks in this job was to join LinkedIn. Launched almost 10 years ago, LinkedIn is a 21st Century professional network open to anybody who wants to sign up. Many of the 175 million registered users across the world now use LinkedIn, and in particular its InMail feature, as a crucial tool for recruitment.

The InMail is designed specifically for professional communication. LinkedIn claim that it is the most credible way to reach out to someone, as it enables you to “make the right impression, in front of the right people, at the right time”. In theory this is the perfect online vehicle for proactive, targeted recruitment – you find the ideal profile, send the perfect pitch and the candidate is yours.  However reality does not necessarily match the concept. So how useful is the LinkedIn InMail for recruiters?

Do we like receiving them?
A poll taken in January 2011, which received almost 14,000 responses, asked whether unsolicited approaches from recruiters bothered us. Encouragingly only 2% were annoyed, and 47% didn’t mind at all. The remaining 51% also didn’t mind providing the role was relevant. These results seem to suggest that people are generally susceptible to approaches regarding new opportunities, especially if you present them with the ideal next step in their career progression. Surely then, the InMail provides recruiters with the perfect tool?

A quick internet search will reveal many examples of unappreciated InMails sent by recruiters – some even goes as far as deconstructing the message to highlight the recruiter’s errors. In short it appears that people don’t like receiving InMails that are irrelevant, confusing, waffling or all of the above. Yet despite these negative examples, I have come across plenty of positive examples where InMails have been useful for recruiters; and this is what I shall concentrate on.

Long-term recruiting 
Sending an InMail may not provide an immediate and definite response in the way that a conversation can, but there can be a longer-term use for recruiters. As LinkedIn guarantees delivery you can be sure that your prospective candidate will receive the message at the very least. In general people receive far fewer messages on LinkedIn than through their personal email address, and are therefore more likely to give your InMail more time and attention than the average email. Furthermore they have joined LinkedIn voluntarily, probably in order to present and promote their professional profile, so a personalised message specifically directed to them is more likely to be of interest. Therefore when they are looking for a quick distraction at work, browsing the internet on a Sunday afternoon, or even checking their mobiles just before going to bed, you can have an informative, relevant and interesting job offer sat in their LinkedIn inbox ready to be considered.

If a message is being read at a time which is controlled by the receiver they are going to be more focused on its contents and receptive to the suggestions included. Rather than asking them to discuss a career move whilst sat in the office of their current employer, or interrupting an evening meal with a speculative call, you are providing them with an intriguing outline offer of career progression and a legitimate method of response which they can consider at a time and place of their choosing. Providing that you have sent a well-written offer of a relevant position they can get in touch and you have achieved your goal. This may be later on in the day on which it is sent, the following day or even a week later – but at least the contact has been established. A direct headhunt call may well have produced the same response only minutes after you had identified that person as an appropriate target, but it may also have been met with an abrupt rejection preventing you from ever establishing the relationship.

From passive to active
Furthermore people who do not consider themselves as being active in the job market (which is the majority) may have a change of heart when they have more time to consider the details of your job offer and compare them to their current situation. Over the phone, most people will tell you they are happy where they are and not interested in hearing about other jobs. Without the pressure of an immediate response they will think about their situation in more detail and realise you have presented them with a great opportunity. Even if the offer is not suitable for them at that point, it seems that people are more likely to reject it politely in an InMail response which also contains extra information such as the type of job that would be of interest, a time in the future when they would be looking for a new challenge, or a direct telephone number for your file.

Speaking to consultants here at Oxford Knight it seems that InMails have brought in good candidates who could not be reached by other means. People who have no direct phone line at work; who do not check personal emails regularly; who live in a foreign country or who are simply too busy for a quick conversation have eventually responded to an InMail. Even in my relatively short time as recruiter I have had success through this channel.

Are they worth it?
So do InMails actually work? Yes. They provide a direct and personal route for recruiters to present job opportunities to specific candidates. The message cannot be blocked by filters, or cut short by a bad telephone signal. It can be detailed and personalised. It is private and can be read at any time suited to the recipient. It can demonstrate the quality of your industry knowledge and set your company above all other approaches that the person has had from other recruiters. It can turn passive candidates into active job seekers. Ultimately, it can put you in contact with a good candidate who is already interested in a certain job offer before you’ve had your first conversation.

However, InMails are not perfect and cannot be used in isolation. Your InMail may be delivered but never read. The contents may be inaccurate or irrelevant. You cannot gauge the recipient’s response and alter your pitch to suit their needs. It may even be read by a person who realises that you have presented them with their perfect job opportunity but who never gets round to replying, and there is no way of you knowing this. Any of these potential pitfalls may prevent that person from becoming one of your candidates.

It seems that the most important thing to remember with InMails is that they should convey clear and relevant messages. If you have done this, you have given yourself a good opportunity of adding a contact to your network. With further communication, through other means, you will hopefully place that contact in a new job. Not every InMail will lead to a contact, and not every contact to a placement. This is why phone calls, emails, meetings and referrals are equally important tools to a successful recruiter.

Oxford Knight is a technical recruitment agency. None of our consultants have written a line of code... yet. We apologise if this article doesn’t keep some purist happy, but we’re trying to build a new generation of technical recruitment agencies…. We listen, participate, and deliver.