Category Archives: Passive Candidates

How to Get a Higher LinkedIn InMail Response Rate

Would you like to know what you can do to increase your LinkedIn InMail response rate?

I have a couple of powerful ideas to share, but you might be disappointed by this post if you’re expecting a cookie-cutter article with the familiar advice everyone gives for increasing their messaging response rate – InMail or otherwise.

This isn’t a “Top 5 Tips to Improve your InMail Response” article with a “recipe for success” – if that’s what you’re looking for, don’t bother reading any further.

You won’t be getting any one-liners or script ideas from me.

If you’re looking to ponder a bit on the mysteries of why people who aren’t looking for a job might respond to a recruiter, then read on.

How Do People Feel About Being Approached by Recruiters on LinkedIn?

Some of you may recall a LinkedIn blog post back in January of 2011 that featured the results of a LinkedIn poll titled “Does a recruiter approaching you unsolicited on Linkedin bother you?” that received nearly 14,000 responses and over 1,500 comments.

47% of the respondents claimed that being approached by recruiters on LinkedIn doesn’t bother them at all.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that they will respond – just that they aren’t annoyed.

More interestingly, 48% claimed that they did not mind being approached unsolicited on LinkedIn, provided the role is relevant.



Again, not minding is not synonymous with earning a response.

I should point out that the poll only offered 4 options – 3 conditional “No’s” and only 1 conditional “Yes.”



I interpret the response of “No, [it doesn’t bother me] if the roles are relevant to me” as “Yes, it would bother me unless the roles are relevant to me.”

Now, it should not be surprising that the majority of those who responded would be bothered by recruiters reaching out to them unsolicited regarding opportunities that are irrelevant to them.

So it would seem that the obvious first step towards eliciting a response from a potential candidate starts with not annoying them. :)

So How Do You Know What’s Relevant to Someone?

If you’re any good, you’ve done your research on the person you’re sending an InMail to.

You should have a sense that that your opportunity could at the very least be a logical next step for them based on their career progression, and you should be able to explain such in your InMail by clearly calling out what you see in their work history that leads you to believe so.

That’s assuming of course that you have some idea of their career progression – which isn’t always easily accomplished.

Admit That You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

Many people do not have a fully filled out LinkedIn profile, nor does everyone have a decent “digital footprint” online anywhere to be found or pieced together.

If all you have is a title, a company and some basic information on someone, you’re making a pretty big assumption about someone if you think you know what they would consider to be a relevant opportunity.

Even if you have full resume-level detail on a person, you have to be aware that each person in your search results that you might send an InMail to can have a completely different idea of what they would consider to be a relevant opportunity to them, regardless of title and experience.

The reality is, no matter how much detail you have on someone, you really don’t know what they’d be interested in making a move for.

That’s the crux of the matter.

Instead of being wildly presumptuous and assuming you have an awesome/great/wonderful opportunity for every person you send an InMail to, why not simply recognize that fact in your messages – that until you to establish 2-way communication with someone, you really don’t know.

Sound crazy?

I really don’t care what it sounds like – I know it works.

Do you know why it works?

Walk a Mile in their LinkedIn InBox

Let’s say you aren’t looking to make a move from your current employer – you’re so not looking that it’s never even crossed your mind (if it had, you might slip into the “passive” category).

Let’s say you get a few InMails from recruiters every week.

What would make you respond to one of the InMails?

If you can answer that question, and then craft that approach into your InMails and any other messaging efforts for that matter, you will get a higher response rate.

That’s exactly what I did, long before LinkedIn was even a glimmer in Reid Hoffman’s eye.

Back in 1997 – about 3 to 4 months after I started my career in recruiting – I asked myself that exact question…if I wasn’t looking for a job, why would I bother to respond to any recruiter?

I’d say that at least 70% of the people I would call and send messages to back then were not actively looking to make a change from their current employer.

In order to be successful in a small agency environment, I had to find a way to get more people to respond to my messaging efforts – especially the people who typically would not respond to most recruiters.

I found that when I simply recognized that I needed to involve the people I was trying to reach in the process of deciding what the next step in their career looked like, instead of assuming that the positions I was recruiting for were great opportunities for them, I started to get a very high response rate.

You do know that when you send messages about “great opportunities” to people who aren’t actively looking for a job that it can come across as a little ridiculous, don’t you?

You think your opportunity is great because it’s your job to fill, and there might even be real reasons why it’s so “great,” but it’s ridiculous to assume that what you think it a great opportunity is what they would deem a great opportunity for them.

It’s actually sales/recruiting success 101– you need to identify the need before you can fill the need.

My Advice

I know some people are probably reading this post and wanting me to just give them “the answer.” I actually already have – it just might not be in the form you’re expecting. There is no script or combination of sentences you can copy and paste to get a higher response rate to your LinkedIn Inmails or any other messaging, for that matter.

If you want a list of ideas for InMail success – here are 6 tips to boost your InMail response rate– sound advice, to be sure.

However, I will share a few of my own quick tips that might counter common “best practices.”

  1. Shorter is not necessarily better. Many people assume that people who aren’t looking for a job won’t take the time to read through a longer InMail. Here we go with the assumptions again. I’ve found that longer messaging gets higher response rates. Do you have any ideas why longer messages might get a higher response than shorter messages?
  2. Unless you aren’t interested in potentially recruiting the person you are InMailing, asking for referrals in your first InMail can seem like a “drive by” attempt and that your interest in that specific person isn’t very genuine.
  3. Bulk messaging is fine for getting the word out that you’re hiring for a particular opportunity, but if you are looking to recruit specific individuals, do not send bulk InMails. Period.

I believe the real magic of getting a higher response rate, especially from passive and non job seekers, is to not assume you know what would be a relevant opportunity for someone based off of their LinkedIn profile or any mix of information you can piece together on someone you’re sending an InMail to.

Your opportunity might in fact be a great move for them, but until you connect with them and find out exactly what they would consider to be a “great opportunity,” don’t be presumptuous.

The value you provide as a recruiter isn’t the job you’re recruiting for – it’s making the right match.

And you can’t even begin to make the right match until you take the time to find out what each person’s right match is.

If there is any “answer” to getting an exceptionally high response rate to your InMails, it would be derived from the answer to the question of why someone who isn’t looking would bother to respond to a recruiter.

Why would you?

Are you a clueless recruiter?

You know what they say about first impressions?

Do you ever wonder what people think of you based on the emails, InMails, voice mails, LinkedIn group posts, and other messaging efforts you undertake to make an initial contact with potential candidates?

You should.

Do you think they feel that they can get a sense of your competence as a recruiter from your messages?

I do.

In fact, I know they think they can, and the scary part is that they might be right more often than not.

Unfortunately, when crafting messages, many sourcers and recruiters never take any time to think about exactly how their outreach efforts will be received and perceived.

Although unacceptable, to some extent this makes sense.

The people who would likely have the worst reaction to your messaging efforts are the ones that won’t take the time to let you know how poorly your efforts were received. So in the absence of any feedback, it’s all too easy to assume everything is okay. After all – if no one tells you your messaging stinks, how would you know?

Unknowingly poor messaging is no doubt perpetuated because the consequences are rarely felt, let alone seen.

Wouldn’t it be great to know how your messaging efforts were perceived by all of the people who’ve never responded to you?

I think I have found an interesting example. Continue reading

Is Your ATS a Black Hole or a Diamond Mine?

Most companies and staffing organizations, ranging from executive search sole proprietorships to staffing agencies to Fortune 500 companies, have internal databases filled with rich and actionable information on thousands to literally tens of millions of applicants, candidates, and professionals.

You would think that a private internal database of people that an organization has actively and passively, tactically and strategically collected over the years would be a prized posession and be viewed and leveraged as a significant resource and competitive advantage.

However, this post on Weddles details that an Online Sourcing Survey conducted by TalentDrive found that almost two-thirds (64%) of the employers represented by the survey’s participants did not know how many qualified candidates were in their own ATS databases.

Yes – you read that correctly.

Most companies don’t even know how many people are in their Applicant Tracking Systems.


While that is an especially disturbing statistic and a sad reality, I’m actually not that surprised.

Most Applicant Tracking Systems have horrible search interfaces and extremely limited information retrieval capability.

As such, like a black hole, prospective candidates go in, but they don’t come back out.

If you can’t easily search your internal database, how can you determine the total candidate population, let alone find the top talent hidden within?

Deposits and Withdrawals

Having an ATS/CRM/candidate database that is not highly searchable is like putting your money into an insolvent financial institution. You can deposit money/assets in – but you can’t easily or reliably make withdrawals.

The bottom line is that data has no value if you can’t retrieve it.

Anything designed to store something should have strong retrieval capability – once you put it in, you should expect to be able to get it back out.

Quickly and easily, no less.

If you can easily enter prospective candidates into your ATS but you cannot easily retrieve the right ones at the right time – you’re essentially sitting on a giant Hidden Talent Pool.

Illiquid Human Capital

Everyone agrees that people are an organization’s most valuable asset.

However, if you cannot quickly, easily, and precisely search for and retrieve highly qualified candidates from your private database, your ATS is essentially a source of illiquid (human) assets.

In other words, you cannot easily convert the human capital data stored in your system into hires/placements.

The Time Value of Resumes

Even after 15 years in recruiting, I am still shocked to hear HR pros, sourcers, recruiters, and talent acquisition leaders comment about how resumes get “stale” and lose their value after 6 months.

While the information on resumes certainly goes out of date over time, the resumes themselves do no lose their value.

In fact, I argue that resumes get more valuable over time.

This is because the active candidates you capture today become the passive and non job seekers in time – yes, those magical people that are supposedly so valuable and so difficult to find.

Right in your database.

With phone numbers and email addresses.

That person that responded to your job posting a year ago will not likely be actively looking today, will not have their resume posted online anywhere, and will not have updated their LinkedIn profile for quite some time – yet, you have their contact information, and it doesn’t take a rocket doctor to figure out what kind of opportunity they would be interested in.

Although you don’t know exactly what a person whose resume is a year or more old is doing now, most people follow a relatively predictable career trajectory.

I’ve personally dredged up resumes from an ATS that were over 4 years old and got them hired.

When I called one of these candidates, he asked me, “How did you know I was looking?” I replied, “I didn’t – your resume is 4 years old – I don’t even know if you’re doing the same kind of work.”

He was.

It also turned out he was beginning to think about making a change, but hadn’t even written his resume.

I had caught him at the perfect time, before anyone else could even imagine of finding him. The funny thing is that most people probably wouldn’t have even called him simply because his resume was “stale” and out of date.

This and many more similar examples I have prove the time value of resumes.

However, you can’t leverage the time value of resumes if you can’t quickly, easily, and precisely retrieve them!

Coal Into Diamonds

For each position sourced for and posted online, there are inevitably volumes of potential candidates that do not fit, as well as candidates that do not get interviewed and hired.

However, this does not mean that they are bad or unqualified people.

In fact, many of the people who respond to job postings are very good candidates – they’re just not very good at matching themselves.

Those under qualified candidates? While they may not meet the basic qualifications of the specific job the responded to, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t fully qualified for other jobs that are open now, or jobs that will open in the future.

In a year or two, they will have a year or two more experience and be a qualified candidate.  See the Time Value of Resumes above.

What about those over qualified candidates? While they may be “over qualified” for the position they applied to – they may in fact be qualified for other openings now and in the future.

What about those applicants that are a complete mismatch for the positions they applied to? They often match other currently open and future jobs.

How about the people who almost got the job? For every opening, there can only be one hire, so there is often a slew of strong runners-up that could be fantastic candidates for other opportunities.

Over the years, I’ve consistently found time and again that what appears to be coal can quickly turn into diamonds.

The Black Hole

Just like light heading into a black hole, applicants and candidates often go into applicant tracking systems – but they don’t come back out.

Presumably, there are 3 main ways a person can end up in a company’s ATS:

  1. They responded to a job posting
  2. Someone ran a search and found the candidate’s profile/resume on the Internet, on a resume database such as Monster, Dice, Careerbuilder, etc., or on LinkedIn and entered it into the database
  3. The person was a referral and entered into the system

In all three cases, someone – either a potential candidate or a sourcer/recruiter – has shown interest in a potential match at some point in time, and this should be worth something.

People applying to jobs should be able to expect a response of some kind, and recruiters should be able to easily find well qualified candidates they found and entered into the system in the past.

Looking to Build a Talent Community?

Everyone seems to want to build a “talent community” these days.

What I find funny is that many companies are already sitting on the makings of a talent community in their own ATS.

Anyone in your ATS got there either because they wanted to join your company (they responded to a job posting) or because you wanted them to join your company (you sourced them).

Can you think of a better population for a talent community?

If your ATS doesn’t have CRM functionality that enables you to stay in touch with the people who’ve expressed interest in your company and the people you’d like to potentially employ, it’s time for you to start thinking about what you can do about this, because you’re sitting on a diamond mine.

Sourcer/Recruiter Behavior

Can we blame sourcers and recruiters for NOT searching and leveraging their ATS/CRM if other sources they may have access to (such as LinkedIn and job board resume databases) are 10X more searchable?

If trying to find appropriately qualified candidates in an ATS is as difficult and painful as pulling teeth, we should not be surprised when sourcers and recruiters search the Internet for candidates first, and the ATS last (if at all!).

A company’s private candidate database should, if anything, be MORE searchable and EASIER to use than publicly available systems and databases.

As mentioned previously – people in your ATS have either shown specific interest in your company or were found elsewhere by a sourcer or recruiter and entered into the system.

Both types of people should receive “priority handling!”

Demand an ROI on Your ATS!

Many companies spend tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars on their Applicant Tracking/CRM systems, and they should expect demand a significant return on that money invested.

I say that the value of a database lies not in the information contained within, but in the ability of a user to extract out precisely and completely what the user needs.

If you can’t easily, quickly, and precisely retrieve talent out of your ATS – you didn’t get what you actually paid for.

If you’ve been a corporate recruiter at some point in your career – did you ever have a 3rd party search firm/agency submit candidates to you that you already had in your ATS?

Did you know that some companies will pay a fee or a premium (contract to hire) for candidates that 3rd party firms source and recruit that were in fact hiding in the company’s ATS?

Without going into why companies would actually pay another firm for candidates they had buried in their ATS – the $64,000 question is why didn’t the corporate sourcers/recruiters find the candidate themselves?

The answer is usually quite simple – because the company’s ATS isn’t very searchable.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to call it the “20-30% of the first year’s salary” question.


What You Can Do

To ensure that your private candidate database/ATS isn’t just one big fat black hole where candidates enter but they never come back out, here are a few things you can do:

Replace or upgrade your ATS/CRM

Yes, this will likely involve spending money.

However, if people really are the greatest and most valuable asset of your organization – investing in a system that allows you to effectively capitalize on this asset is well worth the cost, nearly at any price!

From a corporate perspective, moving to a system that makes it easy to find appropriately qualified candidates that you have already sourced or expressed interest in your company can significantly reduce your cost-per-hire as well as your reliance on 3rd party search firms.

From a search firm/agency perspective, investing in replacing or upgrading your candidate database/tracking system can help increase your productivity (and likely profitability) by enabling you to more quickly and effectively capitalize on candidates you have already sourced, interviewed and qualified rather than having to try and source “new” candidates from scratch for each job order/client request you receive.

Integrate a New Search Interface/Engine Into Your ATS

Typically less expensive than switching out your whole ATS/CRM – there are several 3rd party search applications available ranging from highly configurable text search (Lucene, dtSearch, etc.) to conceptual/artificial intelligence search/match applications (Autonomy, BurningGlass, Sovren, Pure Discovery, Actonomy, etc.) that you can integrate into your existing ATS/CRM to significantly boost its “searchability.”

Some of the aforementioned solutions are free (Lucene) and others are surprisingly affordable.

Train Your Sourcers and Recruiters (AND/OR Yourself)!

Sometimes an ATS/CRM is a black hole from which candidates never return simply because the sourcers and recruiters aren’t very proficient in how to effectively search information systems for talent identification (aka Talent Mining).

If you already have a highly searchable ATS or CRM, invest in training your associates with the latest search best practices, tactics, and strategies.

You don’t need a super-expensive “state of the art” search application to quickly find the right people.

In fact – all you need is a search interface that supports full Boolean logic.

In my first year as an agency recruiter, I averaged 8 hires per month only after 3 months of experience as a recruiter – and my sole source of candidates was an old CPAS ATS developed by VCG. No Monster, no Google, no Linkedin, no cold calls – just a plain old resume database with about 80,000 records and a search interface that supported full Boolean logic.

How’s that for ROI?

The Bottom Line

If your ATS/CRM is as easy to search as it is to put candidates in, you will be able to fill more of your company’s openings from talent you’ve already sourced and from people who have expressed an interest in joining your company.

Any opening you can fill with candidates already in your internal system saves you the time, effort, and cost of advertising and searching for “new” candidates.

Filling openings with candidates already in your ATS can afford you significant and measurable cost-per-hire and time-to-fill savings.

Additionally, having a highly searchable ATS/CRM can help you reduce your reliance on paid resources if you currently use them (such as Monster, a premium LinkedIn account, etc.).

Is it easier to search public systems such as LinkedIn or Monster to find appropriately qualified candidates than it is to search your private ATS/CRM?

It shouldn’t be!

Do You Have the Proper Perspective in Recruiting?

Perception and PerspectiveIt is all too easy for sourcers, recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers/teams to develop a skewed, distorted, and decidedly one-way view of the world. Perhaps spending 99% of the time on only one side of the recruiting process is to blame.

Regardless of the cause, it is absolutely critical to regularly take the time and think about, understand, and appreciate the recruiting life cycle from the candidate’s side – the job seeker, the passive candidate, the non-job seeker, and the elusive “A+ player.”

In this article I’m going to walk you through over 10 different scenarios in which I think recruiters and hiring teams can benefit greatly by taking the candidate’s perspective into careful consideration.

If you don’t take well to being challenged to think differently from time to time, or if you don’t like long blog posts, you may not want to read any further. This one clocks in at 3700+ words.

Consider yourself warned. :-)

Continue reading

The Passive Candidate Pipeline Problem


If you’re in HR or recruiting, you’ve undoubtedly been exposed to (and likely believe in) the concept that proactively building passive talent pipelines is critical to talent acquisition success. Some would say that pipelining passive candidates is one of the sacred cows of recruiting – you just don’t question it.

It’s my opinion that the belief in talent pipelines is driven heavily by the fact that it can be incredibly difficult to quickly find suitably qualified candidates once you actually have a hiring need if you don’t already have the right people identified and queued up.

As such, it seems only logical to begin to identify potential candidates prior to your actual need so that when you do need to hire, you have a number of people you can contact, engage, interview and make a final hiring decision from.

Sounds great in theory, doesn’t it?

I thoroughly enjoy sacred cow tipping, and I’m hard-wired to automatically question anything that seems to be generally accepted as truth. So if you’ll indulge me, in this post I am going to expose you to a critical flaw in the actual practice of passive candidate pipelining that no one seems to like to talk about. Continue reading

Passive Recruiting Doesn’t Exist!

Myth BustersWhen most people talk about “passive recruiting,” they’re referring to the practice of targeting and recruiting so-called “passive candidates” – people who are not actively looking to make a move from their current employer.

If you accept that notion – what would be the opposite?

Active recruiting?

Think about it for a moment. Neither phrase even makes sense grammatically. The “passive” in “passive recruiting” isn’t being used to describe the type of recruiting being performed – it’s being used to describe the type of candidates being recruited. 

In this article, I challenge the notion of “passive recruiting,” implore you to retire the phrase, and introduce the concepts of active and passive sourcing.   Continue reading

LinkedIn by the Numbers – Searching by Title and Clearance

LinkedIn_Why_Join_LinkedIn2 from www.linkedin.comEver wonder how many executives are on LinkedIn?

How about accountants, software engineers, “Big 4” employees, or people with TS/SCI clearances? 

Well I did. So I decided to run a number of searches for common titles in information technology, finance and accounting, recruiting and human resources, business development, social media, and administrative support and publish the results for the world to see.  I also searched for “Big 4” employees, people that mention specific security clearances, and executives of all types to see how many results would be returned, and I broke the results down by global/U.S. totals.


Unless otherwise noted, I searched specifically for current titles while using LinkedIn’s advanced search interface. When I created the searches below, I was not trying to be totally exhaustive – I chose to target a sample of some of the most common titles.  Continue reading