Let’s face it: There are a whole lot of people looking for jobs right now. With an estimated 168,000 people laid off in just the first four months of 2023, plus all the folks who would naturally be on the market no matter what (maybe you’ve been looking for a while, or are still employed but trying to get out), we’re seeing a super saturated market with recruiters and hiring teams overwhelmed by qualified applications.
As a job-seeker, it can all be disheartening and stressful on top of an already uncomfortable journey. As a recruiter, it can be overwhelming seeing thousands of resumes and messages and not physically being able to talk to everyone. So, how can you effectively stand out from the crowd and make a good impression on the recruiter once you’ve found a job you’re excited about?
Stop using the LinkedIn message template
If you’ve been applying to jobs on LinkedIn, you’ve probably seen that LinkedIn now offers a “Message” button so you can send a templated message to the associated recruiter. While it’s certainly easier to just fire off a bunch of pre-written messages, these templates are exactly the same and do nothing to catch attention or set yourself apart — instead, they add to a pile of hundreds of identical messages that recruiters are likely to just gloss over or tune out.
Even if your message does get a recruiter’s attention, it doesn’t do much to add texture to who you are as a candidate or earn you any goodwill. The template primarily pulls in your LinkedIn headline, which anyone could easily see by just looking at your profile or glean by reading your resume, and usually just highlights that you didn’t spend any extra time investing in this message. Instead of using the LinkedIn-provided template, customise your message. When your message is uniquely yours, it will stand out among the rest of those templated messages that are probably sitting in a recruiter’s inbox, and it will show that you spent some time and effort thinking about the best way to reach out.
Read the recruiter’s profile, and personalise your message accordingly
One of the nice things about the internet, and LinkedIn in particular, is the ability to look someone up and learn a fair amount about them. At one point, it was taboo to stalk people online before speaking, but today it’s basically assumed that you’ll do your homework and look someone up beforehand (which is also great news if you’re like me and love to internet stalk in general).
Once you find the recruiter you want to reach out to, spend a little time reading their LinkedIn profile and finding something you can speak honestly to. Maybe you went to school in a similar area, have connections or interests in common, or you just find something in their bio that you can bring up in your message. Any common thread you can highlight demonstrates that you spent 5-10 extra seconds trying to learn about them before reaching out — it doesn’t sound like much, but already puts you ahead of the rest of those template messages.
People also spend a fair amount of time polishing their profiles and choosing what to highlight, so by calling out part of their profile you may actually find something they’re excited to talk to you about. In my profile, I specifically mention that I’m a career changer, and the messages that catch my eye most tend to come from other career changers who explicitly identify this thread we have in common.
Don’t go too hard on the internet stalking though. While you can try to guess what someone’s work email is, it can feel particularly invasive to get a random unsolicited email from a stranger and it might end up counting against you. And, it seems obvious, but please use the recruiter’s name in your message. I’ve received too many “Dear Recruiter” messages in my career — my name is literally right there.
Make the first line of your message stand out
Whether you’re sending an InMail (LinkedIn’s version of a DM) or attaching a note to a connection request, the person on the receiving end is always going to get a little preview of the first few words of your message before choosing to fully open it or not. Most messages recruiters receive are probably going to read pretty similarly: “I’m interested in the role you posted,” “My name is X and I’m a Y,” “I hope this email finds you well,” or something else generally vague and introductory.
While we still shouldn’t dive straight into “please please give me a job” right up front, there are still ways to separate your note from the masses and catch a recruiter’s attention in that first preview. Now that you’ve taken a few seconds to look at this person’s profile, take advantage of what you’ve learned and use that to pique their interest. A few potential options for how to open your message:
- Connecting via [MUTUAL FRIEND or ALUMNI NETWORK]
- Hello from a fellow [INTEREST IN COMMON]!
- I saw that you [SPECIFIC THING FROM THEIR PROFILE]
- It looks like we both [INTEREST/THING IN COMMON]
Make sure that you’re still being earnest and being you while sending these messages. While it can sometimes feel like you need to act Super Professional And Grown Up when reaching out to someone, it’s obvious and off-putting when you can tell someone is being disingenuous. You should aim to focus on something you’re honestly interested in or can relate to — a random, “I see you went to Hunter College!” is much less effective than, “I noticed you used to be a lecturer at Hunter College; I also have a background in education and would love to hear more about your journey.”
Reach out to non-recruiters
I know, I know — you said you wanted to get a recruiter’s attention, and now I’m encouraging you to reach out to non-recruiters. But hear me out: The recruiter for a job is always going to be the main person that candidates reach out to. People generally understand that recruiters are heavily involved in the hiring process, and it’s usually easy to figure out who they are because they’re attached to the job post or easily searchable. Because of this, our inboxes are regularly flooded and it can be hard or impossible to read every message.
When I say “non-recruiters,” I mean anyone else at the company who isn’t a recruiter (and probably who also isn’t a C-level executive). While recruiters are getting tons of messages every day, non-recruiters are usually receiving few or zero messages, meaning that every outreach they get carries much more weight and brings much more attention. While a non-recruiter probably isn’t going to be able to influence the hiring decision, they do offer an almost-just-as-good resource: referrals.
A referral benefits everyone in the interaction. Recruiters value referrals because they’re usually higher quality and easier to close since they theoretically already know someone at the company and are interested in the opportunity. Non-recruiters value referrals because they usually result in some sort of bonus if the person they referred gets hired. And you value referrals because it puts you on a short-list to get in front of the recruiter, and usually means you’ll at least get a phone interview.
When reaching out to non-recruiters, you should still be using these tips — nobody likes a message from a stranger that just says “can you refer me.” But, if you’re able to find something in common and earn this person’s goodwill, it could be a faster track into a potential job while also earning you a cool new friend.
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