Approaching qualified candidates on LinkedIn is a crucial step in the recruitment process. If done effectively, recruiters will earn a better response rate, build stronger networks, streamline the process, and land top talent more often. In an effort to help, let's discuss 4 tips for effectively approaching LinkedIn candidates.

1. Develop a messaging approach strategy:

Recruiters have 4 different methods for messaging potential candidates on LinkedIn:

    • InMail
    • Messaging network connections
    • Introductions
    • Email on profiles

The first step to approaching candidates is to develop a messaging strategy using one or more of these options. InMail allows users to message people outside of their network; messaging allows users to contact their network connections; introductions is when a user requests an introduction to someone outside of their network from someone inside their network.

InMail is only available to users with a Premium account or using LinkedIn Recruiter. Messaging and using the introduction method are available to all users.

An article found on HubSpot called: "The Ultimate Guide to Writing LinkedIn InMails That Get Results (With Examples and Templates)", written by Aja Frost, explains:

"People are three times likelier to reply to a LinkedIn InMail message than a traditional email..."

The introduction method can be effective because a member of their network is recommending the recruiter. This can be a way to reach passive candidates and establish some credibility.

Developing a messaging strategy for approaching candidates includes choosing the method, time, tone, follow-up protocol, length, and content. In regard to the tone and content, the HubSpot article shares some helpful tips:

Be direct.

Make a small request.

Spark their interest.

Be natural.

Explain why you're reaching out.

Make it about them.

Don't make them do work.

2. Personalize the message and build a relationship:

The workload of recruiters is usually demanding, yet taking the time to build a relationship with candidates should be a priority. How candidates are approached sets the tone for the working relationship, which is why the initial contact should be personalized and not generic.

An article found on Undercover Recruiter called: "5 Essential Rules to Approaching Passive Candidates", written by Sophie Deering, explains:

A lot of recruiters are guilty of sending dozens of generic InMails out to just about everyone on LinkedIn who vaguely fits the bill. DON'T!

The candidates you are contacting aren't stupid and they will see right through it.

...If you want to capture their attention, you're going to have to prove you have done your research and genuinely think that they would be suitable for the role. By mentioning something specific that you have read on their profile or referring to a mutual connection, you will have a much better chance of getting their attention and trust.

Approaching passive candidates takes more consideration and strategy than approaching active candidates (or responding to active candidates who've applied for a position or are inquiring about one). Either way, recruiters will benefit when they personalize the initial message and focus on building a trusting relationship with each prospective candidate.

3. Clearly explain the opportunity and the next step:

Once a strategic search has identified qualified candidates and recruiters have researched their profiles, it's now time to craft a personalized message that clearly explains the opportunity available and the next step in the process.

These messages could use templates like the ones shown in the HubSpot article mentioned, or they can be crafted organically by recruiters. Either way, they need to refer to something on their profile (past job, skill, interest), the opportunity being offered (position), and the next step in the process.

An article on Bullhorn called: "4 Ways to Attract Passive Candidates on LinkedIn", written on December 7th, 2017 by Bob McHugh, explains:

"People who need a new job put all their emphasis on finding the job. People who don't need a job can bide their time until something perfect comes along – and that's not a job or a position, but an opportunity. When you reach out to candidates on LinkedIn, talking about opportunities in a clear and compelling way will get them to sit up and take notice."

Approaching candidates is different than being approached, which means recruiters should use different strategies for each.

An article found on Social Talent called: "How to Turn Passive Candidates into MASSIVE Opportunities", written on August 7th, 2018 by Annalena Morris, explains more about passive talent:

"75% of LinkedIn users are employed...

...33% are more likely to be seeking challenging work."

Approaching passive candidates with an opportunity and explaining how it will challenge them to grow and build their career will help recruiters gain their attention.

The last part of the message should include the next step for candidates to take. Rather than a direct CTA, recruiters can try to entice them to respond with leading questions and offers to explain more. For example:

  • Please get in touch if interested in learning more, we'd love to know what your career aspirations are.
  • Are you interested in watching a video about our company and work environment? If so, get in touch we'd love to hear back from you.
  • We'd love to hear from you and are here to answer any questions you might have.
  • Can I explain to you more about our company's unique workflow?

4. Ask the right questions:

This tip is helpful for approaching and vetting both passive and active candidates. LinkedIn profiles don't always tell the whole story, especially, when users haven't updated or comprehensively filled them out. While the candidates identified as qualified applicants have the needed skills, recruiters still need to know what their work objectives are and what they're like as an employee and co-worker.

An article found on LinkedIn Talent Blog called: "5 Common Recruiting Mistakes (and How to Avoid Making Them)", written on December 21st, 2017 by Maxwell Huppert, explains the first mistake to avoid:

"1. Asking predictable questions that lead to canned answers and reveal nothing about the candidate"

Basically, recruiters should ask candidates the right questions to solicit an authentic response. While this is talking mostly about vetting applicants during the interview process, asking creative questions during the approach will help recruiters stand out and pique the interest of candidates.

For example:

    • What operating system are you most comfortable with?
    • What kind of work environment do you thrive in?
    • Are you experienced with _____ architecture?
    • Do you think digitization is good with manufacturing processes?

Asking creative questions (related to the information on their profile) during the approach will both solicit a response and help recruiters understand candidates on a deeper level. Asking the right questions also helps recruiters in practical ways, such as:

    • Are you available to talk via Skype sometime?
    • Are you interested in moving for the right opportunity?
    • Are you certified with ______?
    • Is ______ the best way to contact you?


Strategically asking the right questions during the approach will lead to higher response rates, as well as more authentic and revealing answers from candidates.


With over 575 million registered users, LinkedIn offers recruiters an excellent source to find top talent. After using LinkedIn's various search tools to identify qualified candidates, recruiters can fine-tune their approach strategies to attract both passive and active candidates.

Developing a messaging strategy, personalizing the message to build a trusting relationship, clearly explaining the opportunity and the next step, and asking the right (strategically creative) questions, will all help recruiters effectively approach candidates on LinkedIn with optimal results.