Are In-Demand Candidates Still Reading InMails?

Last Thursday Linkedin announced that they are making changes to their InMail policy

In short they are trying to reduce the amount of ineffective bulk InMails that are sent, hopefully improving the overall candidate experience which in turn should result in improved response rates for recruiters.

Linkedin is doing this by targeting the two percent of Recruiter users who send more than one hundred InMails over a two week period with a response rate of less than thirteen percent. These users will then have penalties applied to their Recruiter account until their response rate improves.  

The Benefit to Recruiters

There is already a general agreement in the recruitment community that this policy change is a step in the right direction and that it should help to clear a small portion of the clutter from nearly one million Recruiter InMail messages sent each week.

This change won’t however radically change the response rate most recruiters experience from InMails. This is because whilst a high InMail volume definitely negatively impacts the candidate experience, the two biggest influencers of InMail success are the quality of the InMail and whether or not the candidate target market is professionally active on Linkedin.

Having worked in two of the sectors that have recognised skills shortages (oil & gas and technology) I like most recruiters have seen varying response rates from InMails. To get a further insight into the candidate Linkedin experience I spoke with several highly skilled oil & gas professionals for their feedback.

Candidate Feedback - InMail Quality

The theory behind writing an effective InMail is straight-forward, there are many articles focused on how to do this, this one directly from Linkedin’s Director of Global Talent Acquisition Brendan Browne is particularly insightful.

It was therefore surprising that the oil & gas professionals we spoke to highlighted that almost all of the InMails they receive each week (three on average), appeared to be semi-automated with very little personalisation.

In addition very few discussed a specific opportunity, less still engaged with the target candidate about their profile and some were sent on behalf of others or just requested referrals.

This could be a great sign for those recruiters who do take the time to craft personalised messages but it may also indicate that skilled recruiters are following candidates to alternative networks where there are greater engagement levels.    

Candidate Feedback - Site Engagement

The success of InMails relies on the user engaging regularly with Linkedin. For those that don’t know a user is only aware that they have an InMail if they have the email option enabled (most don’t) or when they actually login to Linkedin.

The founder of Entelo John Bischke suggested that one of Linkedin’s primary opportunities is to become the hub for professional activity in the same way Facebook is for personal activity. Whilst new Linkedin initiatives such as the Influencer program and Publisher platform are improving user engagement, candidates (especially those in high demand sectors) are currently choosing to engage on different, industry specific platforms. As you would expect technology based candidates are leading the charge with sites such as GitHub, StackOverflow and Behance becoming increasingly popular.

The oil and gas professionals we spoke to generally weren’t active on other professional social platforms, instead they were choosing to engage online through industry associations and in person at conferences. Several did comment that they had recently joined OilPro, which as you imagine is a new social networking site just for oil and gas professionals.

The good news for recruiters is that the majority of the oil & gas candidates we spoke with did keep a passive eye on their InMails, choosing only to respond if an opportunity closely matched their interests and the timing was right. The bad news is this passive review was infrequent and brief, whilst at the same time dealing with large volumes. This further emphasises the need for high quality InMails that can catch the attention of the reader within a few seconds.

Concluding Thoughts

Previously the size of an in-house or agency database dictated the overall business success, however this same data is now readily accessible to anyone through professional social media sites. This has significantly reduced the barriers to entry for recruiters and in-turn increased the amount of career related communication most candidates experience.

The intrigue that candidates used to experience when being contacted about a new role is quickly disappearing, being replaced by a feeling of normality or indifference. For recruiters the good news is if you take time to understand your candidates and present opportunities that genuinely meet their needs then candidates are still responsive.

InMail Suggestions

Two other suggested improvements for Linkedin InMails are for Linkedin to remove the 7 day InMail guarantee and to adjust the amount of InMail credits needed to contact each user based on demand, similar to the Facebook message system. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on these ideas.


If you are a tech recruiter, Peter Kazanjy the founder of TalentBin provides an excellent article on sourcing candidates on GitHib.

Views: 520

Comment by Matt Charney on July 22, 2014 at 8:23am

Chris - thanks so much for the detailed analysis of this news. Really appreciate your sharing your insights and expertise here. I'd send you an InMail thanking you, too, but pretty sure you'd never open it, so this will have to suffice. Looking forward to reading more from you - please keep the good stuff coming!

Comment by Matt Charney on July 22, 2014 at 8:50am

Given that this is the sort of thing I'm getting in InMail, I'd go ahead and suggest this is more evidence of why this service has not only jumped the shark, but also become a bridge for all the trolls out there since every other platform seemingly has some sort of spam filter.

Comment by Chris South on July 22, 2014 at 4:29pm

Thanks Matt, for my next article I'll highlight how useful the Twitter Direct Message feature is...... #trollheaven 

Comment by Keith Halperin on July 22, 2014 at 4:40pm

Thanks, Chris. Whether or not LI InMails do/don't work isn't really relevant, and neither is the fact that most of the people who say they're open to jobs on LI AREN'T (because of the "opt out " nature of the setting). What IS relevant is that as long as large numbers of major companies don't start (ideally publically) cancelling their contracts, LI can do pretty much anything it ******* wants to do.

No Cheers,


Comment by Chris South on July 24, 2014 at 12:31am

I would have agreed with you prior to writing this article but found that most people choose to keep the standard opt-in Linkedin setting and then quickly browse InMails for opportunities that stand out. 


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