Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional networking site with almost 800 million members in more than 200 countries and territories. And while there are other social networking sites out there, none of them have the work-related focus of LinkedIn. So, I do believe that working people should have a LinkedIn profile and keep it current.
There are thousands of articles on the internet about how to maintain your LinkedIn profile. This article from The Muse on “9 Surefire Ways to Boost Your LinkedIn Profile When You Only Have 10 Minutes” is worth taking a look at. But one of the aspects of staying active on LinkedIn that we don’t talk about nearly enough is making connections. Specifically, how to engage with someone – recruiter or job seeker – about a job opportunity.
To help us understand more about successfully engaging on LinkedIn, I asked a friend and colleague of mine for help. Thankfully, she said yes. Kristina Minyard is the founder and CEO of HRecruit LLC in Alabama. The consultancy offers direct placement services and recruitment training to help organizations with their talent strategies.
Kristina, thanks so much for being here. I know one of the biggest challenges being discussed right now is that organizations are having difficulty finding qualified candidates. As a result, recruiters are looking for passive candidates and one of the first places they may go to is LinkedIn. Can you offer 1-2 pieces of advice to recruiters who are trying to start a conversation with a passive candidate?
[Minyard] Two things: First, be honest, specific, and to the point. Avoid ‘I came across your profile and you look like a good fit for a role I’m recruiting for’ type phrases. Instead try: ‘I’m looking for a skilled data scientist and your profile stood out to me because XX experience is exactly what someone would’ve done recently to prepare for this role with us.’
Second, personalize your message. Take a minute to learn something about the candidate before you craft your message. If you’re using an upgraded version of LinkedIn that gives you a suggested message to send – your message is not going to stand out. Chances are you are not the only person firing off that standard message to a candidate and it’s going to get overlooked for a reply.
So maybe your perfect data scientist candidate has noted on their profile that they are passionate about volunteering at their local animal shelter. Maybe they are also serving on a data and AI ethics committee. You can easily use either of these points to personalize your message and show them that you reviewed their full profile, not just their most recent role. Personally, I’m going to point out the data and AI ethics committee role. Here’s what I might say: ‘I notice you’re currently serving on data and AI ethics committee XX. This is really cool and shows that you probably care just as much about ethical data decisions as we do.’
If a recruiter receives a connection request directly from a job seeker, should they accept it? What are the advantages and disadvantages to doing so?
[Minyard] I typically review the industry that the job seeker is in, and if it’s a match for what I recruit for then I’ll go ahead and accept it. If it’s an industry that I can’t help them with I usually decline their connection request.
Advantages to accepting: You are growing your audience. If you are pushing regular content out, you want that to be in front of your target audience. By being selective of who you connect with, you can make sure that’s what’s happening. For every connection you add, you increase your 2nd and 3rd connections as well, making more talent easier to get in contact with.
Disadvantages to accepting: If you accept talent who you can’t help, you may end up spending time corresponding with them anyway (if you’re like me and respond to everyone). Just like recruiters sometimes do, candidates will end up sending a generic message to every recruiter they connect with and then you find yourself taking time to respond appropriately and let them know you don’t have anything for that skillset.
Let’s flip the focus to the job seeker. As a follow-up to last question: Should a job seeker read anything into a recruiter’s reply for a connection request? Meaning if a recruiter accepts it, that’s good. And if they decline, that’s not so good. Why or why not?
[Minyard] Definitely do not read anything into it. An acceptance does not necessarily mean they are interested in presenting you as a candidate and a decline doesn’t necessarily mean the opposite. Everyone has their own preferences on how they handle growing or protecting their online network and without actual feedback on why a recruiter chose to connect or not, you’ll only drive yourself crazy trying to read into it.
If a LinkedIn user isn’t currently interested in a new opportunity, should they accept a connection request from a recruiter? Is that sending the wrong message?
[Minyard] There’s nothing wrong with connecting to recruiters before you’re ready to make a move. In real life, we network with connections before we have a need, that can carry into online networking as well. Candidates should determine if this is someone that they want to have access to or someone they want to have access to them.
Most recruiters aren’t reading into a connection, they will use a conversation to determine mutual interest and the best path forward. If a candidate is concerned about sending the wrong message through accepting a connection request they can simply say “I’m not interested in making a move right now, but I am interested in staying in touch for when that changes.”
Last question. LinkedIn allows users to follow organizations. What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing so?
[Minyard] Following an organization allows you to see what kind of content they are sharing in their industry. It can be an easy way to keep an eye on a company who you think is doing interesting work or one you might be interested in considering as a future employer. If they are sharing content that is interesting to you, engaging in conversation in the comments is an easy way for you to show your interest and expertise to that organization. Make sure you limit yourself to meaningful comments and not repetitive or one-word comments just to show up in their notifications.
Of course, the disadvantages could be that you learn things you don’t like about an organization, or they fill your newsfeed with spam-like updates. If that becomes the case, you can simply unfollow them!
Whether you’re a recruiter or a job seeker (or both!), it’s important to know LinkedIn and use it well. I believe Kristina’s message about personalization and being yourself is spot on. Because organizations and individuals want the same thing – to be themselves.19