An email asking about LinkedIn inMail best practice arrived in my inbox this week. The job seeker was exploring the merits of contacting the managing director of a large company directly via LinkedIn’s inMail. In doing so, he hoped to elevate his chances of bypassing HR by striking up a relationship with the previously unknown MD.
Now, everyone these days (including me) champions the importance of reaching out and networking. However, I counselled the job seeker to consider the implications of this big, bold move.
First, networking isn’t about finding a way to get what you want quickly. Networking is about building relationships, getting known as a person and as a professional, and nurturing friendships with others so that one day, recommendations or even job offers can be made. It takes work and it takes time.
Would you feel insulted if someone walked up to you and said:
“Hi, I’m Joe. Pleased to meet you. I want you to put yourself out for me. Will you?”
It’s pretty safe to say that the answer would either be ‘no’ or, something a little more unpleasant!
We all see viral emails from time-to-time. Stories of an innocent and friendly email that receives an arrogant put-down or a lecture about online etiquette that makes job seekers feel embarrassed, then angry to the point that they send it to others to share their outrage. Clearly, some of those responses and behaviours are inexcusable. But..it comes down to this: nobody likes to feel used. Just because a managing director has a public profile on LinkedIn, doesn’t mean he or she is fair game for help requests from strangers.
Equally, there is a perception that the job seeker is ‘cheating’ by trying to get in the back door, or worse still, is unable to follow simple instructions in the job advertisement!
So what is LinkedIn Inmail Best Practice?
First, I’ll say what it is not.
It is not linking to a stranger with the intention of asking them to do something for you straight away for a job you’ve just seen. Knee-jerk networking is a misstep made by many, who then proceed to tell the world that “Networking doesn’t work”.
Networking does work, but like a good investment, it needs nurturing over the long term.
Here’s an example of LinkedIn inMail Best Practice
Send a short inMail congratulating the MD on the way the company is going.
Hi Frank, just saw on LinkedIn that you’re expanding the team again. Congrats! Testament to great leadership. Love seeing a company going from strength-to-strength.”
Now, ‘Frank’ can decide whether to answer with thanks or not. If he does, it’s a building block for you. He may even check out your profile and knowing that he has a role available, he may even reach out to you about it.
There should be no expectation from you that he does anything other than smile when he gets it.
Meantime, put your application into HR and follow the protocols. No resume? Maybe it’s time to see me!
So that’s it? No… not exactly.
While directly reaching out and asking a stranger to do something for you is wrong, leveraging your existing network and finding mutual friends who can act as your unpaid sales force, is not wrong at all. Check out your connections. Do you have a relationship with someone—a colleague, friend, supervisor, vendor, or manager with whom you have a strong relationship and who may also know and be trusted by the MD? If yes, then it is perfectly reasonable to reach out to the mutual friend, explain your reason for writing (the job) and see if he or she could introduce you to the MD personally—or better still, sing your praises in relation to the advertised job.
Again, the rule of networking applies. Keep a lid on your expectations. Your friend is not compelled to act because you want him to. If he doesn’t want to introduce you or pave the way for your application, then he doesn’t have to. Becoming angry or sour will damage your relationship and hurt the hard work you’ve invested in it, so be sensitive—an angry note from you may also go viral and damage your reputation!
Have you ever made the big, bold move that has worked out well for you? Tell me your story, or if you need job search advice I can help with that too!