There’s a lot of advice swirling around the internet on best practices for recruiting on LinkedIn, but there’s so much content that it’s difficult to know where to start, and what’s really worth focusing on.
We’ve put together everything that you need to know on finding, messaging and managing candidates on LinkedIn. It’s our complete guide to recruiting on LinkedIn, and we think you’ll find it pretty useful!
1. Finding candidates on LinkedIn
Recruiting on LinkedIn always starts with finding the right candidates. LinkedIn might have over 300 million members, but you’re only interested in the ones that are relevant to the roles that you
The power of a good search string should never be overlooked. Not only do search strings help you find the best candidates on LinkedIn, but they’re a great time saver.
Successful search is not as simple as you might think though, there are a few simple best practices that will make help you maximise your results when you’re recruiting on LinkedIn:
Building Boolean search strings
Fully constructed Boolean search strings can look confusing and complex, but they really aren’t. Every string relies on the same, basic syntax:
e.g. developer AND “senior engineer”
The simplest function to apply – all results will have both the word developer and the phrase senior engineer. You will not see any LinkedIn profiles that do not have both of these terms.
e.g. copywriting OR content marketing OR content
Using the OR command is a good way to widen your search. Profiles only need to match one of the terms, so you’ll get a high volume of results.
e.g. architect NOT “software architect”
The best time to use the NOT command is when there are closely related terms that can mean pretty different things. The example above would give you results that contain the word ‘architect’, but not the term ‘software architect’ – roles that are pretty different!
Quotation marks let you search for specific phrases. Not using quotation marks will mean that each word is treated separately.
content marketing – would give results that contain both ‘content’ and ‘marketing’, but not necessarily in the same phrase or even paragraph.
“content marketing” – would give results that contain the phrase ‘content marketing
(“VP” OR “Manager”) AND (Beamery OR Facebook OR “Social Talent” OR Snapchat)
For anyone building more complex strings, brackets can be pretty essential. Phrases that are placed within brackets are given priority over other elements.
A common example is when you’re looking for senior candidates (VPs or Managers) that have worked at specific companies. To combine both of these into a single search, use brackets to separate them.
The example above would return searches containing VPs or Manager at any of the companies that we’ve specified.
ii) Plan your search
All good searches start with a plan. If you have a specific role to fill, it can be tempting to just open up the ‘search box’ and start typing in keywords but, if possible, you should try and restrain yourself (you’re almost guaranteed to miss out on a lot of candidates).
Take the time to plan out your search before you even touch the keypad – this can be as simple as taking out a pen and paper, and scribbling down ideas. Jot down all of the must have skills and requirements for your role, and work these into the architecture of your search string.
iii) Avoid stop words
Stop words, (things like ‘I’, ‘a’, ‘in’, ‘from’), are the quickest way to break your search strings. LinkedIn ignores these words and inserts an invisible ‘AND’ in their place, ruining your string.
Make sure that you re-word these phrases when you craft your strings.
iv) Use advanced search
LinkedIn offers 2 different search experiences – general search, and advanced search.
General search identifies candidates across the entire LinkedIn network. Granted, it will only return candidates that match your search conditions, but the terms from your string could appear anywhere in the candidate profile.
LinkedIn advanced search gives you more control when you’re recruiting on LinkedIn. You can specify exactly where you want certain terms to appear in a candidate’s profile (e.g. the job title).
It does include a number of options only available to paying users, but even without access to these, it’s a better place to run your searches.
There are a few great tools that offer Boolean shortcuts and make it easy to X-Ray search LinkedIn:
There are plenty of other tools that offer help to people recruiting on LinkedIn, if you think we’ve missed any good ones let us know on Twitter on @BeameryHQ.
v) Finding active candidates on LinkedIn
Passive candidates have become the holy grail for most people recruiting on LinkedIn.
There are plenty of roles though that require the complete opposite: a candidate that is very much active and prepared to move fast.
To find these candidates on LinkedIn, think about the things that people actively looking for jobs would display on their LinkedIn profiles. You can try searching for phrases like “actively looking” or “seeking new” to start identifying these people.
If you want a complete search string that will help you uncover as many of these candidates as possible, take a look at this one from sourcing expert Glen Cathey:
(seeking OR seeker OR “looking for” OR “in search of” OR “open to” OR “new job” OR “actively pursuing” OR “pursuing new” OR “searching for” OR “new opportunity” OR “new opportunities” OR “available for”)
This comes back with over 12 million results worldwide – all you need to do is filter by location to find the candidates that fit your requirements. Bingo!
2. Messaging candidates on LinkedIn
Getting top talent to open, read and reply to your messages is fast becoming one of the most challenging parts of recruiting on LinkedIn.
We’ve broken down the most important changes you can make to your messages to dramatically improve your response rate.
Note: these tips don’t just apply to recruiting on LinkedIn, they’re equally effective for engaging candidates via email or on other platforms.
i) Write a compelling subject line
When you sit down at your desk every morning and sift through your unread emails and LinkedIn messages, how do you decide which ones to open and which ones to delete?
The subject line.
The subject line is even more important than you might think. Up to 35% of recipients will only open your message if the subject line resonates with them!
The question is: how to you optimise your subject line to encourage candidates to ‘click’ and read. Here are a couple of best practices that can make a big difference:
Make it personal
Adding a personal touch to your subject line can make a big difference. For example, mentioning the candidate’s name in your subject line can increase open rates by as much as 26%!
It’s not just names that are effective here though, any details that you’ve picked up from a candidate’s LinkedIn profile can be really effective. Referencing things like education in the subject line can also be effective.
An underused formula that can be effective is:
“[Candidate Name]: From [University or College] to [Company]?”
I.e. “Ben: From Oxford University to Beamery?”.
Education, at the bottom of the LinkedIn profile, is something that few recruiters mention, so it’s an easy way to stand out.
The best passive candidates get a lot of LinkedIn Inmails and connection requests, so making your messages stand out requires some thought.
Mention shared connections
Use LinkedIn’s ‘How You’re Connected’ feature to see if you have any shared connections with a candidate.
If you do, try mentioning your mutual acquaintance in the subject line to get the candidate to sit up and take notice. (If possible – see if you can get a direct introduction to the candidate – this will always be more effective).
ii) Write a personalized message
Getting a candidate to open your message is only the first step when you’re recruiting on LinkedIn… They’re not going to reply if they don’t like what they see!
Time and time again candidates get generic Inmails that do little to sell either the role or the company, no wonder they hit ‘delete’.
Personalization is the easiest way to avoid this and stand out from the crowd. This can start off pretty simple, adding things like candidate name, company or experience to your emails, but there’s plenty of room for creativity (particularly when you’re sourcing passive candidates).
Pro tip: Extreme personalization
Sourcing passive candidates is a tough task. Passive candidates tend to be pretty content with life. They’re usually happy with their situation and they’re rarely looking for new roles. You have to find a way to “sell” your opportunity to these candidates, a way to make them really care.
Extreme personalisation can be the answer – show people that you care, that you’ve taken the time to research them, and sourcing passive candidates becomes a whole lot easier.
Want an example? Take a look at this (slightly blurry) template from Mike Chuidian, Senior Sourcer at Sears:
Full of Star Wars references and unconventional styling, this template got Mike a 97% response rate from the Growth Hacker candidates that he was targeting.
Blending the personal and professional, and trying to write messages that are “interesting” can really pay off if you get it right!
iii) Make the next step clear
Every email you send needs to have a clear next action.
The way you sign off each message is crucial. You need to give candidates a clear next step.
You’re sending that message for a specific reason, usually to draw attention to a job or opportunity, so make sure the candidate knows that!
Possible next steps could involve:
- A simple ‘reply’
- A screening call
- An in-person meeting
- A formal interview
Being vague won’t help you convince a great candidate to reply. According to research by psychologist Robert Sutton, people are more responsive and willing to help if they’ve been given clear directions.
How can you put this into action?
Be specific with your next step. If you’d like to arrange a call, provide a few times that work and ask the candidate to select one.
This reduces the mental energy that candidates need to expend answering your message, and makes it far more likely that they’ll respond.
IMPORTANT – How to follow up
No matter how good your message is, (sadly) a large percentage of the candidates you message won’t reply.
This could be because they aren’t interested, but it could also be because forgot to reply or because your message came through at a bad time.
This makes following up with candidates crucial to any successful engagement strategy. We’re not going to go into too much detail on the exact way to follow up here, but if you want to learn more, take a look at this resource: “Following up with candidates – best practices”.
3. Managing candidates on LinkedIn
What happens when you find a great candidate on LinkedIn?
If you’ve paid for LinkedIn recruiter, you might add them to a project, if not, a spreadsheet. Maybe you just try to remember their name and hope for the best.
However good you are at finding, and messaging candidates on LinkedIn, if you don’t have a strategy to manage them effectively then you’re going to find it hard to be successful.
What you need to manage the candidates that you find on LinkedIn is some kind of talent pool, (essentially shortlists of candidates for open or future roles). Talent pools will let you keep tabs on important candidates and ensure that your team doesn’t drop the ball. Your ATS manages applications, talent pools manage everyone else.
There are a few different ways that you can build and manage talent pools:
i) LinkedIn projects
LinkedIn projects let you manage candidates for both open and future roles. Whenever you’re recruiting on LinkedIn, you can add candidates to your projects, and you can even share projects with hiring managers to improve collaboration.
The downside? LinkedIn’s data is LinkedIn’s data. You can’t export anything that you have saved in projects, tying you into your paid LinkedIn plan whether you like it or not!
Imagine if you told your VP of Sales that he couldn’t export and control data on prospects and potential customers – it’s likely that she’d be pretty unhappy.
Make sure you consider whether having control over your talent data is important to you.
Whether you choose to use Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets (the free version), spreadsheets are a great way to build lists of candidates that don’t have a place in your ATS.
Spreadsheets are flexible and easily shareable, but they have their downsides too. Anyone who has tried to manage candidates with spreadsheets knows exactly how manual they are to update, and if you’re not careful you can end up with a fair bit of duplication.
They’re fine when you’re starting out, but if you’re dealing with any real volume of roles, you need a more sustainable solution.
If you have budget then a Recruitment CRM is the way to go. It’s software designed to help you manage and nurture candidate leads (i.e. everyone that isn’t currently applying).
This covers the people you find on LinkedIn, as well as leads from Employer Branding initiatives and unsuccessful applicants that you want to re-engage.
We’re not going to spend too much time preaching the value of CRM software, it’s a what we specialise in at Beamery so that would be unbecoming.
If you’re interested in learning more about exactly what a CRM is and how it differs from your ATS, then this article is well worth a read.
Recruiting on LinkedIn is only one part of a successful recruiting strategy. If you’re looking for other tactics and tools to improve your team’s recruiting results, take a look at the Beamery Academy. It’s stuffed full of actionable ebooks and whitepapers that will help you take your team to the next level.