professional development

How you should — and shouldn’t — respond to headhunters on LinkedIn

Brendon Booth /

LinkedIn InMail is a great tool for us as recruiters and much is written about how to attract them. But what is the best way to respond to a LinkedIn approach, should you receive one?

The sheer variety of responses I receive is informing, entertaining, and sometimes alarming. I break them down here into three categories, each with best-fit responses.

1. The thanks but no thanks

This is probably the most common response. When you are headhunting candidates, it’s entirely appropriate most of them are happy and probably don’t want to move.

I get every variety of responses, from a simple ‘no thanks’ to a long-winded exposition on why, due to personal circumstance and the earth’s gravitational pull, this job offer (no, just for reference, it’s not a job offer) is not right for them.

Here’s what I think is a best practice-type response if you’re simply not interested.

 

‘Hi [headhunter’s name],

Thanks for reaching out. I’m not on the market right now, but that might change in the future, so please don’t forget about me the next time an opportunity like this comes along.

Best regards,

[Headhuntee’s name]’

 

There. Short, sharp, to the point, but leaving the door open.

With LinkedIn now one of the most common ways for people to find out about potential jobs, wouldn’t you rather know about it, even if the timing isn’t right for it?

2. The yes please!

This is the second kind of response we search consultants and recruiters receive. (Just quietly, we prefer this kind of response to the first!)

The way you indicate you are interested, however, can also impact whether the headhunter then follows up with you.

Don’t simply acknowledge the request, or say: ‘Yep, I’m interested.’ Make sure your expression of interest displays both a cautious optimism and, dare I say it, a little coyness. You want the recruiter to want you, after all.

Here’s my favourite response.

 

‘Hi [headhunter’s name],

Thank you for contacting me about this opportunity. I must say I’m not actively looking right now, but I’m always open to hearing about great opportunities when they present.

When is the best time to schedule a telephone call over the next week?

Best regards,

[Headhuntee’s name]’

 

This kind of response doesn’t smack of desperation (some do, believe me), but it conveys a cautious kind of interest and initiates a professional dialogue.

It also provides a call to action, moving the conversation forward with a distinct purpose.

3. Capital C for Crazy

You would be surprised. You really would. I genuinely wish I could publish some of the more colourful responses I’ve received over time. It is a wonder to me people actually go to the effort of responding to LinkedIn approaches when they make comments about ‘spam’, ‘unwanted approaches’, ‘how did you get my details’ and ‘what are you doing later tonight?’*

What is even more astounding is, generally, these people have nominated they are open to LinkedIn approaches!

If you do not want to receive InMails via LinkedIn there is a simple solution: turn them off. You won’t receive unwanted approaches. You won’t receive any.

Of course, then you’ll never hear about that cushy $200,000-a-year role involving lots of golf and time on the beach, but that’s the price you pay, I guess.

Rather than a best-practice response, let me publish for you (protecting the innocent) just one response I received recently which I would classify as being, well, the dead-set opposite of best practice.

 

“Brendon,
If you have a specific job, please advertise it to let me read the information (or provide a hyperlink.)
Otherwise this is SPAM.
I’m very busy and frankly I find these kinds of approaches at best distracting and at worst, repugnant.

Take care,

[Headhuntee’s name]”

 

Of course, there is really no single way to respond to a LinkedIn approach. While the gentleman above clearly doesn’t understand one of the key purposes of LinkedIn, he certainly got his message across loud and clear. I won’t be contacting this candidate again, even if something else comes up that seems to be perfect for him. His loss, or mine?

* Okay, that last one never happened.

This article was originally published on November 29, 2012.

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Brendon Booth

Brendon is the founder and managing director of pb Human Capital as well as the director of Augment Resources. He is an experienced search consultant with extensive experience in appointing senior professionals within the management consulting, supply chain and procurement industry verticals. Degree-qualified in behavioural science, he uses his knowledge and expertise to inject a science into the search and selection process.

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