Analysis: Short, Personalized InMails Work Best

Roy Maurer By Roy Maurer July 23, 2021
happy job seeker

​A recent study of recruiters' use of InMail, LinkedIn's e-mail feature, to potential job candidates found that shorter, personalized messages get more attention.

The findings from LinkedIn are based on tens of millions of InMails sent by recruiters around the world between April 2020 and February 2021.

"Recruiters monitor their InMail response rates closely, and for good reason—they're a good indicator of candidate engagement, but they also mean recruiters are getting more bang for their buck; … response rates reflect both candidate engagement and recruiter efficiency," said Katie Reid, a senior insights analyst at LinkedIn.

If you're looking for ways to drive higher response rates, these data-driven findings are a good place to start.

Shorter Is Better

The data shows that succinct messages result in more responses. Shorter InMails of 200 to 400 characters are 16 percent more likely to receive a response, compared to the average InMail of 800 characters. The longest InMails—those over 1,400 characters—are 18 percent less likely to get a response. In comparison, InMails with 400 characters or fewer performed 41 percent better than the longest InMails.

"Keep it short and sweet," Reid said. But she noted that InMails up to 800 characters still receive above-average response rates.  

"Ninety percent of all InMails are longer than 400 characters," she said, "while the majority fall between 400 and 1,000 characters. That may be why shorter InMails are so effective. They stand out from other InMails simply by their brevity. Another likely reason is that candidates—passive candidates especially—are probably busy, and it's much easier for them to read and respond to a quick message."

Reid added that shorter messages aren't guaranteed to overperform, and longer, detailed InMails do work well for some candidates. "Ultimately, you know your target talent pool and should use your best judgment," she said.

Alexandra Obanion, lead recruiter and talent advisor at Celanese, a chemical technology company based in Dallas, disagrees that shorter is better. "A well-thought-out and well-written InMail has a better success of response," she said. "The more specific and insightful detail you include, with as much info as possible, the better chance at grabbing attention. Candidates receive countless generic messages, and you need to stand out."

Colleen Garrett, SHRM-CP, head of recruitment at Expressable, an online speech therapy provider based in Austin, Texas, said that whether recruiters' outreach to candidates is verbose or concise, "developing a voice that matches your recruitment branding strategies, conveys workplace culture and engages the candidate from first interactions is a tricky, yet necessary, balance to strike."

Especially in a tight labor market, InMail inboxes for top talent are going to be flooded with messages from recruiters, Garrett said. "This is why crafting instantly engaging and informative messages is key to standing out and turning that outreach into an interview."

Personalize Your Message

Recruiting leaders have advocated for personalization in candidate outreach for years, and LinkedIn data backs them up. InMails sent individually see response rates roughly 20 percent higher than InMails sent in bulk. Similarly, InMails written without a template tend to get more responses than templated messages, according to the data.

"Personalization is much more than just writing without a template or sending messages one by one," Reid said. "The content of your InMail should also show that you're interested in the recipient as an individual."

Obanion added, "If you are not personalizing your InMail, you are wasting everyone's time. A recruiter's outreach should always be intentional. Again, our goal is to stand out, grab attention and engage talent. A general message probably won't resonate."

Skip the Weekend

"Thinking through your target demographics and when they are best reached is equally important to what the actual message is saying," Garrett said.

Monday is the best day of the week to send an InMail, according to LinkedIn data, but sending recruitment messages on most of the other days performs only slightly below average.

"The one day that does make a difference, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Saturday," Reid said. "InMails sent on Saturday get 13 percent fewer responses than average. Candidates are more likely to be out and about on Saturday, and even if they intend to answer at a later time, it may slip through the cracks."

On the other hand, recruiters are also probably taking the weekend off, and Saturdays are the least common day to send an InMail, she added. Just 2 percent are sent on Saturdays, and less than 5 percent are sent on the weekend.

Garrett said that the type of position you're looking to fill is another important factor when deciding when to send a message. "Is it for a nighttime nurse shift? Are time zones a consideration? If so, try to think through when you would be best reached if you worked in those schedules, and likely that will align with their best time to be engaged with as well."

Target 'Open to Work' Profiles

InMails sent to LinkedIn members who indicate to recruiters that they're open to talk by toggling on their "Open to Work" signal have a 75 percent higher response rate than other candidates.

"While some recruiters may focus on passive candidates only, you shouldn't overlook or undervalue more active candidates, including those who don't currently have a job," Reid said. "Instead of limiting your available talent pool, giving these candidates a fair shot can help diversify your talent pipeline and result in great hires."

Obanion agreed, adding that someone signaling "Open to Work" and actively exploring opportunities tends to check LinkedIn more frequently and intentionally. "I would expect an increase in InMails," she said.

[Want to learn more recruiting tips? Join us at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2021, taking place Sept. 9-12 in Las Vegas and virtually.]



Hire the best HR talent or advance your own career.

Move your HR career forward.

Apply for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exam today! Applicants now have the option to test from home.

Apply for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exam today! Applicants now have the option to test from home.



HR Daily Newsletter

News, trends and analysis, as well as breaking news alerts, to help HR professionals do their jobs better each business day.