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How to Get Positive Responses to Cold Outreach Messages on LinkedIn

Just popping into your inbox!

woman working on laptop
Photo courtesy of Damian Zaleski

Cold calling has a bad reputation. Everyone’s had at least one family dinner interrupted by telemarketers. So, it comes as no surprise that sending a cold message on LinkedIn, whether looking for a job or more clients, can be nerve wracking. You don’t want to be reported, rejected, or ignored, but how can you sell yourself to a stranger without spamming?

There are expert practices you can follow to warm up cold outreach messages, and increase the likelihood of getting the response you’re looking for. Let’s take a look.

Does cold outreach on LinkedIn actually work?

People are on LinkedIn to offer their services or find a job. B2B marketers are in the right place. Of LinkedIn’s 610 million members, some 61 million are senior-level influencers and 40 million are decision makers, according to LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. And nearly half of those members reading the articles published on LinkedIn are in upper-level management and C-suite positions.

Job searchers are well positioned too. There are over 20 million companies listed on LinkedIn and 14 million open jobs, writes Maddy Osman at hosting provider Kinsta. She says 122 million people got job interviews by using LinkedIn, and 35.5 million were hired by a connection.

Even when you’ve got a targeted business platform like LinkedIn, however, cold calling (or messaging) is dead, according to the team at LinkedIn Sales Solutions. You need to improve your odds of success by turning those cold messages warm.

Consultant Daniel Tunkelang, former director of engineering and data science at LinkedIn, agrees: “Cold-call messaging a prospective employer probably won’t help you much unless you invest in personalizing the message and give the recipient a reason to care,” he says.

You need to make sure you’re connecting to the right person, too. Sending a message to the hiring manager is better than one to a managing partner, advises Tunkelang, because executives don’t usually get involved in the hiring process at that level.

Read more: How to Write a Killer LinkedIn Summary That Gets Attention

Making that first connection

When you send an invitation to connect to someone you don’t know, make sure you personalize it with a note. Use their first name in the greeting, explain how you came to know of them (e.g., you attended their talk, met briefly at a business event, or read an article they wrote). If it’s a completely cold contact, mention something on their profile that you either have in common (e.g., you both follow the same influencer or went to college in Boston) or would like to learn more about.

Make your subject line specific (i.e., Read your paper on agile management) and keep your message very short. At the end, add a postscript question that can be answered with a yes or a no, like, P.S. Did your company have success with Agile in the first year?

Your profile comes into play here. The recipient of your message can easily see who you are and what you do, so make sure you’ve got a LinkedIn profile that demands attention and builds trust.

Sarah Moore, CEO of Eleven Lights Media, says using voice message on LinkedIn is a great alternative to text message. Hearing your voice makes a much more immediate and personal connection than text. Use the same format as you would in a cold text message: Make it personal, keep it brief, genuinely compliment them, and connect on something you have in common.

And when someone accepts your invitation, be responsive. Thank them and offer something of value (you can introduce them to someone in your network). Don’t ask for a job or other favor yet, unless it’s something they can benefit from, like a quote for an article, for which they’ll receive a link.

How to warm up cold outreach

If the person you’re sending a message to is a part of your LinkedIn network (and that can be any level or through a group), the first job search message you send will not actually be cold, says LinkedIn trainer and coach Teddy Burris. To move the connection forward, however, you need to focus on that person—not on the job you want. “When you get into a conversation, don’t use the word job, position, hire, or interview. Rather, ask questions about the business, goals, challenges, successes, team, industry, etc.,” Burris advises.

Focusing on the recipient and finding common ground will warm up a cold (or lukewarm) message, and begin to build a relationship well before you ask for a job or reference. To start, you can comment on, like, or share a post or article that person has written. If you see they have been hired or promoted at a company you’re interested in working at, congratulate them and say something like, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to work there. How are you liking it so far?

Read more: The Formula for Introducing Yourself in an Email—And Getting a Response

But first, a refresher on degrees of connection and members

You need to understand how to use LinkedIn before you start firing off cold invitations, messages and job applications.

Your LinkedIn network is made up of connections and fellow members of LinkedIn groups. People you’ve accepted invitations from (or those who’ve accepted them from you) are first-degree connections. People connected to them are second-degree, and those connected to second-degree connections are third-degree.

You can contact any of the people in your network by sending a message. If you’re not connected to a person you wish to contact, you can send an InMail by upgrading to a premium account.

Linkedin Premium has four price tiers, with premium career (at $30 per month) best for those looking for jobs. Along with applicant and profile insights, online video courses, and interview preparation, you get three InMail credits so you can reach out to a non-connected recruiter or job poster directly. This is important because you may be accessing the person who is the hiring decision maker.

Read more: Are Networking Events Actually Worth It? Here's What the Data Says

How to write a cold message that works

Career coach Dan King tells his clients to use LinkedIn to research the people and companies they want to work with. “Unless you’re exceptionally lucky, if you write to someone on LinkedIn asking for a job, you won’t get what you want immediately. That’s because getting a job is—most of the time—about demonstrating you can add value to the company or organization. It’s very, very hard to do this in one LinkedIn message,” he explains.

You begin the conversation by being clear at what you’ve got to offer and how you can add value to their business. King gives an example of what that message should look like:

Hello X, my name is X. My background is in X and X. I’m exploring job possibilities and at this stage, am thinking that X could be a fit for me because I could do X exceptionally well. Can we meet for 15 minutes to discuss?

Resume writer and career coach Amanda Goodall agrees that preliminary research is mandatory before reaching out. After you find a company you’d like to work for, or a job you want to apply for, find the associated HR department head or recruiter. Send a message that you’re interested in applying. Goodall says you can also “ask them if the position is still open and if the current job requirements are still valid so that you can make sure to be the perfect candidate.”

If your message to the company contact goes unanswered, look through your second- and third-degree connections and group members for someone who works there or has a connection who does. The next step is cold outreach, so you need to warm it up.

"Reach out to some of these people with a personal message and ask for information about the recruitment process (not a job just yet)," advises Sue Ellson, an independent LinkedIn specialist and career development practitioner. "Once you have this information, you will hopefully be able to keep finding out more information and start networking until you receive a referral."

More examples of great LinkedIn messages

Neil Patel gives a great example of a cold message that landed the sender a job. The sender uses the recipient's first name, making the message immediately personal. He establishes common ground, gives a genuine compliment and has a clear ask.

It reads:

Hi Kathryn,

While slightly out of place, I attended the Women 2.0 conference yesterday with EatDrinkJobs and had the chance to see you pitch. I was blown away by you, your team, and most of all, your company.

I spent six years at, working closely with amazing leaders like Jason Finger (who you know well). I see such amazing potential in your company, and I would love to be a part of it in any way. My primary focus is in marketing, with a lot of experience marketing to the same corporations and users you seem to be attracting. I’d love to tell you more about how my skill set could help you all reach and exceed your current growth goals.

Congrats on all your current success. Again, I’d love to find a time to chat more about the company and tell you how I could help.

SEO strategist Aja Frost offers the following job inquiry example. This would go to someone with a similar or identical role to the one you’re applying for, and you’re warming the cold message by reaching out for advice.

Hi [employee name],

[Insert commonality or compliment here, such as, "It's great to connect with someone else who's written for TechCrunch," or "I sent all of my coworkers your primer on SSL—best guide I've read!"

I'm interested in [company's] open [job title] role, and since you [have been at company for X years, work on the Y team, are doing great work there], I'd love to get your thoughts. Would you be open to answering 3-5 quick questions? It would be so appreciated.

Remember to follow up and say thank you to every response you receive. It’s important and people notice.

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