Secret to Effective Referral Recruiting Emails & InMail on LinkedIn

This is part 3 of my LinkedIn InMail Messaging series. You read part one and part two.

Hands down my favorite way of finding candidate diamonds in the rough is through referrals and recommendations either within my network or someone who I come acrossed that is connected and willing to share. There is a fine art to sending a referral message. The recruiter can come off rough, entitled and just looking for a quick fix without taking into account or acknowledging the importance of the network and the time the personal has spent to cultivate and establish a good relationship with his rolodex of contacts.

Secret to Effective Referral Recruiting Emails & InMail on LinkedIn 

My biggest pet peeve as a blogger and someone with an expansive network is that many individuals want something for free. I keep my connections and relationships very close. I’ve built my network because I carefully screen and get to know people and referral sources personally. These are just things to keep in mind as you look for recruiting and candidate referral sources and connect with influencers or connectors regardless of industry.

I’m not alone in this feeling. A friend and extremely visible professional from Dallas recently posted a comment screenshare of an engagement with a recruiter (pictured below) who was looking for a quick referral to fill his job opening. There was no relationship, customization or even an attempt at pleasantries. Messages like this one give recruiters a bad name. Out of respect for the recruiter, I’ve removed his/her name. Mike shared this InMail with his Facebook network a couple weeks ago. I have chosen not to publish the remarks and responses from his network, but it is clear that messages like this are extremely commonplace. Bad practices as displayed below present a huge opportunity for recruiters who want to differentiate themselves from the pack and establish relationships with professionals like Mike. Brand awareness is everything.


Social networks are relatively easy to build, network and manipulate. Platforms like LinkedIn have made it easy to search and connect making in my opinion connecting in a personal or a unique way even more important. Connected individuals have choices and look to grow their personal network for future gain.

LinkedIn InMail Candidate Referral Template

The referral template is one that often gets overlooked, but it is an extremely powerful way to find hidden candidates or referral sources by connecting with connectors on platforms like Linkedin. I am of the belief that no recruiter wants to be the butt of someone’s jokes. I’m going to assume they want to be employed and in business for the long term. No longer can we just ask a candidate to send over referrals. Quality referral sources are focused on relationships. They want to know you are not going to abuse their networks and most importantly care about the people they are referring. Otherwise, what’s the point of a referral aside from paying the referrer a finders fee.

Below is an example of the message template I’ve had very good response from. Although, my best response rate comes from getting the referral source on the phone and chatting with them for 5-10 minutes, being casual and talking through some candidates sources, referrals and networks I should consider when recruiting.


The most important piece of your referral email is often overlooked. The Subject line is extremely important. It’s the most important piece of your message. Without a solid subject line that’s clickable, you are not getting a referral or even an opened message to build that connect and relationship with the person you are seeking.

Similarly to a tweet, you have one chance to get a candidate or referral source to click on your email to read more. Keep it short, direct and to the point but leave a little mystery. Just make sure that having them click through is worth their time and effort. Otherwise you are furthering the stereotype of the swarmy and spammy recruiter that is so prevalent in very competitive industry especially in my experience in living in Silicon Valley.

This is part 3 of my LinkedIn InMail Messaging series. You read part one and part two. Email messaging is one of the most important parts of recruiting yet often overlooked. Don’t sabotage your recruiting efforts by failing to spend the time and effort on a customized email message to the candidate. 

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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