linkedinloserI recently received this InMail from a certain LinkedIn user – and if you’re even tangentially connected to HR or recruiting, then you’re probably already recoiling at this all too familiar awkwardness. But if you think this is a good way to build your network on LinkedIn, think again.

Here’s how I interpret Rod’s plea for help – and how I think most recruiters feel about these sort of shady worst practices that swell the burgeoning ranks of LinkedIn losers.

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start).  First, he addresses this connection request to “Dear Recruiter.” Which, clearly, shows old Rod clearly took the time to personalize his message.  This salutation is an instant trigger for that “oh, goodie – another GENERIC message from someone I don’t know and who obviously doesn’t know me or anything about me” face palm.

The thing is: I’m not a recruiter.

The problem is that by addressing me as a recruiter, Rod clearly shows he has no idea what I actually do.even if it’s explicitly spelled out, in bullet points, even, right there on the same profile he’s trying to connect with.  Thanks for the carefully researched request, Rod.  You’re not only sending me a highly impersonal note, you’re likely sending at least the 70 “recruiters” you’re referencing the wrong message – which is OK. You’re probably targeting the completely wrong crowd, anyway.

The second and third line of this message made me throw up in my mouth a little.  Personal branding is a necessary evil, particularly on a platform like LinkedIn.  But to go on about all the recruiters and amazing professionals you’re connected to (connections you’ve already demonstrated to be dubious at best) just reads like an obnoxious blend of bragging, arrogance and comes across as just plain annoying.

EEEK! Not quite the way to sell yourself to the reader there, Rod.

Finally, the fourth and fifth lines include the question about the ethics of contracting recruiters – which, given the previous paragraphs in this poorly constructed and off-putting introduction, are truly puzzling.  On the one hand, I guess we should applaud his concern for behaving ethically.  Then again, on the other, he comes across as blatantly expecting to exploit a shortcut in networking for a new position (and you’d think IT professionals would at least know how to network).

It looks, frankly, like he’s avoiding actually avoiding any type of personal effort or due diligence in his job search. That’s not the message anyone wants to send recruiters, on LinkedIn or otherwise.

Rod references the work he does in his introduction, and the usual cover letter laundry list of what he can offer an employer and the kind of job he’s hoping an employer offers him.  The problem is, even if Rod and I were old friends and I was familiar with what he does, deciphering all that from this message would be burdensome at best, impossible at worst.

No recruiter on earth can translate this kind of ambiguity into a tangible career opportunity.

Digging Deeper: Profile of A LinkedIn Loser

Of course, I wanted to learn more about this guy who clearly is going to open the doors to a whole network of highly connected recruiters and maybe some A-Players he’s worked with in his previous roles – OK, I’m kidding, I was just curious who sends this kind of message to begin with – and then saw the real problem with Rod.  His last position ended in 1999.

There’s no explanation for that 15 year employment gap, but you’d think that if you were going to even consider using this platform for connecting with recruiters, you might maybe mention why the heck your profile has a gaping hole in it that sends up so many instant recruiting red flags.  This is why, on LinkedIn, at least, it’s so important to be aware of not only the direct content, but its context, too.

According to the information I had available – like any other recruiter Rod might have reached out to – it appears Todd may be the kind of candidate whose professional cohort are getting fought over by recruiters after showing off their skills on Ruby-on-Rails, Java or whatever other programming language or coding capabilities happen to be hot this week.  Instead, Todd is spending his time begging recruiters to come knocking with poorly constructed InMails that are pretty much the reason that LinkedIn has become a pariah for so many recruiters and candidates alike.

I mean, come on – it’s not like top tech talent is sitting around optimizing their LinkedIn profile in the hopes of scoring a gig.  Those guys, in fact, are likely posting on 4Chan and in user groups explicitly to bitch about avoiding recruiters and their stupid tricks and hacks on LinkedIn, not proactively reaching out to them through InMail, which everyone knows no one actually looks at anyway?

Don’t Be That Guy.

HelloLoserPX1How To Stop Being A Loser On LinkedIn

I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m being harsh on Rod, but he initiated the message, and asked for help, so while I’m dissecting his message on a public blog (although LinkedIn is sure trying to become one of those, too), I want to be fair and explain the reason I’m doing this is to fulfill Rod’s ask for a little help with LinkedIn etiquette. I’m hoping that by explaining how Rod – or the many job seekers in similar circumstances – can improve their chances of getting a real response from a real recruiter.

First and foremost, please stop connecting to total strangers if your sole rationale for doing so is to request a favor or attempt to blatantly sell a product or service (don’t worry, their new “direct sponsored content” offered by LinkedIn will take care of that for you).  Next, just because LinkedIn for some reason allows bulk messaging, this doesn’t mean that this is a particularly effective – or even professional – way to communicate.

How would you like it if some company just started sending you spam without at least giving you the chance to opt out, first? That’s how this bulk messaging comes across, especially with strangers and particularly to those who actually can offer the kind of advice, information or assistance you’re looking for. You’re just going to piss them off by asking for value immediately instead of creating a compelling case of why you’re able to add some for them, too.

Third, don’t make people guess (or try to remember) who the hell, exactly, you are and why you’re contacting them in the first place.  If they have to try to come up with an immediate reason for trying to establish a relationship or re-establish a long lost connection, then they’re unlikely to even pay attention to your asks, much less deliver the help you’re hoping for.

Finally, Rod – if, indeed, I were a recruiter, you know that recruiters make money by connecting candidates with jobs.  If you’re asking anyone to do for free what they rely on to make money professionally, particularly when those people are strangers who owe you nothing and you’ve done nothing for, you’re inherently crossing over that ethics line you seem so concerned about.

How To Turn Being A LinkedIn Loser Into A Winning Networker

My main advice to Rod, or anyone else for that matter, is simple.  Fill out your profile.  Seems pretty obvious, right?  But when you’ve got 15 years of an unexplained hiatus from the world of work, then stop sending recruiters spam and focus on the small stuff that will go a long way – like putting pertinent professional information on your profile.  Get busy building your presence on LinkedIn and other sites where recruiters are actively searching for digital footprints and stop connecting to recruiters.  If you provide the information they want from you or you happen to have the skills they need, they’ll be the ones connecting with you.

I guarantee it.  If not – you’re still better served networking with professional peers, colleagues and coworkers within your own area of expertise instead of targeting recruiters – they’ll be far more valuable in your job search than a bunch of random strangers you’ve collected in your digital rolodex simply because their LinkedIn profile happened to contain the word “recruiter.”

For everyone else, if you think your job search may benefit from working with recruiters, then take the time to actually do some digging and target the ones who are the most likely to place someone like you.  Most recruiters have niche focuses or specialize in particular industries, functions or skill sets, which is why finding a recruiter who can help you is imperative.

Once you’ve taken the time to carefully read their profiles, do a Google search or try to find a common connection or talking point, then use that information to properly and professionally craft a compelling, properly personalized introduction.  Whether there are 7, 700 or 7,000 recruiters out there who might be able to help with your next step, make sure you make it clear to each and every one why they should keep you top of mind for opportunities instead of buried in the bottom of their junk mail folders.

It’s important to remember that recruiters are employed by clients or companies.  They get paid pretty much exclusively for finding and developing qualified candidates.  In most cases, recruiters aren’t just sitting around, twiddling their thumbs and waiting for that magic message to pop up from a job seeker and then figuring out how or where to place them (that’s why they have job boards).  Nor do they have the time or resources to respond to incoming requests like the cautionary example set by our old buddy Rod.

Who, I’m pretty sure, is still on the market and would love to connect with you, too!  Hey, it’s already worked on 70 suckers – er, “LinkedIn LIONs.”

For more from Kelly on what NOT to do on LinkedIn, check out her latest RecruitingBlogs post, Add This Guy To The Recruiter Wall of Shame.


About the Author: Leveraging her unique perspective as a progressive thinker with a well-rounded background from diverse corporate settings, Kelly Blokdijk advises members of the business community on targeted human resource, recruiting and organization development initiatives to enhance talent management, talent acquisition, corporate communications and employee engagement programs.

Kelly is an active HR and recruiting industry blogger and regular contributor on She also candidly shares opinions, observations and ideas as a member of RecruitingBlogs’ Editorial Advisory Board.

Follow Kelly on Twitter @TalentTalks or connect with her on LinkedIn.