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 from their InMail allotment. Recruiters earn an InMail credit back if their message receives a response within 90 days — so response rates reflect both candidate engagement and recruiter efficiency.
But what kind of InMails actually drive higher response rates, and how can recruiters improve their own InMail response rate?
To find out, we took a close look at LinkedIn data to answer the following questions:
- Do longer or shorter InMails tend to get better response rates?
- Does it matter what day of the week you send an InMail?
- Are personalized InMails more likely to get a response?
- Are Open to Work candidates more likely to respond?
Read on for all the fun charts, context, and takeaways — but we won’t keep you in suspense. Here’s what we learned:
- Shorter InMails perform significantly better than longer ones
- The day you send an InMail doesn’t really matter (just avoid Saturdays)
- Personalized InMails perform about 20% better than ones written or sent en masse
- “Open to Work” members are 75% more likely to respond than others
Now let’s take a closer look at that data and think about what recruiters can do to make their outreach more effective.
Shorter InMails get above-average response rates
Keep it short and sweet. You’ve probably heard that advice before, but you might be surprised by how clearly we can see the correlation between InMail length and response rates in the data.
The response rate for InMails of 201 to 400 characters is 16% above the average rate. In other words, these shorter InMails are 16% more likely to receive a response, compared to the average InMail.
By the same measure, the longest InMails are 18% less likely to get a response. To compare those extremes, the shortest InMails (400 characters or fewer) performed 41% better than the longest InMails (those over 1,400 characters).
How short is 400 characters? To help you visualize it, here are two examples of InMails under 400 characters from a recent eBook with outreach tips from LinkedIn recruiters:
To be clear, you don’t always need to keep your message that concise. InMails twice as long, up to 800 characters, still receive above-average response rates. Also keep in mind that these are simply averages based on millions and millions of InMails — a shorter message isn’t guaranteed to overperform, but in general they do tend to get better response rates.
If you typically write longer InMails, don’t sweat it: So do most recruiters.
Less than 10% of all InMails are under 400 characters, while the majority fall between 400 and 1,000 characters. That may be why shorter InMails are so effective: They stand out from 90% of 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.
Again, these are just guidelines, not ironclad laws. Longer, detailed InMails do work well for some candidates. Ultimately, you know your target talent pool and should use your best judgment. Still, it could be worth experimenting with shorter InMails and seeing how candidates respond.
It doesn’t really matter what day you send an InMail — just avoid Saturdays
Most InMail responses arrive pretty quickly: two of every three InMail responses (65%) arrive within 24 hours, and four out of five (79%) arrive within three days. Given that, you might think that when you choose to send an InMail matters a lot. Timing is everything, right?
Well, maybe not in this case. If you’ve ever worried about the best time to send an InMail, you can breathe a sigh of relief.
Monday is the best day of the week to send an InMail, but just barely. Even sending an InMail on Friday or Sunday barely makes a difference — they only perform 2% or 3% below average.
The one day that does make a difference, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Saturday. InMails sent on Saturday get 13% 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.
Fortunately, recruiters are also probably off enjoying themselves on Saturdays, since it’s the least common day to send an InMail. Just 2% are sent on Saturdays, and less than 5% of InMails are sent on the weekend.
The takeaway for recruiters: Take the weekend off.
Personalized InMails perform about 20% better than ones written or sent en masse
Recruiting leaders have preached about the value of personalization for years, and LinkedIn data backs them up.
InMails that are sent individually see response rates roughly 20% higher than InMails sent in bulk. Similarly, InMails written without a template tend to get more responses than templated messages.
Of course, personalization is much more than just writing without a template or sending messages one-by-one. The content of your InMail should also show that you’re interested in the recipient as an individual.
“Whatever stands out to me at first glance, that’s what I talk about in my outreach,” explained talent leader Stacy Zapar in her top-rated talk at LinkedIn Talent Connect 2018. “I’m not going to tell you to craft everything from scratch all the time. Just show them that you actually read their profile and that your message is intended only for them.”
InMails sent to “Open to Work” candidates see a 75% performance lift
It’s probably no surprise that LinkedIn members who choose to let recruiters know that they’re open to work are also more likely to respond to your InMail.
What you might not realize is just how dramatic the difference is: The response rate for candidates who indicate they’re open to work is 75% higher than the rate for 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. Though the pandemic may be diminishing it, there’s still a stigma against unemployed candidates. Instead of limiting your available talent pool, giving these candidates a fair shot can help diversify your talent pipeline and result in great hires.
With hiring on the rise again, now is a great time for recruiters to hone and refine their outreach skills.
Here’s what we’ve learned about InMail response rates by analyzing LinkedIn data, translated into simple takeaways:
- Keep InMails short
- Don’t send on Saturday
- Write and send InMails individually
- Target open candidates
Remember, these are just guidelines to keep in mind — not constraints.
Experiment and see what yields the best results for you. If you are looking for ways to improve your response rates, these data-driven findings may be able to point you in the right direction.
This analysis was based on tens of millions of InMails sent by corporate recruiters around the world between April 2020 and February 2021. Members included active users with relatively complete profiles. Staffing firms were excluded from this analysis. InMail responses include any response received within 30 days.
Less than 1% of InMails are shorter than 200 characters; while they were included in this analysis, they were not shown on the charts about the lengths of InMails.
For days of the week, this global analysis was limited to using UTC time, so a minority of InMails may have been actually sent on an adjacent day according to local time (for example, 6 p.m. on Sunday in California is 1 a.m. on Monday in UTC, and 9 a.m. on Monday in Sydney, Australia, is 11 p.m. on Sunday in UTC).
And speaking of timing, you might wonder whether COVID-19 impacted InMail response rates overall. In short, it doesn’t seem to have made a difference: the average response rate in January 2021 was less than 1% different than the pre-pandemic rate in January 2020.