When you want to reach out to people who are not connected to your existing network and are, in your estimation, Very Important People, for example recruiters, hiring managers, senior executives at prospective employers or “stars” in your industry.
1. Ensure that your profile makes a great first impression. VIPs are busy people, so if they receive a message from you and decide to see your LinkedIn professional profile, chances are they’ll only spend a few seconds reviewing it. This means your profile has to be complete and eye catching.
Write a LinkedIn profile headline that is keyword specific and sells your unique skills, such as “Deadline-driven copywriter with 10+ years of experience at top-tier ad agencies.” Make sure your profile is complete – a complete, All-Star LinkedIn profile gets priority ranking.
2. Do your research on each VIP. Before reaching out to anyone, but particularly to a VIP, thoroughly review the person’s LinkedIn profile. Take note of anything you have in common with this person, any recent changes in his or her employment or any recent status updates that might give you something to mention in your outreach.
3. Write a “must-open” InMail subject line. To increase your likelihood of a response by 50%. Mention “referred by XYZ mutual connection” in the subject line. If you have no connections in common with this VIP, you will need to reach out by using an InMail credit (part of the Job Seeker Premium account upgrade). Since the VIP will not recognize your name, you must write a subject line that compels the person to open your message.
Mention some thing you have in common, such as an alma mater, hometown, professional association membership or personal interest. For instance, if you recently attended the same event as the person, you might write, “Question from fellow attendee of recent lumber expo.” Offer information. If after reading a VIP’s LinkedIn profile you come across an article the person might want to read or an event the person might want to attend, this information could be the key to connecting. For instance, your subject line might read, “Thought you might enjoy this article on special education in Africa.”
Answer a specific request. If the VIP is a recruiter or executive who has specifically mentioned a job opening, then be clear that you are responding to that opportunity. For example, “Candidate for sales manager position you mentioned on the radio this morning.” In this case, there’s no need to beat around the bush. Or potentially comment on a status update – you can be sure even the most busy of executives will enjoy the flattery of receiving a positive review.
4. Write a concise (100 words or less), specific and polite message. A big mistake people make when reaching out to network with VIPs is writing too long of an outreach message or being too vague. Remember that this is neither a cover letter nor your life story. Limit your message to 100 words – make it direct and to the point. Here is an example:
Subject line: Request from fellow Washington native inspired by your SXSW talk
I recently viewed your SXSW talk online and, as someone who grew up in Washington, I was particularly inspired by your story of success as a marketing expert. I am currently transitioning from a teaching career into digital media and I was wondering if you could offer any advice or resources specifically related to launching a career in digital journalism. I know you are very busy, so any guidance or suggestions would be deeply appreciated – a particular niche you recommend I pursue, blog I should read regularly or even a news outlet that you might know is hiring in the Washington area. Thank you for inspiring me and for considering my request.
5. If at first you don’t succeed, try another way. If you don’t receive a response to your InMail when you reach out to a VIP, don’t despair (and remember that the InMail credit will be replaced if you don’t receive a response). But I also recommend that you don’t follow up using the exact same method. To reach a busy VIP who may receive hundreds of emails and messages a day, try something different, such as commenting in an executive LinkedIn group or other discussion this person has posted, replying to a status update this person has shared (You can follow people you share Groups by clicking “follow” under that person’s photo) or even reaching out to another person at his or her organization to make a good impression and then ask for a referral to the VIP.
Finally, remember to show your gratitude. If you are successful making contact with a VIP and that person offers you an informational interview or answers a few questions by email, don’t forget to send a gracious thank you message. Even thought VIPs are busy, they will always appreciate (and expect) a polite and timely thank you note.
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