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On the surface, LinkedIn seems a lot like other social media. It has all the familiar features: a newsfeed, a notification center, a chat function, a personal profile, and more. You might be surprised that learning how to cold connect on LinkedIn could help you grow your career.
Don’t let the platform’s social media features distract you. LinkedIn is a powerful networking tool if you know how to use it. It is one of many ways to build your roster of professional connections. It can also help you reach new target audiences, find potential customers, or hire new employees.
An expanded network can help you improve your CV, meet a mentor, and find job opportunities. In fact, 6 people are hired through LinkedIn every minute. That means learning how to cold connect on LinkedIn is a great way to develop your career.
Firing off your first message to a stranger can be intimidating. But, when done properly, it’s like introducing yourself at a professional conference: friendly, straightforward, and even a little bit fun.
Let’s review how to cold connect on LinkedIn and how to cold message someone on LinkedIn to see what will work for you.
What are cold messaging and cold connecting on LinkedIn?
The concept of cold connecting is simple enough: you reach out to people you don’t know with a LinkedIn connection request.
Cold connecting is a great way to expand your professional network and boost your social capital. Reaching out to someone who you saw speak at an industry conference, for example, is a great way to foster a connection. These people likely share your goals — or have already accomplished what you’re trying to.
Even if you don’t know too much about a new connection, you can probably find common ground.
You can also write a cold connection message to introduce yourself. Cold messaging is the same concept as cold connecting, but you send a direct message out of the blue instead of sending a network request.
This message might come a few days after they accept your connection request or even before you choose to send it.
LinkedIn users can be wary of strangers reaching out, so approach them with tact and authenticity. Remember, it’s not a sales pitch.
How to cold connect on LinkedIn
To cold connect with someone on LinkedIn, navigate to their profile, click “connect,” and add a note. Done! That was easy, right?
Sending a cold LinkedIn connection request is similar to cold emailing and cold calling. However, it has unique unwritten rules and etiquette. You need to make sure your recipient isn’t put off by your advance. So, when you’re reaching out, keep these tips in mind.
Be polite but confident
You might be tempted to apologize for reaching out without having met this person before. However, keep in mind that LinkedIn is a public, professional network. People create profiles so others can find them. As long as you’re polite, you won’t insult your recipient when you message them.
Craft a short and direct message
Unless you have LinkedIn Premium and InMail credits, the platform only allows 300 characters for an introductory message to a new connection. That’s enough to:
- Politely introduce yourself
- Explain how you might know the person (or why you want to know the person)
- Describe what you’re looking for
- Sign off politely
If the person is already part of your network, InMail allows you to send a message with no character limit. But if you’ve never talked to them, you should still follow these guidelines. Anything less will appear low-effort and not worth their time. Anything more will seem burdensome and will hurt your response rate.
Have one clear ask
When you reach out, only ask for one thing. If you include too many details in your message, you risk overwhelming the reader, and they’ll likely ignore you. You can pose your follow-up questions when they respond.
Write a personalized message
Customize your LinkedIn message as you would a CV or a cover letter. You won't get responses if the other person senses that you copied and pasted a generic template. An excellent way to personalize a message is to compliment something specific. Explain why you're a fan of their work, for example. They're more likely to reply if you're genuine.
Don’t attach anything
Avoid putting file attachments and links in your cold message. This will only overwhelm the other person and show that you’re not considerate of their time. If you want them to review your files, wait until they agree to help you first.
Show your support before reaching out
Try liking some of their posts, sharing them in your feed, or leaving a thoughtful comment. People often notice when others engage with their content. Then, when you eventually reach out, they’ll recognize your name.
How to write a LinkedIn cold message
Let’s say you saw an industry leader speak at a virtual conference. They’re not yet part of your LinkedIn network, but you’re considering a career change and hope they can help you transition. You may even want to form a long-term relationship with them or ask them to mentor you.
Here’s what you can write:
I hope you’re well. I saw you speak at the recent Sales Navigator Convention, and I was impressed by your presentation. I’m considering becoming a salesperson, but I’m worried about my qualifications. What were your two biggest challenges when starting in this sector?
This message is short, polite, and direct. We also praise their presentation and have a clear ask. And remember, this person isn’t part of our network, and we managed to keep it under 300 characters. This will also have a better reply rate because it’s easy to respond to quickly.
How to cold message on LinkedIn for a job
To get started, send messages to recruiters, hiring managers, or mutual connections who may know someone inside the company. Follow the above principles in your introduction: keep it short, polite, and to the point. But now, make your question about the company.
Here’s a strong cold outreach message. If one of your shared connections posts about a job opening and you’re interested in applying, but you haven’t seen them in a while, try something like this:
How are you? We met at a media relations workshop a year ago. I’ve had a lot of fun reading your posts. I found the one about [blank] particularly insightful.
I noticed you recently shared a job posting at your company. I was thinking of applying, but I wanted to know more about the company culture. Does [company name] strongly invest in its employees' professional development? Happy to schedule a call to discuss.
Thanks so much!
This person is already part of your network, so you have some latitude in terms of character count. That said, it’s still best to keep it to the essentials. We explained how we knew them, complimented their posts (bonus points if we’ve consistently liked and commented on them), and asked specifically about the company.
Suggesting a one-on-one Zoom or phone call to discuss your questions in more depth is always a great idea. This opens the door to further discussion about the job. After a few exchanges, you can ask if they’d be comfortable putting your resume in the applicant pool.
Employers usually favor internal referrals. Getting one will drastically improve your chances for an interview. And even if the job doesn’t work out, informational interviews with your connections can benefit your career in the long run.
How to add recruiters on LinkedIn
If you’re going to cold connect with a recruiter to ask them questions about a job posting, use the above tips. Also, make sure you update your LinkedIn profile to reflect any in-demand or transferable skills you possess.
You can find recruiters under the company’s “People” page with a job title like “Recruiter,” “Talent Acquisition,” “Hiring Manager,” or even “Human Resources Manager.”
There’s also a way to inform recruiters on LinkedIn that you’re open to new positions. This will open you up to receive more cold messages about prospective roles. Set your profile to “open to work” so that a recruiter knows their message won’t be ignored.
The main takeaway
Though it may take some bravery at first, you should add cold messages to your networking strategy. LinkedIn outreach can lead to surprising opportunities. You can meet industry leaders from across the country, find back doors into job interviews, or find your next mentor — all valuable assets to your career.
At BetterUp, we can help you focus on your career development and learn more about how to cold connect on LinkedIn. We’ll help you maximize your potential.
Content Marketing Manager, ACC