How To Land a Role With LinkedIn DMs

How to Land a Role With LinkedIn DMs

During my undergrad, I was fortunate enough to work with three super interesting startups alongside some great humans (Tilt, Tayble, and most recently, Ofload). Each of those experiences has helped shape my personal paradigm for what defines meaningful work.

But how many had a job listing for a student role? Zero.

Okay, yeah yeah, so a generic university careers event in university told you to reach out to people on LinkedIn if you’re looking for a job, but hold up…

Who should you be messaging, and what exactly do you say???

Let’s dive in and look at the real-world process we’ve used to land roles in tech and startups through LinkedIn in the past.

Which Companies To Reach Out To?

Beyond companies actively hiring for the role you want, also consider:

  • Companies with listings for similar roles of different seniority (they may be flexible)

  • Startups that have recently raised funding (an influx of $$$ means budget for new staff)

  • Companies that have been featured in articles/podcasts/newsletters based on their recent growth in terms of customers, markets, product offerings, etc. (a growing company will always need more people)

Be sure to check out for some inspiration on where to look for tech & startup roles, and for larger tech companies that have dedicated intern/grad roles.

Which Employees To Reach Out To?

When it comes to tech & startup roles, there are four key stakeholders you should consider messaging, but in doing so, it’s essential to distinguish the audience of cold messaging based on company size.

1. Founders

With early-stage startups without HR teams, formal recruiting processes and limited or no budget for advertising roles, you can often reach out directly to founders to ask about job opportunities. Visibility of work opportunities in these roles is often super low because the founders are swamped with too much other work to spend their time putting up job listings, even if they could use an extra hand.

2. Functional Managers

Think Product Manager, Marketing Manager, etc. An ideal message target for growth-stage startups and mature tech companies, as they’re likely to have less flooded inboxes than the founders, but still often have influence over hiring decisions and have a couple of years under their belt to give advice. In more mature tech companies, they may not be directly responsible for the hiring process but can still be a great contact for referrals (see #4 for a further discussion here).

3. Recruiters

If you’re open to roles across several business functions, it may be worth messaging the company’s recruiters/people operations staff /HR staff to pitch yourself, as they’re more likely to have a view of hiring needs across different business areas.

4. Associate-Level Employees

For late-stage startups and big-brand name tech companies where managers are flooded with message requests, an easier way to get an in, learn more about the company and interview process, and potentially secure a referral is by speaking to more junior employees. With referrals, don’t be too pushy and ask straight off the bat. Most people won’t be inclined to refer strangers when their reputation is at stake. First, have a real conversation with them. Get to know the person’s story and share your experiences with them in an initial chat, then ask them at the end whether they’d feel comfortable providing a referral.

Don’t send a message to everyone in the company, but it’s okay to try with a couple of people as not everyone is the type to respond to cold messages. Prioritise employees who have LinkedIn premium, have more detailed profiles, have recently posted on LinkedIn or have 500+ connections. These are all signs of strong engagement with LinkedIn, and in turn, a heuristic for how likely they will respond to your connection request.

A lot of people won’t accept but don’t be disheartened. It’s a numbers game, and the more people you message, the better you get at identifying what sort of people respond and how to frame your messages. Sometimes it only takes one to land a role you love!

How To Send The Message

Tried and tested tip: use connection requests, not inMail. No need to pay for Premium; just make sure to add a note when sending a connection request, and you can do this for free. Note that there is a 300 character limit, so be efficient with your words! Cut the formal intro and message signature if you have to.

You might be thinking why not email, and yes, you can definitely give cold emails a shot too, but a key advantage of LinkedIn is that there’s a lot more information about who the sender is i.e. a whole profile with their resume, skills, achievements, connections, recommendations, posts, etc. This makes it easier to build trust and credibility with the recipient versus an email from some mysterious stranger.

Our Go-To Framework

Here’s a super handy framework I picked up whilst working in sales at Uber that you can leverage for any cold outreach message to ensure you make yourself clear:

  • Who - Who are you?

  • Why - Why are you reaching out?

  • What - What’s in it for the company?

Okay, cool story bro, but how do I put that into action? Here’s a simple template that you can leverage as a guideline for fleshing out your Who-Why-What messaging:

Hi [firstName],

I’m a [fieldOfStudy] student at [universityName] with experience in [skills]. Came across [company name] through [source] and was super interested by [company attribute].

Would love to have a chat and see if you’re open to bringing on a [role].



Let’s deep dive on the ingredients here:

I’m a [fieldOfStudy] student at [universityName] with experience in [skills].

Ultimately, you want a short line here to frame your profile in terms of experience and interests. Why should they pay attention to this random human messaging them? You can replace the part about experience and skills with companies/organisations you’ve worked at, or even just areas you’re interested to learn more about / find a role in.

Came across [company name] through [source] and was super interested by [company attribute].

If we’re talking startups, tell the person why you’re interested in their company specifically and why this isn’t just another spam message. Give a specific example of something that made you excited about the company, whether it be a certain feature, a cultural value, the company mission or the story of the founder(s). For the bigger brand name tech companies, people aren’t going to be that interested about how you found out about, say, Google. Try something like: Came across your profile and was super interested by [personal attribute]. Focus more on the person’s specific role, and work/educational background, as what led you to reach out to them instead of their co-workers. Bonus points if you can mention some thread of commonality like having worked at the same company, been to the same university, or been involved with the same communal organisation/society.

Would love to have a chat and see if you’re open to bringing on a [role].

Make a clear and specific ask about why you’re connecting; don’t waste their time with a nebulous “Would love to add you to my professional network”. Once you connect, you can set up the specifics of in-person vs Zoom, meeting duration, meeting time, etc. but when you only have 300 characters to start, you need to be efficient.

Note that for larger companies with more formal recruiting processes, employees tend to have less direct responsibility for hiring decisions, but likely have an incentive to refer candidates. As such, a ‘softer’ approach than directly asking if they’re hiring is: Would love to have a chat and learn more about your experience as a [role] at [company]. This is also a great follow-up message if they accept your connection request, but they’re not currently hiring. Turn rejection into a chance to learn more about the industry and how to break in!



Add this in if you have the character space (it is a bit more polite!).

Bonus DM Hacks (with Real-World Examples)

Looking to get a bit cheekier with your approach and stand out from the crowd? Here are real examples of 2 different techniques I utilised to find internships without an official listing:

1. Add value to the company before your first message

tl;dr - Leverage a small favour to a company to get your foot in the door for hiring.

It was in 2nd-year uni that I first came across Tayble, a restaurant ordering app for dine-in and takeaway well ahead of its time, through an advertisement that popped up on my Facebook feed.

Sold on the idea, I participated in their pre-launch referral competition to win free meals, and through posting my referral link across several platforms in a bunch of relevant groups, I was able to shoot up to the 8th highest spot out of over 3000 entrants in 48 hours.

I then reached out to their COO to tell them about my efforts, explain a bit more about why I was interested in their space, and ask if they had any upcoming intern positions. He put me in touch with their CMO to discuss further. Met up at Bondi Junction for a single casual interview as their first-ever Sales & Marketing Intern and boom! Hired.

2. Turn a full-time entry-level or associate-level listing into a part-time role

tl;dr - Just because a job listing says full-time, doesn’t mean they won’t consider part-time for the right candidate.

Mindlessly scrolling through LinkedIn jobs (the usual), I happened to see an Operations Associate position at Ofload (previously Loadsmile), a digital road freight platform working to reduce waste and increase transparency in the Australian trucking industry.

The problem space seemed super interesting, the founding team looked really strong, and they were at an exciting early stage with pre-seed funding from Rocket Internet, but the role? Full-time. Hmmmmm.

I applied anyway, and upon initial reach-out from the COO, I was upfront about the fact that I was looking for something part-time with the view to full-time in a few months.

Sure enough, that COVID thingo meant part-time was actually quite suitable on a small startup budget. Three interviews later, I joined the team part-time and have since converted to a full-time role after graduating.

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