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 https://www.earlywork.co/job-platforms for some inspiration on where to look for tech & startup roles, and https://www.earlywork.co/grad-programs-internships 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.
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.
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).
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!
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.