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The 5 Best Ways to Contact an Executive About a Job Opportunity

Top performers are busy, they are frequently contacted about new positions, and they are usually not looking for another role. As a result, they are often not responsive to outreach from recruiters.

To get a rock star candidate on the phone, you need to be persistent and creative. How you contact someone is important. What you say matters as well. While no approach is 100% foolproof, this article features the five best ways to contact an executive about a job opportunity.

1. Send an intriguing InMail.

InMails are emails that are sent through LinkedIn. If you just have a Basic (free) LinkedIn account, you can only send direct messages to people that you are already connected with. However, premium LinkedIn accounts like LinkedIn Recruiter allow you to send InMails to any LinkedIn member.

The only goal for an InMail (or any other kind of message) is to get the other person to respond. There is a much better chance that will happen when you build intrigue, not when you give everything away in the message.

Keep InMails short and aim for less than 75 words. Be sure to include a clear call-to-action as well, such as asking for a 15-minute phone call. Here is an example of an InMail template that worked very well for me on an executive search that I recently completed for a tech start-up:

Hi _____,

Can we schedule a 15-minute call?

I’m an executive recruiter and would like to network with you and get your opinion on a confidential search. It’s for a Head of Business Development for a VC-backed tech startup. The company was co-founded by a former Google and Facebook exec. The position reports to the CEO and includes equity.

Even if you weren’t open to a new role, wouldn’t you be curious to learn more?

2. Send an intriguing email.

Instead of sending an InMail (or as a follow-up if someone doesn’t respond to an InMail), you can also send an email to a candidate. Response rates for InMails are typically much higher than emails, since LinkedIn’s branding gives you extra credibility and helps your message stand out more than a typical email.

However, some people aren’t very active on LinkedIn. They might not check their LinkedIn account very often, or they might have their LinkedIn account connected to an email address that they don’t check very often. As a result, you should follow-up with an intriguing email if there is no response to your InMail. You can send the same message through email that you sent in an InMail.

3. Send a personalized invitation to connect on LinkedIn.

If a candidate has not responded to your InMail or email, you could also try sending a personalized invitation to connect on LinkedIn. After you click the “Connect” button on someone’s LinkedIn profile, you are able to include a personalized message.

LinkedIn only gives you 300 characters (not words), so this message should be a condensed version of an InMail/email. You would be surprised by how often this gets a response, even with executives who did not respond to your InMails or emails.

If the executive accepts your invitation to connect, you can send a follow-up message directly through LinkedIn. Or, you can send an email. Once you connect with someone on LinkedIn, you can see their email address by clicking on the “contact info” button on their LinkedIn profile.

4. Leave an after-hours voicemail.

I typically begin outreach to an executive with InMails and emails, rather than phone calls. That allows me and the executive to schedule a mutually agreeable time for a conversation.

Another outreach option, however, is to leave an after-hours voicemail. Call the executive’s work line after 5:00 p.m. or some other time when you do not expect him to pick up. Then, leave a message similar to your InMails or emails.

Most people check their emails and voicemails early in the morning to see what came in overnight. By leaving a message the night before, your message can stand out and be waiting in someone’s inbox the following morning. Messages left during the day are more likely to be ignored or to get lost in the chaos of the day.

5. Make a courteous cold call.

If you are going to cold call an executive at work, you should be very thoughtful with your approach. Many people don’t like being contacted at work by recruiters. Maybe they work in an open-office environment that makes a private conversation impossible. Or, maybe they just want to focus on their current job during the workday. Either way, calling someone unexpectedly at work usually leads to a conversation that is much shorter and much less cordial.

If you plan to contact an executive by phone during the work-day, use that call to schedule another time to chat. Here is an example of what you could say if an executive actually picks up your call at work:

Hi Jim- I know you’re not expecting my call, so I’ll be quick. I’m an executive recruiter and would like to network with you and get your opinion on a confidential search for a VC-backed tech start-up. Can we schedule another time to chat for 10-15 minutes?

This is not what most recruiters do. Most immediately launch into a sales pitch for their role. The approach above is unique and it’s courteous, so it’s usually received much more favorably.

Sometimes, the executive will say that he can speak now for a few minutes. Then, you have permission to have a more relaxed discussion. Other times, he will agree to schedule another time to chat. Very rarely will someone respond to this approach by saying that he has no interest in speaking with you at that time or in the future.

Leverage Your Mutual Connections on LinkedIn

No matter how you plan to contact an executive about a job opportunity, be sure to leverage your mutual connections on LinkedIn as well. They are visible on an executive’s LinkedIn profile. For example, imagine that I was not already connected to Matt Leibman (he is my brother), and that I wanted to connect with him. We have 44 mutual connections that I could potentially leverage to try to get in touch with him. See below.

A mutual connection might be able to provide an introduction or a personal email address or cell phone number for someone that you want to contact. In addition, a mutual connection might be able to help you identify other executives that could be right for your job opportunity as well.

P.S. Looking for more help with your company’s executive recruiting efforts?

Download my free report below, or contact me directly to schedule a call.

About the author: As the Founder of Stronger Talent, Pete Leibman recruits exceptional leaders for innovative sports, fitness, and wellness companies. Throughout his career, Pete has helped clients recruit exceptional leaders at the Board, C-Suite, Senior Vice President, Vice President, General Manager, Managing Director, and Director levels. Pete’s work has been featured on Fox News, CBS Radio, and, and he is the author of two books and over 250 articles on career management, peak performance, and executive recruiting.

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