Little Known Ways to Approach HR Recruiters

hr recruiter

hr recruiterAfter entering keywords on LinkedIn, examining first and second-degree connections and browsing through countless profiles, you finally found the internal HR professional responsible for filling the job you want. Now what do you do? You don’t want your initial communication to take you out of the running, so how do you connect with the recruiter to let him or her know about your interest in the position?

As a career coach who knows the ins and outs of how recruiters work, the first thing you should do before deciding on your plan of action is to ensure your resume is as tailored as possible to the job you want. You don’t want to reach out to the recruiter with a resume that looks unrelated to the position you’re applying for. You also want to tweak your LinkedIn profile accordingly before doing any outreach. Once you’ve tailored everything, you have a few options when it comes to contacting the recruiter:

1. Look to see if you have any connections in common online or off.

To make your outreach easier, it’s best to see if you have any connections in common, either online on LinkedIn or offline through someone you know who works at the company. One of the great things about connecting online via LinkedIn is that it allows you to increase and explore your network with the click of a button. Since you now have the name of the recruiter, the obvious next step is to look him or her up on the social networking site. If you see “2nd” in the top right corner of the profile, that means you have connections in common. View the names at the bottom of the profile and decide which of your shared connections, if any, you can reach out to regarding the recruiter.

If, for some reason, the recruiter is either not on LinkedIn or is a third-degree connection who you’re unable to reach, search through your online and offline network to see who you know that either currently works or used to work at the same company as the recruiter. Similar to online, the goal is to find a connection that you can leverage to help make the introduction.

The benefit of reaching out to one of these shared connections beforehand is that you have the opportunity to get a sense of how the recruiter operates. They may prefer an email rather than a LinkedIn request or some other form of communication. Gather as much information on the recruiter as you can so that you can approach the person strategically. Also see if you can use the connection’s name as a referral once it’s time to reach out to the recruiter, making the outreach more personalized. You have one chance to make a first impression, so determine your communication plan prior to outreach.

2. Look to see if you have any affiliations or interests in common.

If you lack any online or offline connections in common, do some research to see if you share any common interests or affiliations. For example, is the recruiter in the same group as you on LinkedIn or the same organization offline? The affiliation does not need to be professional; you may share an alma mater or a specific personal interest. Whatever the connection may be, bring that point of reference to the forefront in your communication to the recruiter. It may serve as an icebreaker that will help you introduce yourself in the same way a shared contact can.

Another option is to use a shared group on LinkedIn to get the recruiter’s attention. As I mention in my blog, it’s not enough to simply join LinkedIn groups, you also need to participate. Do this by listening to the conversations taking place to see where you can strategically provide your input and possibly even reference the recruiter in the discussion. It must be something extraordinarily interesting given the recruiter’s employer and should demonstrate the thinking the solicited job requires. With this tactic, you want to be careful not to overdo it so as not to scare the recruiter off. Ideally, this will serve as another entry point in your outreach.

3. “Cold email” the recruiter.

When you have nothing in common—no shared contacts or affiliations—try “cold emailing” the recruiter, also known as sending a direct email or message to a recruiter who is not expecting contact from you. This may be daunting but it’s also effective when done correctly. With a cold email or LinkedIn message, you want to be careful not to come on too strong or sound desperate. You also need to ensure your approach is highly tailored (e.g. infusing the job description keywords throughout your communications with the recruiter).

If you decide to initially connect with the recruiter on LinkedIn, quickly move the conversation to email so that you can provide your resume and cover letter once you reach that point in the process. In your communication, briefly express your interest in the position and your desire to connect for reasons X and Y (note: your reasons should directly relate to the job you’re interested in). Engage the recruiter but remember not to go overboard.


Whether you connect through LinkedIn or email, the goal is to convey to the recruiter your interest, enthusiasm and desire to be part of the team. It requires being very resourceful and stepping out of your comfort zone to get noticed. Ultimately you want to prepare as best as you can so that you can initiate contact in the most effective way possible.

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Melissa Llarena

Melissa helps movers and shakers up to those in the corner office rediscover what makes them unique so that they can land their dream job in a forward-thinking company where their ideas are listened to, valued, and supported.

She brings insights from having worked in 16-business units (including Human Resources) in NY, Paris, and London. Additionally, in her former corporate career, she worked on billion-dollar brands for P&G and on IBM for Ogilvy & Mather. Later, as the founder and CEO of Career Outcomes Matter, Melissa created a 3-step “sellable strengths” process which has been the centerpiece of her clients' results.

Melissa applies this method consistently to support mid-level professionals up to the c-suite to get into Fortune Global 500 organizations and agencies. She studied Psychology at NYU and earned her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

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