A Recruiting Comparison: InMail vs Email for Candidate Outreach

What’s the best way to reach out to passive candidates?

May 27, 2021

InMail vs Email graphic meta

Recruiters are constantly testing different communication channels in order to reach candidates effectively. From phone calls and text messages to InMail and email, each option provides its own list of pros and cons. Below, we’ve compared InMail to email in order for recruiters to better understand when to effectively utilize each channel to maximize engagement and increase response rates.

What is InMail?

InMail is a messaging service provided by LinkedIn, which allows its users to contact other members directly on the LinkedIn platform. For users with free accounts, messages can only be sent to members they are already connected with. With a paid premium subscription, users can send InMail to any LinkedIn member, as long as the recipient’s preferences are set to receive messages.

LinkedIn members can use InMail to reconnect with former classmates and colleagues, capture new customers, inquire about open positions, and recruit talent. But, is InMail the best vehicle for initial recruiting conversations? Is paying for a messaging service necessary for success?

Issues with InMail

There are a number of factors inherent to InMail that may make you rethink using it as your primary sourcing channel.

InMail is expensive! LinkedIn’s Premium subscriptions are tiered and can cost up to $999.95/month for LinkedIn Recruiter subscriptions.
  • Recruiter Lite Subscriptions ($119.95) come with 30 InMail credits, at a cost per InMail of ~$4.
  • Recruiter Corporate Subscriptions ($999.95) come with 150 InMail credits, at a cost per InMail of ~$7.
  • Unfortunately, follow-ups aren’t free! Each follow-up message costs one an additional InMail credit, at the prices listed above.
Many people don’t read InMail.

LinkedIn inboxes get slammed with sponsored InMails, which are ads from other LinkedIn users trying to sell a product or service. Unlike email, InMail inboxes aren’t equipped with spam filters, making InMail inboxes crowded, messy, and often ignored.

LinkedIn owns your talent database.

With InMail, you don’t have ownership of your contact list or database. As a recruiter, your contact list and the relationships you have with the people on that list are critical to your success and career longevity.

Passive candidates don’t check LinkedIn regularly.

LinkedIn sends excerpts of InMails to users’ emails, but note that users can opt out of this feature. With InMail, you can’t be certain your recipient will read your message, or even know it exists.

Certain fields and demographics don’t prioritize LinkedIn.

Those in creative fields, skilled technicians, or older / more senior level candidates often don’t log in or update their LinkedIn profiles on a regular basis. For example, one of our team members previously worked for a top creative executive at the largest reality production company in the U.S. He barely knew he had a LinkedIn profile, and he didn’t see the point of checking it frequently at that level of his career.

If your InMail doesn’t perform well, you’re penalized.

According to LinkedIn, “Recruiters must keep their InMail response rate at or above 13% on 100 or more InMail messages sent within a 14-day period. … For any subsequent breach of the threshold, you may be placed in an InMail Improvement Period.”

During these two weeks, you can’t send bulk InMails. If your response rate does not improve within those two weeks, the punishment is extended an additional two weeks. This issue could quickly delay a recruiter’s progress and cause pipeline issues to build up immediately.

When can InMail work?

As a recruiter, you’re likely on LinkedIn daily, browsing profiles, checking past experiences, and checking references. LinkedIn is a key tool in a recruiter’s toolbox, with most recruiters springing for premium subscriptions as they come with beneficial features (in addition to InMail), like advanced search features. If you have a premium subscription, don’t let your InMail credits go to waste. Here’s when InMail can be most effective.

Multi-channel engagement.

Consider using precious InMail credits when you’re really excited about a particular candidate. Send them a short InMail message mentioning that they look like a great fit for an exciting role and to keep an eye on their email for more information.

Active candidate connections.

InMail performs best with candidates that are actively looking for new work. Remember, passive candidates might go weeks, or even months, without looking at LinkedIn. However, LinkedIn now allows members to select an #OpenToWork feature, which will input a green banner under the user’s profile picture that states they’re #OpenToWork. This provides a perfect opportunity for InMail credits to be used more effectively, as these candidates are more apt to view their messages and respond accordingly.

Personalized outreach.

When you send an InMail, make sure it’s personalized and memorable. Generic InMails won’t be responded to and the sender runs the risk of landing in InMail timeout. Check out this research from LinkedIn that outlines the criteria your InMails need to get the best results.

Why Use Email Instead

Email is a lot like InMail, but without some of the hassle, and with a lot greater reach. While there are 562 million LinkedIn users worldwide, there are 3.7 billion email users, most of whom check their email on a daily basis. Why do we find email to be the most effective channel for recruiting outreach and engagement?

Email is virtually free.

While you may need to pay a data vendor to find a candidate’s email address, the cost per email address is often under $1. Seeing that you usually send multiple email touchpoints per candidate, each outbound message is just cents compared to InMail, which is a hefty $4 to $7 per message (depending on your subscription).

Inboxes are checked often.

Unlike LinkedIn, most people check their email inboxes multiple times a day, regardless of whether they are an active or passive candidate. The odds of your outbound email being viewed and responded to increase exponentially via email, when compared to a cluttered InMail inbox that is opened sparingly.

Spam is filtered out in email inboxes.

Most people have spam filters in place, or a promotions tab for their personal email, so their inbox isn’t cluttered with distracting promotional emails. This is a feature LinkedIn doesn’t have, making recruiting emails more visible, with higher open rates, via email.

Preferred contact channel.

According to research done by Stack Overflow, 64% of developers prefer personal emails for recruiting outreach, versus just 4% who prefer being contacted through social media.

Retain ownership of your talent database.

Unlike InMail, with email, you own the contact information and communication channel directly. Say the initial role you reached out to a candidate for doesn’t work out for them. A few months later, if another role they’re perfect for opens up, you have their email for a quick connection, and can even maintain a relationship with them in the meantime to keep them warm. Email allows for affordable and effective re-engagement and long-term relationships with candidates.

Easily track performance.

With email you can track your performance through a variety of metrics, using whichever tool you choose. For instance, Fetcher not only tracks which not only tracks which emails are opened and responded to, but our automation also “reads” emails and determines if a prospect is interested or not. Full-funnel metrics are key to success, a feature that is not available with InMail.


With their expense, chance of going unseen, and lack of ownership, InMail generally poses too much risk for it to be a recruiter’s primary form of outreach. Emails should be a go recruiter’s go-to communication when sourcing passive candidates, as it’s more efficient, effective, and successful long-term.

That said, continue to utilize InMail when you have your heart set on a candidate, when you want to exhaust all avenues of communication, or when you are targeting active candidates. If you want to take your candidate outreach to the next level, use Fetcher to automate your email outreach, get top notch analytics, and grow your interested candidate pipeline faster!

About Fetcher

At Fetcher, our mission is to introduce companies to the people who will help them change the world. Our full-service, recruiting automation platform automates those repetitive, top-of-funnel tasks, so you can focus more on candidate engagement & team collaboration. Simplify Sourcing. Optimize Outreach. Hire Top Talent. Learn more at fetcher.ai.

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