In which I explain my secret to sourcing, contacting, and connecting with top tier talent over the internet.

The pen is mightier than the sword, they say. But perhaps video can be mightier than the pen — and that’s certainly what I’ve discovered since I began leveraging video and direct voice, over hope and clever copy.

I began this experiment because in my day-to-day operations leveraging social media to find talent, I realized there a couple hard truths about sourcing.

Cold calling is tough, cold emails are ignored, and people hate being pestered by recruiters constantly. Furthermore, even if you craft the most personal message to your target talent there’s a high probability it will be lost amongst the flotsam of truly shitty messages from other recruiters.

Let’s face it — getting in touch with someone you want to speak with when they have no prior knowledge of your existence can be really tough. Emails go unanswered, InMails are never opened, Tweets are never responded to, and — in general — I spend 90% of my day-to-day outreach being ignored.

Many people, far more informed than I, have talked about how to differentiate your emails and InMails to capture the attention of your audience. Glen Cathy (@GlenCathey) is one such, albeit phenomenal, resource for learning those fundamentals. (I highly recommend his website BooleanBlackbelt to get really deep insight on best practices.)

And yet, the goal of all email outreach is the same: get as much information to the recipient in the least amount of time, entice them, draw them in, and get them to respond/buy/what-have-you. This is somewhat opposed, however, by the fact that most InMails are effective at less than 500 words. And, as Boomerang discovered, the global average length of emails that are the most highly responded to sits at no longer than 125 words… and this is from someone you already know!

So I started studying copywriting and taking note of how effective marketers get responses to their emails and lo and behold things started to improve. And yet, at the back of my mind, the length of my outreach InMails were bothering me. They were too long. How was I to grab their attention, generate interest, stoke their desire, and call them to action in less than 125 words as Neville Medorah would have me do?

I found that I was at a bit of a crossroads — give all the relevant information and have my outreach be too long or not give enough and have it be too short to draw them in.

During a particularly difficult search in September of last year I decided that it was time to try something new. Bearing in my mind that people typically don’t have time to read things anymore, and knowing that being respectful of their time is a phenomenal way to generate rapport, I opened up PhotoBooth.

I grabbed some water, cleared my throat and recorded a 90-second message to my recipient while standing at my desk. I told her who I was, why I was on her profile, what my client could offer and thanked her for her time.

And that was it.

I uploaded the video to YouTube, put her name in the title of the video, and dropped the video link into an InMail with copy that basically said I know she’s busy, I know recruiter messages can be crap, and I made her something a little different.

And it basically looked like this.

The response to this video was phenomenal.

Not only did I get a response (which is a trackable metric) but I also received emphatic praise for breaking from the norm. I thought perhaps it was a fluke, so I made more videos. And — plot twist — it’s not a fluke. It works.

I’ve sent hundreds of video messages since, and the response is almost always positive. Yes, there are the occasional grumpy individual who wants to tear you down regardless. But, out of 389 videos to date, I have only had two that were regarded poorly. (I keep a folder called “Inspiration” with screen captures of the positive responses— it’s a nice pick-me-up when I’m having a rough day.)

Chris Daly is a tenured LinkedIn account manager currently overseeing more than 30 different accounts here in the states with a collective recruiting force of 700+ individuals. From him I’ve learned the average recruiter hovers between 19–20% effective response to InMails — which is a respectable but dismal number. For agencies, specifically agencies operating in the technology space, the rates are even lower — typically cresting around 15%. My basic InMail response rates were *slightly* above average (usually hovering in the mid-twenties). However, since YouTube became one of the central pillars of my outreach strategy, the average response rate has climbed to nearly 40%.

This means that I’ll make direct connection with nearly 20 more individuals per 100 messages. Essentialize this down and it means that video messaging can gross me almost double the potential talent pool in a year’s time.

Chris and I have discussed a couple elements of what makes video such a powerful way to reach talent. Here are some baseline theories:

1. It’s unique. Amongst the torrential downpour of sub-par messages that technical talent receives daily— video stands out.

2. It’s relevant. In a video, within twenty seconds, you can tell an individual why you chose to reach out to them specifically and how the role you’re looking to fill connects to their experience.

3. It’s flattering. LinkedIn is the land of rote transactional messaging. To make something so specific, so targeted, and so directed to a single individual— it feels nice to be on the receiving end of such a message. As the saying goes, it’s nice to be wanted.

Video messaging, however, is not perfect. Understandably, some people are resistant to clicking a link that takes them outside the LinkedIn platform . There are a surprising amount of shady and spammy accounts.

Fundamentally, this method for reaching out to folks is effective because it shows you care — even a thimble full of thoughtfulness in your outreach indicates that you are miles ahead of the recruiters that spend their days jackhammering their send buttons and force-matching keywords.

And that, regardless of medium, is what needs to become the industry standard for recruiters (and something that I’ve written about in the past). You actually have to give a shit. Jayson Gaignard puts it quite eloquently when he says that “Caring is the ultimate competitive advantage.”

Video adds personality, flavor, compassion, passion, and genuine interest to your outreach, and — most importantly — it provides an authentic window for you to show your talent that you actually care.

Though sharing this with you might put me at a competitive disadvantage in my outreach to candidates, the benefits of possibly raising the collective perception of recruiters far outweighs my personal misgivings. I thoroughly recommend you give this a shot.