7 strategies for crafting effective recruiting emails

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By The Fetcher Team

7 strategies for crafting effective recruiting emails

10 mins read

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Only 25% of the workforce is actively looking for work, but 85% of employees are willing to talk and learn more. How do recruiters bridge that gap, and build awareness with potential candidates about their company and open roles?

The key is outreach, and through outreach, building connections. In our recent webinar on how to craft effective recruiting emails, a panel of four talent pros shared what has worked – and what hasn’t worked – in resonating with prospective candidates.

The webinar panelists included Alla Pavlova, Tech & Art Talent Sourcer at Riot Games, Sheryl Marymount, Head of People at Trustero, Jan Bernhart, Headhunter at IT-L, and Mark Lundgren, a freelance sourcer. Our host, Hung Lee of Recruiting Brainfood, led the discussion that focused on techniques the panelists use for driving up open rates and responses in their recruiting emails to passive candidates.

Check out their top strategies below, and watch the full recording for more insights from the panelists.

1. Personalize as much as possible.

Personalizing every email to a specific person can be time-consuming, but there are quick things that will give you more visibility in inboxes. Just adding the candidate’s first name to the subject line can increase open rates by 20%. The options for personalization are endless: highlight achievements, reference shared contacts or experiences, articles that they’ve shared, etc.

Mark says one creative tactic he uses is adding a short video greeting, with the candidate's name on a whiteboard behind him. It’s a more unique approach to personalization that’s also eye-catching.

You can also add unique details about the specific role and team you’re hiring for, to share what’s unique about the opportunity.

“A lot of times, it’s less about the company and more about the story of the specific team. I always, in talking to hiring managers, ask what’s sexy about the team. I try to break it down [for candidates] into what’s the technical challenge you have in the next year, and who is on the team that you’re going to be working for,” said Mark.

2. Make it about the candidate.

The number one reason people change jobs is for a career opportunity, but there are many reasons why they might open a conversation. Your initial outreach messages are an opportunity to make a candidate feel noticed – and to learn more about them, as opposed to pushing information about your company. Incorporate questions into your email messages that will prompt candidates to share more about themselves, for instance:

  • What does your next role look like, ideally?
  • Have you thought about your next career move?
  • What do you love (or not love) about your current role?
  • What is the most rewarding part of your job?

“For me, it’s all about relevance. It’s all about really understanding the person you’re approaching. [It’s about] understanding their work history, and trying to get a sense of where they are at in their career, and making sure that what I have to off could be of relevance to them,” said Jan.

3. Be upfront about potential dealbreakers.

Knowing your audience means knowing what it’s important to them and what will put them off. Don’t shy away from aspects of a job that you know could be dealbreakers, especially if there’s no room for flexibility. You’ll be wasting candidates’ time and your own, and potentially annoying the candidate in the process.

“I add the dealbreakers in my messages. If I know most of the engineers and developers prefer remote work, and I’m not offering remote work, I’m not going to keep this secret. All of the potential issues – relocation, visas – I’ll include to save time, and to be relevant,” says Alla.

Especially in recruiting for larger or more well-known companies, transparency will help candidates select themselves out of a role, allowing recruiters to focus on better-fit candidates.

4. Be yourself and be true to your brand.

Most candidates, especially those frequently contacted, can quickly identify a boilerplate email template. The panel noted that while emails should be different for each type of role, it’s important to maintain authenticity so that candidates know they’re interacting with a real human.

Adding humor and specific references to subject lines has worked well for Alla. “Especially when you’re trying to show your knowledge of the subject you’re hiring for, try to find a way to make a joke.”

Using natural language – and sometimes, not overthinking it – will resonate more with candidates than emails that follow a well-known formula or best practices. As Sheryl found out, even mistakes and typos can be flipped into opportunities.

“One of the most successful campaigns is when I messed something up in the subject line,” adds Sheryl. “Everyone responded to let me know about the mess-up… which ended up really kicking off a lot of conversations. I think it’s about the genuine nature of being human.”

5. Check deliverability to avoid spam filters.

You can’t get responses if your emails don’t get opened! Ensuring your emails get seen depends on technical factors as much as content. Including a ton of links, emojis, and pictures can cause emails to get caught in spam. IT, software, and other technical candidates may also set up additional software that disables email trackers. That’s why, Alla says, it’s important to check open rates to measure deliverability.

On the positive side, the panelists shared their tactics for improving deliverability, including:

  • Adding personalization fields, like first name, to the subject line and body of the email.

  • Using “pretty” URLs. These are URLs that tell a recipient exactly where they will go when they click on a link, rather than a shortened link or a long string of letters and numbers.

  • When sending out emails in bulk, stagger your sends in batches.

  • Use tools like MailTester to check individual emails for deliverability, and MxToolbox to verify that your domain hasn’t been blacklisted.

6. A/B test for content and cadence

Advice on how to improve email performance is often prefaced with “it depends.” As Hung says, you want to figure out what works, and you don’t want to rely on intuition alone. That’s because what works for one company or recruiter, might not work for another. Each role’s audience is also slightly (or very) different.

Sheryl says that a four-email cadence has worked best for her recently, but that she continues to test. External factors and local or global events also play a role in your emails’ performance. At Trustero, she’s noticed response rates going up in the past few months, and suspects that macro-economic factors and the shake-ups at many tech companies may be the cause.

“A lot of people are considering moves right now, and then they're getting back to us,” added Sheryl.

Even factors like the gender of your email sender could be impacting your response rates. Check out Fetcher’s performance benchmarks and email best practices to see what has been successful for our clients.

7. Create opportunities for connection in your Calls to Action (CTAs)

Taking a new role is a big decision. It’s like making a major purchase – and as a recruiter, you’re probably not going to be able to sell them on the role in one email. For the initial outreach message, the panelists had varying opinions on the best kind of CTA to include.

Jan said his potential candidates normally prefer a bit of back-and-forth before hopping on a call, so he normally has a softer, lower-commitment CTA like, “Let me know if you’re interested in hearing more.”

Mark has a more direct approach. He points them to a calendar link to book a time to chat with him and learn more, if they’re interested. “I just need to get them to the next step. I don’t want to pitch things in an email], I want to get them on a call.”

Alla takes a different approach that encourages more creative interactions with prospects. Because she works for a gaming company, she invites them to book a few minutes to play a game or collaborate on a certain topic on a Miro whiteboard.

The underlying point behind each of the strategies is to find a way to connect to your ideal prospects, rather than everyone that's there. Your email doesn't have to resonate with every candidate, but it should resonate with the right candidates.

As Hung pointed out, recruiters need to shift their expectations around passive candidates in order to set themselves up for success. “Your purpose is not to convert them into an active candidate right there and then, but its to get them to agree to whatever the next stage might be."

Emails should be a go recruiter’s go-to communication when sourcing passive candidates, as it’s more efficient, effective, and successful long-term. Learn how to take your outreach to the next level and grow your interested pipeline faster by scheduling your demo of Fetcher.

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