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What makes candidates respond to recruiting emails?

Candidate engagement is crucial in these times of high competition. Here's how to write better recruiting emails that make candidates excited to respond, including clear, focused and relevant cold recruitment emails.

Christina Pavlou
Christina Pavlou

An experienced recruiter and HR professional who has transferred her expertise to insightful content to support others in HR.

When interviewing candidates in person or over the phone, you can instantly see or hear their reactions. You don’t have that advantage when sending recruiting emails. Asynchronous communication can leave you wondering if and when you will ever get a reply. Improve and optimize your recruitment emails to increase your chances of hearing back from potential candidates.

Here’s how to write the best recruiting emails to candidates:

Use the right tone in cold recruiting emails

It might be acceptable to send a quick email to a coworker along the lines of “Hey, any feedback on the presentation?” But for your first recruitment email to a potential candidate, maintain professionalism. You can still sound friendly, though. Read your email aloud before sending it, to make sure each line is meaningful. People are more likely to reply to an error-free, thoughtful message.

Don’t: Misspell a candidate’s name
Don’t: Use abbreviations
Do: Double-check for grammar and spelling errors

Offer specific information when reaching out via email

What’s in it for your potential candidate? The phrasing “This a perfect opportunity for you to join a great team” doesn’t answer why your recipient should consider your company. They are more likely to respond if you explain what makes your position unique (e.g. a new project you’ll work on) and what you can offer (e.g. benefits and perks.) Don’t overwhelm them, though; include in your recruiting email the most relevant and attractive information and schedule next steps to discuss further.

Don’t: Write a vague description of the role
Do: Mention the job title
Do: Include a clear “call to action”

Consider candidates’ time

People receive many emails and tend to skim them. A long, three-paragraph intro that doesn’t explain who you are, what your open role is and why you chose to reach out, won’t prompt your candidates to reply to your cold emails. The best recruiting emails are short and clear recruitment messages that get straight to the point.

Don’t: Write more than 200 words
Do: Include a polite “Thank you” at the end of the email
Do: Conform to a clear structure

Use a previous connection as a warm email introduction

Receiving an email from a complete stranger can come off as spammy or even invasive. But, if you are connected on social networks or have already met at a conference, it’s good to use this rapport as a starting point. Proactive sourcing can help you build relationships before you need them.

Don’t: Neglect referrals
Do: Be active on social media
Do: Proactively network and stay in touch

Write engaging email subject lines

The wrong email subject lines can repel candidates. In recruiting emails to candidates, opt for clear, attractive phrases. If a mutual connection referred the candidate, mention their name. Or, if you have previously met, try something like “Reconnecting after [e.g. previous company.]” Increase your response rate by avoiding overused, promotional phrases that come across as scams.

Here are some examples of good and bad subject lines:

Don’t: “Apply now!”
Don’t: “Great opportunity”
Do: “Interested in joining our team at [Company_name]?”

Send relevant job openings

When sending a recruiting email, you might be addressing a person who is looking for a new job. If the open role is relevant to their skills and professional background, they will probably want to learn more (or at least consider future open jobs.) Extensive research on social networks and resume databases will pay off, as you will be able to identify candidates’ profiles that match your jobs.

Don’t: Send generic, bulk emails
Do: Source candidates through social media and professional networks
Do: Discover hard-to-find profiles with Boolean search strings

RelatedSourcing on Google: Boolean search for recruiters

Use recruiting emails to build a strong employer brand

After receiving your email, potential candidates will turn to your website and social media pages to find out more about your company. Unless you’re Facebook or Google (famous for their attractive benefit and perk packages) aim to sell your company to potential candidates. Make sure you keep up a strong online presence and show people what working with your company is like.

Don’t: Fall back an outdated website and careers page
Do: Personalize and/or add a humorous tone to your social media posts
Do: Promote employees’ testimonials

Good writing, no matter how short, takes time. Spend your time writing one strong recruitment email, instead of 100 ineffective emails. Place quality over quantity in your effort to increase your recruiting email response rates.

See our Frequently Asked Questions about recruiting emails.

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