11 recruiting email mistakes to avoid

To make your recruiting emails to candidates more effective, all you need to do is go back to the basics. Forget fancy words or detailed presentations. Just write a simple, personal message to introduce yourself, give some details about the job you’re hiring for and schedule a time to talk.

Here are 11 common recruiting email mistakes to avoid:

1. Spelling errors and stilted language

Rookie recruiting email mistakes damage your credibility and leave an overall bad impression. Misspelling your candidate’s name shows your email is sloppy and rushed. Proofread. Use different sources, like professional social media profiles, to make sure you have the right information, before hitting ‘send.’ In an attempt to pique candidates’ attention, some recruiters opt for buzzwords. But, good recruiting emails should feel like a natural read. Avoid jargon phrasing. Just keep your message simple and error-free.

2. Strange email addresses

To add more credibility and give a personal touch, use an account like your_name@your_company.com. A generic account like info@your_company.com or hr@your_company.com is not your best option for sending recruiting emails. Personal ‘sender’ addresses show that your email isn’t an automated, mass-mailer and lets people know who they’re communicating with. Also, it’s best to avoid sending recruiting messages to potential candidates’ work email accounts; you don’t know who has access to those messages.

3. Boring subject lines

Your subject line is the most important part of your email. You may have found the perfect candidate, designed an attractive job description and complemented your compensation package with motivating benefits. But your ideal candidate may never know if they don’t open your email. Your subject line is your opportunity to capture their attention. Talented candidates are probably receiving lots of emails from other recruiters. Here are some common subject line mistakes to avoid:

  • (No subject): A blank subject line might as well say ‘Ignore this email.’ In fact, it’s a bad idea to send emails without subject lines in most cases (not just when you’re recruiting).
  • Vague phrases: Your company’s name as a subject line gets zero points for inspiration. Instead, try something like ‘[your_company] is looking for a [job_title]’ to make your point. It’s also best to avoid over-used subject lines, like ‘Interesting opportunity’, ‘Chance to connect?’ or ‘Interested in a call?’ They aren’t interesting and they don’t respect people’s time.
  • Promotional lines: ‘Apply now!’ or ‘Job opportunity! Send your resume today!’ may seem like good catch-phrases but they usually have the opposite effect. People are reserved and unwilling to open these kinds of emails because they think they’re scams or spam. To catch someone’s attention, it’s best to use something personal, that indicates your email is specifically addressed to them, as an individual. Mentioning a mutual connection who referred them, using their name or mentioning the event or place where you met are good ways to increase your open rate. Here are a few examples you could try:

‘[Employee’s name] mentioned you’re a great [Job title]’

‘[Candidate_name], here’s a job opening for a [job_title] you might be interested in.’

‘Reconnecting after [College name]’

4. Long, endless messages

Keep your message short and sweet. Your candidate has just received an email from a person they (probably) don’t know, about a job opening they might not be interested in. If they see a long email, chances are they won’t bother reading it. Write something that takes no more than 15-20 seconds to read. Besides, if they’re using their smartphones, a shorter, well-structured message is easier to skim.

5. Tone problems

You should also avoid overly formal expressions like ‘Dear candidate’ or ‘to whom it may concern.’ You want to be polite and professional, but this kind of language can be impersonal and off-putting, particularly when your recipient isn’t a candidate yet, but a potential one. As such, they might find the word ‘candidate’ presumptuous. Or, they may think they need to spend a lot of time crafting a formal reply using a similar style. If that’s the case, they probably won’t reply at all. Think of how you’d speak to an interesting person at a business conference. It’s best to opt for a similar, business-casual voice and strike a tone that reflects your company culture.

6. One-sidedness

Nobody likes a braggart – even if they’re selling an enticing job. So, it’s best to avoid over-selling how successful your company is (or might be). Hone a concise recruiting pitch and focus on a few things that you think will strike each passive candidate’s interest, based on why you think they’d be a good fit for your open role. Don’t overwhelm people with your job requirements. It’s best to make your introductory email about them – not about you and your company’s needs. Instead, just add a simple link to the job description or your careers page and include your company’s website and social media profiles in your signature. If they’re interested, they’ll research you.

7. Over-flattery

Surely, your candidate is great and has some impressive achievements. But giving them too many compliments before you meet them will make you seem fake. You can mention projects or skills relevant to the job you’re offering to show you did your research, but don’t over-flatter. Personalize your email to make your candidate feel unique and realize that your email is specifically for them. It’s best to keep everything strictly job-related, though.

8. Ending with a ‘So what?’

Leaving your candidates guessing about what to do next is like getting a resume with no phone or email. A clear ‘call to action’ is your number-one concern. Suggest a specific day and time you would like to schedule a call and mention your flexibility. Don’t forget to include all the necessary information to make sure your candidate can reach you via email, phone or social media. Adding something like ‘Are you available to have a quick call some time next Friday?’ is more likely to prompt a response than casually saying you would be interested in chatting.

9. Sending and forgetting

Your job isn’t done when you hit ‘send.’ In fact, it has just started. There are many reasons for why your candidate hasn’t replied to you yet. They might need more information or they could have missed your email in a Monday morning email pile-up. Since you spent some time reaching out to them in the first place, it’s probably worth trying to contact them again. Invite them to connect through LinkedIn, send a personal message on social accounts (if you are already connected) or ask a mutual connection to communicate with them. Show you’re genuinely interested, but also respect their time and space. Sending two follow-up messages is usually a good rule.

Keep in mind that if you’re sourcing European candidates, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) instructs that you can’t keep their data indefinitely on file if they’re no longer relevant.

10. Not measuring

How many people opened your email? And how many of them replied? Is there a time of day when people are more likely to open your sourcing emails? What’s the best day of the week, or time of the year to approach a passive candidate? If you don’t know the answers to those questions that could mean one of two things: You either don’t experiment with different approaches or you don’t measure your results. First, you need to try various templates and writing styles to discover what works for you. And then, you have to track your links to come up with some metrics. Perhaps, if candidates reject your job, without even opening the link to the job description, you might want to consider adding some attractive details in your message to draw candidates’ attention. Or, you should try sending your emails at different times. Remember to measure not only your open rate (number of opened emails/ number of delivered emails), but also your response rate (number of replies/number of delivered emails.)

11. Succumbing to short-term thinking

Sourcing passive candidates requires extra effort and long-term thinking. Like all kinds of relationships, to create a good connection, you need to take things slowly. Don’t expect immediate results from your first emails. Even if your candidate isn’t interested at the moment, they may introduce you to someone equally qualified, consider another opening in the future or share their positive experience communicating with you. Your aim is to establish, and maintain a relationship with each passive candidate, regardless of whether you end up hiring them. Those relationships are important, in their own right.

See our Frequently Asked Questions about recruiting emails.

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Christina Pavlou

Christina is a writer at Workable, previously a recruiter. She writes about diversity in the workplace and reports on the shape of things to come. She tweets @ChristinaPaulou.

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