Personalized outreach messages to passive candidates will return better results than generic ones, experts agree.
Tailoring the message to candidates includes establishing a real connection based on their profile and highlighting the potential growth opportunity that fits their experience.
“Initiating a conversation with a promising, passive candidate with a cold e-mail or LinkedIn InMail is tough to get right,” said Christian De Pape, head of marketing at Recruiting Social, a recruiting, branding, and training agency with offices in Vancouver and Los Angeles.
First, he says, you need to get candidates to actually click through to read your e-mail. “Second, you want them to get a good first impression and hopefully not totally shut you down.”
The key is to “focus on starting a conversation, rather than selling them on a job,” said Kristen Widman, customer success manager at LinkedIn. “I compare the initial communication to a networking event. You wouldn’t go up to someone at a networking event and start rattling off requirements and ask for a resume. You would start a conversation and get to know them.”
The following tips will also increase the chances that a passive candidate will open and respond to an unsolicited e-mail:
- Use an attention-grabbing, creative subject line.
- Keep the message brief and to the point.
- Have a clear call to action.
- Give candidates a chance to respond.
1. Make It Personal
Candidates are more likely to respond to e-mails when the message speaks to them personally. Addressing people by name and ensuring that the role is relevant to their experience will do much better than a generic mass e-mail.
Promising passive candidates could get multiple emails a week from recruiters, “and you have to be able to set yourself apart from the rest and make them feel compelled to at least respond to your e-mail,” said Kerri Mills, an executive talent source at job site Indeed and the 2015 SourceCon Sourcing Grand Master.
“Everyone wants to feel special, and candidates want to know that you have taken the time to look at their profile,” Widman said. “Mention anything you have in common with the individual, whether it be shared connections or shared membership in a group, or [that] you went to the same university. Any commonalities you can call out will help increase your response rate.”
Researching a lead before e-mailing is a must, said Arron Daniels, a Houston-based senior recruiting source at grocery retailer H-E-B. “It shows the prospective candidate that you have actually taken the time to learn about them and their background, and they aren’t just another InMail blast.”
It’s also important to highlight how the role would be an exciting move for potential candidates, backed up with information from their background and work experience.
“You want to get your candidates excited by the possibilities and the potential impact they could have in a new role,” Widman said. Talking with candidates about their career path makes them feel as if the recruiter cares about their career trajectory, she says, instead of trying to push them into a job that would be a bad fit.
Using templates to save time is still OK, Mills said, but she recommended adding a personalized note to every message. If individuals can tell “that you took the time to actually read their profile, they will feel more obliged to take the time to respond to you, even if they aren’t interested right now.”
2. Grab Their Attention
The subject line is arguably the most important part of an e-mail because it will determine whether the message gets opened at all. It should be creative and catchy.
“The subject line can be your make-or-break moment,” Daniels said. “What would grab your attention? For example, there was a candidate I saw that moved to Texas from Hawaii. I incorporated that into the subject line as ‘From Aloha to Howdy. …’ This person responded in less than an hour.”