Recruiting Email Secrets #1: An Intro to Deliverability

Sending email is easy. Reaching the Inbox for 100% of your list—well, that’s a lot harder.

Consider this scenario: A note just popped up on your inbox from an engineering VP you’ve worked with before—he just got the green light on a new project and will likely need a few engineering hires as soon as possible.

You’re aware of the upcoming project and you’ve worked with this VP before. You’ve successfully built email outreach campaigns to help him fill roles in the past, so all you need now is a new email campaign, and a pool of candidates to reach out to.

What happens next depends on the quality of the contact list you will be using. Is it a pool of candidates that you’ve sourced yourself? Candidates who came through recruitment events, or subscribed to a talent network and gave their consent to be contacted? Or is it a list of emails that someone on your team bought from an external provider, or maybe scraped from a few different websites?

Recruiting email deliverability

If you use a low-quality email list with unverified addresses and no tracked consent, then no matter how well-crafted your messages, every time you send out an email, you might be dealing a damaging blow to your sending reputation, and therefore your ability to deliver large scale campaigns now and for a long time in the future.

Your recruiting email deliverability is more or less what you would think it is based on the name: it’s how likely your email is to be delivered to your intended recipient’s inbox. Deliverability depends in large part on your “Sender score”, or “Sender reputation”.

You can learn more about email deliverability, sender scores and sender’s reputation here or here.

Your recruiting email deliverability matters because you might send out campaigns to candidates, but it doesn’t mean that the Gmails and Outlooks out there will let them into their inboxes. In fact, every time you send out a campaign to a low-quality email list, your sending reputation takes a hit, tanking the likelihood of your next campaign being delivered.

Sender scores are affected by a number of things, but as a recruiter, there are two main things you should be looking out for: Hard Bounces and Spam Complaints.

What is a Hard Bounce?

When you send an email, there are many things that can prevent it from being delivered. The recipient’s mailbox can be full, or their email server is having temporary issues and can’t deliver your email immediately. These emails will be returned as temporarily undeliverable, also known as a Soft Bounce. These are generally nothing to worry about since the email addresses are valid. You can try to re-send to these addresses at a later date.

But what about those email addresses that had typos in them? Or the email addresses that were valid once-upon-a-time that no longer exist? Or the fake email addresses that people gave you so they could download your latest whitepaper?

Those emails are going to be returned as permanently undeliverable, or “Hard Bounces”, and they are definitely something to worry about. It is important to fix or remove these email addresses immediately. Some recruitment marketing tools can protect you by automatically flagging Hard Bounces and preventing your team from sending to them again, but if you don’t have this kind of filter in place, you might consider automating that process, or assigning the cleanup task to someone on the team.

ISPs like Microsoft, Google, and other email providers, measure Hard Bounces as a percentage of your overall sending volume. They use this data to determine your sending reputation, and therefore whether to deliver your email to the Inbox, or the Spam/Junk folder.

Most ISPs start to take action when your Hard Bounces exceed 2% of your sending volume. It can begin with simple throttling of the delivery speed and can evolve into non-delivery if actions aren’t taken by the sender to fix the bounce rate. At Beamery, for example, we reach out to customers to help them implement list management best practices as soon as their Hard Bounce gets over 2%. If it gets over 5%, it’s considered a pretty serious issue.

What is a Spam Complaint?

Just because your email made it to the Inbox doesn’t mean you are 100% “in the clear”. Remember that unknown sticky note on your desk that had an email address on it? You might have added in someone who didn’t actually opt in to receive emails from you. If that is the case, there is a good chance that they will file a Spam Complaint. This can be done as easily as clicking the Report Spam button in their inbox. These complaints are monitored through a mechanism called a Feedback Loop, and can prevent senders—in this case recruitment marketers—from doing serious damage to their sender score. Spam complaints should never exceed 0.1% 1 of every 1000 emails you send.

You can read more about Spam Feedback Loops here in case you’re interested in making your monitoring process more robust.

There is another type of Spam Complaint called a Direct Spam Complaint—the capital letters are deserved. A Direct Spam Complaint is when the recipient takes the time to send an email to Only someone who was extremely annoyed by your email would go through that extra step, and therefore Direct Spam Complaints are taken extremely seriously.

Should you be worried about your recruiting email deliverability?

Hopefully not.

Think about how you acquired your list of email addresses. Did the addresses come from a signup form on your website? That’s legitimate. Did people give you their business cards at a seminar/convention? That’s legitimate, too. Realistically, addresses in these scenarios should stay well below acceptable thresholds for Hard Bounces and Spam Complaints.

Did you purchase that list of email addresses from a “list provider”? Did you scan corporate websites for email addresses and add those to your list, also known as “scraping”? Neither of those is a legitimate method of acquisition and specifically prohibited by the majority of Email Service Providers, and for good reason.

The number one enemies of great recruiting email deliverability are Hard Bounces and Spam Complaints. So if you are using proper list acquisition and management practices, Hard Bounces and Spam Complaints will not be an issue for you. And if you do find yourself beyond the acceptable limits for either of these, your recruitment marketing platform providers should be in a good position to help you, as it’s in their interest to see you succeed in using their technology.

Recruitment marketers rely heavily on email campaigns, and can benefit from understanding the technical fundamentals of email marketing to stay agile and competitive. If this is a subject that is of interest to you or your team, keep an eye out for the next blog post in this series on Recruiting Emails Secrets.

Ken Vaughn

Ken Vaughn is Lead Deliverability Engineer at Beamery. A 15 year veteran of the email marketing industry, Ken uses his deep technical knowledge of list management and deliverability best practices to help companies succeed in their email campaigns. Among his many successes, Ken created the email deliverability programs for Microsoft Dynamics and Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Marketing.

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