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Recruiting Email Secrets: An Intro to Deliverability

Sending an email is easy. Reaching the intended recipient 100% of the time is a lot harder. Many businesses don’t take deliverability seriously until after they encounter a problem, by which stage the damage is already done.

If you stand out from the crowd, and adopt a preventative approach to maintaining a positive sending reputation, you will also be creating a better candidate experience, so everyone wins. If you’ve not checked it out before, download this guide to recruitment marketing, which is full of useful tips on how to safely build and scale a complete recruitment marketing strategy.

Consider this scenario: A note just popped up in your inbox from your VP of Engineering. She just got the green light on a new project and will likely need a few engineering hires as soon as possible.

So, you’re aware of the upcoming project, you’ve worked with this VP before, and you’ve successfully built email outreach campaigns to help her fill roles in the past. Surely all you need to do now is set up new email campaigns and dust off those old pools of candidates, right?

It depends. What you do next is determined by the quality of the contact lists you’re working with. Is it a pool of candidates that you’ve sourced yourself? Are they candidates who you have already converted through your Careers Site or captured during recruitment events? Is it a Talent Community where you’ve been collecting and refreshing their data for some time and you’ve already captured their consent to be contacted? Or is it a list of emails that someone on your team purchased from an external provider?

The answers to those questions will likely determine how successful your recruiting email campaign will be.

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 subject lines and messages are, every time you send out an email you might be delivering a damaging blow to your sending reputation. Each blow that your reputation receives compromises your ability to deliver large scale campaigns, now and in the future.

The name is a bit of a giveaway, but your “recruiting email deliverability” is an indication of how likely your email is to be delivered to your intended recipients’ inboxes. Good email deliverability is influenced by your sending reputation, how clean your distribution lists are, whether you are sending welcomed content, and much more. This all contributes to your “sender score”, or “sender reputation”. You can learn more about email deliverability from HubSpot and about assessing your own sender reputation from SendGrid. The greatest impact on your sender score is from 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 could be 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 and, under normal circumstances, there would be no deliverability issue with these contacts. You can try to re-send to these addresses at a later date.

If you’ve guessed email addresses, gathered them from sources where there might be typos in the information, or the email account has since been shut down, those emails are going to be returned as permanently undeliverable, or “hard bounces”. This is where the most significant impact can be experienced to your sender reputation. It’s critical that you take action on these issues as soon as they occur, by deleting the email addresses from your mailing list.

Our best practice advice is that when importing contact data in bulk to be used for a campaign, ensure that the source of the data is tracked on the profiles as part of the import. This approach is helpful because if you identify a specific source of data as having been of poor quality, it’s easy to take corrective action on the rest of the data that came from that source.

What is a Spam Complaint?

Just because your email made it to the inbox of a recipient doesn’t mean you are 100% “in the clear”. If you’re sending any volume of emails to recipients who are not expecting those emails (or who did not agree to receive them), there is always the risk that the recipient will be motivated to submit a complaint.

Ensuring that you include an “unsubscribe” link in each of your emails allows a recipient to essentially file a complaint with you directly (instead of with the email service provider) and these complaints are the least damaging to your reputation when thinking about spam complaints. Most email providers also include the option for recipients to flag an email as spam or junk.

The greater risk to your sender reputation comes from a “Direct Spam Complaint” (the capital letters are deserved). A Direct Spam Complaint is when the recipient takes the time to report spam directly to your email service provider (e.g. Marketo, Pardot, Mail Chimp). Only someone who was extremely annoyed by your email would go through that extra step, and therefore Direct Spam Complaints are taken extremely seriously. These complaints are avoidable if you focus on sending to contacts who have signed up or “subscribed” to receive your emails — the content you send should be high-quality and relevant too.

Should you be worried about your recruiting email deliverability?

Hopefully not. But here are a few things to think about and ask yourself:

  • How did you acquire your list of email addresses?
  • Have you introduced practices to track the source of data so you can take preventive action to avoid issues?
  • Do you have a plan to immediately take corrective action when issues occur?
  • Is the content you’re sending relevant for the recipients it’s intended for?
  • Are you frequently sending emails to people who haven’t “opted in” to receive them?

Your answers to these questions should tell you if you’re in good shape with your recruitment email marketing strategy or if you’re at risk of serious deliverability or sender score issues.

Most recruitment marketers rely heavily on email campaigns. While different things will work for different companies and candidates, there are some general best practices to keep in mind that tend to work well as guidelines across the board. Check out some of our recruiting email best practices including subject lines, email content, follow-ups, and more, to take your recruiting emails to the next level and help you score your next great hire.