LinkedIn has 310 million users (145.6 million or 46.97% are Monthly Active Users) while 4 billion people use email… of which 95% check their emails daily (3.8 billion). LinkedIn InMail open rates sit at around 10%-25% while email open rates (in Beamery) are around 60%.
This means a candidate is 5 times more likely to see a message via email… so it’s worth getting the approach right.
When you are trying to fill roles and reach the ideal candidate via email, there are certain best practices that Talent Acquisition teams should follow for optimum results.
1. Research when to send emails
Our own data suggests that the best time to send a recruitment email is Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, before lunch. That’s when we see the highest open rates, and ultimately that’s what you want. However, general advice on this is pretty useless. Depending on who you are, and who your recipient is, the best time to send will vary wildly. Keep track of which emails get the best and quickest responses, and consider how you can time (or indeed schedule) the sending of your emails to fit with the reading habits of your audience.
2. Give the subject line lots of attention
The subject line could well be the most important part of your recruitment marketing email. Our advice is to keep it short, sweet and personal.
Personalization is key. Simply mentioning the candidate’s name will increase your open rate, and we’ve found it’s particularly effective to reference something like education in your email subject lines.
Also: If you have any friends in common, don’t wait until the main body of the message to highlight them. Mentioning a mutual connection in your subject line will highly increase your chance of getting a response.
If you’re wondering what the ‘perfect’ length is for a subject line, Campaign Monitor recommends about 17-24 characters; approximately 3-5 words. Do remember that many candidates will be reading your message on their mobile, so a long subject line may be getting cut in half.
We’d also recommend that you create some urgency or ask a question in your subject line. It’s useful to make people feel like they might be missing out on something special. If you are trying to start a dialogue with someone (and build a fruitful relationship), it’s best to avoid the hard sell. Why not include a question in your subject line? It doesn’t have to be about a role you’re trying to fill. Maybe something like: Noticed you were part of [project] – what was your motivation for getting involved?
3. Don’t forget preheader text
Just beyond the subject line is an area many people neglect (in HTML emails): preheaders. A preheader is the text that appears at the very top, intended to summarize the content in your email or form a (perhaps playful) extension of your subject line, letting your audience preview the email right from their inbox.
Whether your customers open their emails on mobile devices or desktop computers, preheaders add more space for you to hook your readers and impress or intrigue them.
4. Ensure your email is delivered (and avoid the spam folder)
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.
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”.
There are certain trigger words or phrases that, if found in subject lines or within emails, will likely get your email sent straight to the bin. These include “Work from home”, “Earn per week”, “Extra cash”, and “Make $”. You can see a lengthy list compiled by Hubspot here.
Emails with punctuation marks in subject lines are also more likely to be viewed as spam, so avoid those.
5. Be concise
When it comes to the body of your email, the cold emails that do best are nice and short. You can still be persuasive while being brief; in fact, making your emails tricky to read just gives your recipient more work to do… and may put them off responding.
6. Tell a compelling story
When sending a cold email, it helps to be brief: but you also need to deploy some stellar copywriting skills to ensure you convince your recipient to take action. Some of the most impactful techniques are listed below:
The Before-After-Bridge approach
Start your email by describing a problem that is relevant to your prospect (the Before), and then describe how the world would be different if that problem was solved (the After). Finish by explaining how your offer (the open role in question) can help them get there.
The Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS) approach
This is similar to the above but avoids the ‘After’ state and simply points out the challenge in front of the reader. Start with the Problem (a pain point for your reader), ‘Agitate’ that pain point, and then offer a solution (Solve).
The Star-Chain-Hook approach
Start with an attention-grabbing opening: the Star, or big idea. This leads into a ‘Chain’ of supporting proof points: facts, sources, and benefits, that build credibility and turn attention into interest. Then, Hook the reader with a call to action that easily takes them to the next step.
7. Be careful with images
It’s often a good idea to show as well as tell. If you can, add supporting imagery to your email. But don’t overdo it: too many images in an email can trigger the spam filter.
Ensure you are using images at the right weight and dimensions (600px wide is still best practice), and don’t forget to use alt text, so that those who can’t download or view the image are not left in the dark.
8. Be honest
It can be tough to get top talent to open and engage with your messages, so there’s always a temptation to try to “trick” people into thinking they’ve spoken to you before. Subject lines that suggest to candidates that you’ve already spoken, or use “re.” to imply that your message is part of an existing email chain, might get a few clicks… but they damage your brand and mean that candidates won’t apply. Resist that temptation and just be honest.
9. Personalize the message content
Personalization is important in the actual content of the message itself – not just in the subject line.
Everyone has become great at ignoring messages that aren’t specifically for them. Most of us rarely engage with marketing messages, filtering out anything that feels generic or automated. Mass recruiting emails have the same effect on potential candidates. If a candidate sees that the message wasn’t written specifically for them, they are more likely to dismiss it quickly.
Make sure that you always address candidates by name, and try to customize the message content to show that you’ve looked at their LinkedIn profile and reviewed their past experience.
Of course, you can also use technology to personalize your messaging at scale. With AI, you can include only the most relevant roles for a particular member of your talent community, or target segments of your database with content that will resonate most strongly. It’s also about timing: we all hate getting irrelevant messages (why are you addressing me like a student 15 years after graduation?!) If the data in your CRM is kept up to date dynamically, you can tailor your message to the right stage of someone’s career.
10. Stay on brand
As with any form of marketing, it is crucial to ensure consistency and build your brand. Ideally you would be able to create and save templates that use your key brand assets, so you are not starting from scratch each time... or risking diluting the power of your brand.
11. Use a great call to action
Every email you send needs to have a clear call to action. The way you sign off each message is crucial. You need to give candidates a clear next step.
You’re sending a message for a specific reason, usually to draw attention to a job or opportunity, so make sure the candidate knows that. Possible next steps could involve:
- A simple ‘reply’
- A follow-up call
- An in-person or virtual meeting
- A formal interview
Being vague won’t help you convince a great candidate to come in for an interview. According to research by psychologist Robert Sutton, people are more responsive and willing to help if they’ve been given clear directions.
12. Follow up
The majority of your emails are destined to never get a response, so although a follow-up is technically not part of the anatomy of a perfect recruiting email, it’s a crucial part of any good sourcing strategy.
The recruiters that have the most success are the ones that understand the power of the follow-up. It’s the part of the race when most other people stop running, and you’re the only one left. It doesn’t matter how slow you run, you’re likely going to win... because everybody else stopped!
Our experience at Beamery suggests that 3 to 5 touchpoints is ideal for a recruitment campaign.
Try to always use logic for secondary touches – i.e. send the next email to people who opened but didn't click, and so on.