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7 Recruiting Email Strategies (Backed By Science)

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Social media might get the headlines, but research shows that email is still the best way to engage candidates.

85% of recruiters rely on email as their top channel to contact and build relationships with talent. Email is still number one.

With over 144 billion emails sent every day, the challenge is standing out in the inbox. How can you craft messages that get opens, clicks, and replies?

We've pulled together 7 tried and tested recruiting email strategies (all backed by data) that will help you cut through the noise:

1. Don't rely on {FirstName} for personalization

{FirstName} isn't enough.

Candidates are pretty wise to the existence of mail merge tools that input their first names into emails. If this is the extent of your personalization, you're not impressing anyone.

Research suggests that consumers are actually turned off by marketing messages that rely on these basic inputs. In a recent study led by Temple University Fox School of Business, as many as 95% of customers responded negatively when an email ad greeted them by name.

What does this mean for your email outreach?

It doesn't mean you should stop using basic personalization. But it does mean that you should think harder about _how _your provide candidates with a personalized experience.

Whether you're contacting candidates for the first time, or nurturing them with relevant content, you should go beyond {FirstName}. Look for the things that other recruiters will miss:

  • What college did they attend?
  • What causes do they support?
  • What are their interests outside of work?
  • What about your organization will really appeal to them?

This blend of professional and personal is a more effective way to build a relationship and often leads to far better response rates (sometimes as high as 97%!)

2. Everyone likes the sound of their own name

Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language. -Dale Carnegie

Recent research shows that reading our names in print activates the brain. In other words, we become more engaged when our name appears in emails.

This means that adding a candidate's name to the subject or closing section of your email can be an effective way to catch their eye.

I know what you're thinking:

We just ran through some of the problems associated with basic personalization and how it appears to candidates.

The important point here is not to rely on {FirstName} getting the job done by itself. Your message needs to be effective and personal. It has to be able to stand on its own two feet, little tricks like this are just the icing on the top.

3. Three is the magic number (and the right number of paragraphs)

The brain is delicate.

Research shows that the brain enjoys being presented with 3 choices, whereas four choices can trigger skepticism and anything higher can lead to confusion.

How can you use this to maximum effect?

Try breaking your message into 3 short paragraphs (see below), offering 3 different timings for a potential call, or even using 3 different adjectives to describe your company.

Power of 3 - recruiting email strategies

4. Sign off with the right CTA

The way you sign off each message is crucial. You need to give candidates a clear next step.

You’re sending that 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 on-site interview
  • A future conversation

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.

How can you put this into action?

Be specific with your next step. If you’d like to arrange a call, provide a few times that work and ask the candidate to select one.

This reduces the mental energy that candidates need to expend answering your message, and makes it far more likely that they’ll respond.

5. Send your emails at the right time

According to data gathered by Yesware, you’ve got a better chance of having your emails opened and replied to if you send them on a weekend when there is less competition.

Email reply rates are highest on weekends

We’ve found that Sunday evening works the best. People tend to be preparing for the week ahead and have time to read and respond to your messages.

Burning the midnight oil, and contacting candidates after 8 pm can also work well. Experian Services found that emails sent between 8 pm - 12 midnight had the highest open rate.

Email timing

Again, this time block isn't as widely used by other companies so there's less "noise" out there for your messages to compete with.

Whatever time you choose, make sure you test whether it's a fit for your audience (candidates). Late night emails only work if the people you're contacting are online at that time. Testing a few different times is the only way to get a clear answer.

Pro tip

Sending late night email doesn't mean you have to work late. There are a host of tools and plugins that let you schedule emails in advance - Boomerang is our personal favorite.

Obviously, if you're using a Recruitment Marketing platform like Beamery, email scheduling functionality comes as standard :)

6. Get the subject line right

There's a ton of research out there on subject lines. Literally tons. The question we get asked the most though is:

How long should the subject line be?

Well, it looks like there's just one area to avoid. 60-70 characters. The "dead zone".

According to research by Adestra, which tracked over 900 million emails for its report, there is no increase in either open rate or clickthroughs at this 60-to-70 character length of a subject line.

After this, the optimal length of your subject line depends on your business goals.

If you're looking for candidates to click on content that you've included in your email, subject lines 70 characters and up perform best.

If you're purely interested in open rates, shorter subject lines (below 49 characters) can be a better option, with subject lines of 10 characters or fewer averaging an open rate of 58%.

For an interesting, real world (and non-recruiting) example of how consumers react to shorter subject lines, we can refer to the political campaign of Barack Obama.

He saw incredible engagement with subjects like “Hey” and “Wow.”

Short subject line

Ultimately it boils down to this:

  • Long for clickthroughs
  • Short for opens

What are you optimizing for?

7. Optimize for mobile

66% of emails are opened on mobile devices - if you ignore the way that your messages appear on mobile phones, you're ruining the experience for two-thirds of your audience.

A simple example:

People spend far less time actually reading emails on mobile devices. 40.5% of iPhone users spend 0-3 seconds reading emails.

This means that brevity is crucial. There's no room for waffle, you need to get straight to the point in your email.

Email read length - by device

If your team is using branded templates in their email campaigns, it's important to check that the templates are mobile-responsive. This just means that it looks "normal" on your device. This is the

This is standard for email templates nowadays but check with your design or marketing team if you're unsure.

Recruiting Events - The Complete Playbook

Talent teams of every size can find value in this ebook, but it is especially targeted at sophisticated teams who want to leverage the technology and candidate data at their disposal to create highly effective event programs. It contains an exploration of the different types of events and how to best use them, checklists for event set up, project management tips, collaboration, event follow-up, not to mention metrics and best practices for measurement.