Whether personal or professional, we’ve all avoided writing emails because, well — they’re harder than they look. How do you maintain the right level of casual and formal? Do you sign off with “Best” or “Regards”? How much small talk do you include about your weekend?
Recruiting emails are notoriously difficult — we know because we’ve helped more than 200+ companies hire across X roles, and outreach is always the number one challenge. Finding good people is only the first step. Getting them interested is the second, harder challenge. To succeed, you need excellent communication skills, starting with a compelling recruiting email.
Why not just use a template?
A common refrain we hear is: “but this outreach worked for this other role we hired for, why isn’t it working for this role?” That’s because the hiring market is changing rapidly. Phrases and practices likely to get a response in today’s job market won’t work six months from now, and experimentation is the only way to optimize over time.
That being said, there are a few recruiting email best practices we abide by regardless of the time of year. In this blog, we’ll give you a peek into how length, structure, and language all impact the performance of your recruiting emails.
7 tips for writing better recruiting emails
- Keep your mission statement short.
The goal of an initial recruiting email is solely to get candidates on the phone. You’ll have an opportunity to sell them on the company during the interview process. Leave your mission statement to 1-2 sentences and spend the rest of the message focusing on the role.
For example, let’s say that you run a recruiting software startup that helps other companies hire for their open roles. You could write a really jargon-loaded, hard-to-understand mission statement that doesn’t really tell the candidate what you do, like:
“We’re a world-class recruiting software platform, leveraging our extensive candidate data to pair top companies with top talent and automate away the adiministrative tasks. End-to-end we support customers through every part of their hiring journey, from source to offer. From there, we create an autogenerated email and personalize it to candidates at a volume that a human recruiter wouldn’t be able to do on their own.”
While this definitely tells you what the company does, it’s confusing, garbled, and indirect. A better way to write this would be:
“We’re a recruiting software platform that automates the tedious parts of recruiting to connect teams with top talent faster.”
Cool. We know exactly what they do, why it’s important, and what the outcome of their solution is.
Side note: if your company is incredibly mission-oriented (think focusing on conservation, supply chain, or food security), you will definitely want to give more information on your cause, and your backstory, as it’s imperative that talent is aligned with your objectives.
2. Personalization isn’t only effective — it’s becoming the only thing that matters.
There’s a reason recruiting emails are also known as cold emails. ‘Cold’ as in impersonal, bulk, aggressive. The differentiating factor that will make your email ‘warmer’ is personalization. Your message should make it crystal clear to your potential candidate that you’re sending this email to them, specifically.
Internally, we’ve seen up to a 30% increase in interested responses when personalization is included in an email — even across candidates who were unresponsive or uninterested in other roles.
With personalization, the key is to point out what they have to gain - what skills do they have that currently transfer into the role? How could they grow and develop in the role? Here is a list of questions that can help guide your research:
- What was their contribution to a specific project?
- How is it related to their overall background of the job you’re sourcing for?
- What skills do they demonstrate that are relevant to your open position’s duties?
3. Point out what they have to gain.
So you’ve cut down your mission statement, and now your email feels a bit… empty. That’s great — now you have more room to expand upon the role, and what this particular applicant would have to gain from it.
At Dover, we like to consider these three areas when talking about the scope of a role: Impact, Ownership, and Autonomy.
While you don’t have to answer all of the following questions in your outreach, you’ll want to make sure the candidate understands what kind of impact they’ll have, what they’ll own, and how much freedom they’ll have to do their work.
- How much impact will they have?
- How much autonomy and ownership do you offer?
- What are some projects they’ll work on in the first six months?
- Who will they be working alongside?
- Is this an exciting opportunity in a new space?
- Will they be able to progress quickly to more senior positions?
- Are you using a cutting-edge technology, or affecting global change in some way?
4. Make it mobile-friendly.
Not all job seekers will see your messages on a full desktop screen, and their experience can be negatively impacted by subject lines that get cut off or images or messages that won't load. That's why it's so important to optimize your recruiting emails for mobile users, especially considering 47% of email users check messages primarily on a mobile device.
Not only does your information have to be concise and easily skimmable (more on that in a second), it also needs to pass what we call the “scroll test”: if a user has to scroll more than twice to read your full email, they’re probably not going to read most of it or respond.
Quick story: We tested this theory in late 2021 by conducting our own outreach experiments to see what performs best. What we learned was simple and surprising: listing out facts about a role/company with bullet points (aka easy skimmability) raised interested rate by 1.4x, even when we changed none of the content.
5. Link to relevant information.
If candidates have to go to great lengths to learn more about you, your company, or the role, they’re going to give up and go elsewhere. In every email, we recommend providing relevant links to your job description, LinkedIn profile, and company website.
6. Provide a specific call-to-action.
Even if you write a pleasant, intriguing message, your candidate won’t take the initiative to schedule next steps. You want to initiate a dialogue, so it’s best to suggest a specific time you could schedule a call, or ask for some clarifications on a piece of work they published.
For example, instead of “Are you interested in this role? Would love to chat further!”, try: “Do you have time in the coming week for an intro call? I’m usually open on Tuesdays - Thursdays, which days work best for you?
7. Use the subject line to your advantage.
Just like email copy, the data on subject lines seems to change on a nearly weekly basis. And while there’s no surefire subject line that will supercharge your response rate, there are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Keep it short: 10 words maximum. Long subject lines will get cut off, especially for mobile users.
- Be specific about why you're sending a message, and make sure your subject line doesn't sound like spam. For example, "First React develop at Series C fintech startup?" is a better subject line than "Immediate action required for an incredible opportunity!"
- Call them by their name. People love to see their own name, and seeing it in the subject line can help boost open rates. The same goes for if the candidate was referred to you — use the name of the person who referred them in the subject line to catch their attention and build trust.
- Optional: teach them more about your company culture in creative ways.
If you’ve got amazing employer branding (think a team page, employee blogs or testimonials and/or recent press), you’ll definitely want to link to that internally.
At Dover, we had team members write about their experience working at Dover and link to it in their cold outreach to candidates. Interest rates nearly doubled, telling us that talent today values and relies on social proof (hello, Glassdoor) to understand how the culture will impact their day-to-day.
Looking for inspiration?
If you’re looking to uplevel your recruiting outreach, or get out of a copy/paste rut, try out Recruiting Outreach Writer — it autogenerates personalized email copy with varying tones and lengths to guide your own writing.
Additionally, check out our Great Recruiting Emails e-book, with examples from top startups hiring today.