Engaging passive candidates demands that you tap into your inner marketer. Here are three examples of great email outreach.
If you’re in the field of talent acquisition, you’ve probably heard that LinkedIn statistic that a whopping 90% of talent is open to hearing about new career opportunities—even if they’re not actively looking. (The caveat to that data point, of course, is “assuming they’re presented with the right role.”) Yet engaging passive candidates demands a different approach than recruiting active ones: You have to tap into your inner marketer to break through the inertia that comes with job-contentment. Below, we offer three examples of great email outreach to get you started thinking about your own.
Though they employ different strategies, these examples have two things in common: 1) They make the recipient feel unique and uniquely spoken to, and 2) They include what we’ll call, broadly speaking, “motivating factors”: the elements likely to prompt a response. As you’ll see, those motivating factors range from employee value propositions to mentioned mutual acquaintances to messages directly from the CEO.
What doesn’t change is the part about personalization, which is part-and-parcel of ascertaining whether a prospect is right for your open role. The below are “templates”; and you can certainly see in each example where whole paragraphs can be used when sending in batch to save time. But each example is also fine-tuned to meet the prospect as an individual. That’s why you’ll want to find an outreach tool that can send in batch without sacrificing personalization. When a prospect believes they’re on the receiving end of a bulk email, they develop a negative perception of both your employer brand and your recruiting team. So—particularly for those harder-to-fill positions—do the work of finding out what would be meaningful enough to make that prospect invest time in a dialogue with you. Otherwise, that satisfaction you feel after sending out 400 bulk emails is only a false sense of security.
Then use that research—in tandem with these examples—to craft outreach that prompts real engagement.
Subject: Looking for our next Haskell Expert in Chicago
My name is Chris and I’m working alongside our CTO, Erika, at XYZ Financial to find some of the best back-end engineers to grow our current team. I’ve just spent the last hour on your GitHub and LinkedIn profiles, and called Erika over to show her the most recent debugging feature you published on GitHub. Needless to say, Erika’s thrilled: We’re actually working on a similar project—and in Haskell, which it looks like you’re currently programming in!
XYZ Financial is an account aggregation technology looking to make big waves in fintech. Last year we opened our second engineering hub in Chicago, raised $47M in funding, and we’re on track to double in size by next year. Our next few hires will be critical, as they’ll shape the engineering culture of our new office.
What it’s like to work on the eng team:
- No product managers. You’ll own and drive the product from start to finish.
- Tons of growth opportunity as we expand from a team of 6 to 20+ by the end of the year.
- Write meaningful code that supports our users in experiencing financial freedom.
- Flexible environment (most of our team works from home at least once a week).
- Tackle technical challenges across internal tooling, guest experience, authentication, and data.
Do you have time to jump on a call this week? I’d love to hear more about your background, your current projects, and your career aspirations... and of course, tell you more about our company.
I look forward to talking to you,
Recruiting Manager, XYZ Financial
What this outreach does well:
- It uses flattery to great effect. There’s a kind of double ego-stroking happening here: Javier’s work was terrific enough that it was worth digging into; and what came up was worth sharing with the CTO. You’ll also note the flattery in the subject line (“expert”).
- It brings in the CTO. Including the hiring manager, the CEO, or whomever the role reports to is a great strategy. (You might even cc them on the outreach). When the prospect thinks there’s more than one person who has a vested interest in them, and that you’re working together to get their attention, they’re all the more likely to respond.
- It uncovers areas of overlap. Chris doesn’t just say he’s done his research; he explains exactly what caught his attention. In this case—as will often be the case—it was commonalities (similar projects, same code). Prospects want to know why you’re reaching out to them. Whether it’s shared values, complementary skill sets, or past projects in alignment with your own, let them know why what you’ve learned about them makes them fit for the position. (“We’re hiring, and I think you’d make a great fit,” without an explanation for why, may not cut it.)
- It reveals what like to work at the company. According to LinkedIn, the biggest roadblock candidates face when changing jobs is “not knowing what it’s really like to work at the company.” This email makes a great first attempt at describing it. (Remember, don’t say everything at once; you’ll have at least three follow-ups to add more information.) We suggest 3-5 details (bullet-pointed for easier skimming) that will appeal to your prospect’s interests. Think of it as their “wish list”... or as your employee value proposition.
Subject: What’s Your Next Career Move, Brian?
Hi there Brian,
My name is Kelly Arnone and I’m the CEO at X App. I discovered your profile on LinkedIn this week while looking for a Sales Ops Manager for our fast-growing sales team. It led me to both of your articles on sales team leadership on Medium. I’m really impressed by the thought and consideration you’ve put into running your teams.
If you’re getting a lot of emails about career opportunities these days—and you probably are—I imagine you’re not hearing much from CEOs directly. But I attribute the success we’ve seen so far at X App in part to my dedication to finding the best talent, putting them in the same room, and watching them thrive. That’s why I commit so much of my own personal time to sourcing and outreach.
I’d love to tell you about our plan to open up a new market this year and about how we see experimentation and autonomy as central to a world-class sales team. If that sounds interesting to you, feel free to schedule a 30-minute intro call with someone on our TA team here. And if we discover it’s a ring you’d like to throw your hat into, I’d love to grab a coffee with you.
I look forward to getting to talk to you soon, Brian,
CEO, X App
What this outreach does well:
- It asks a question. The subject line understands psychology. Asking questions allows the conversation to begin even before the prospect hits “Reply.” Happy in your current role? What’s one thing you’d change about your job? Ready to love coming to work every day? These all place prospects in an instant dialogue with your outreach, making them curious about what your answer to the question is. It also slows them down. After all, these might be questions they never thought to ask themselves.
- It’s from the CEO. Whether or not the CEO actually wrote this doesn’t really matter. The point is that someone who isn’t a recruiter appears to be reaching out. In other words, it’s from someone who doesn’t have a target to reach, and for whom outreach isn’t a part of the job description. Of course, if you use this strategy—regardless of whether you send on behalf of (SOBO) someone else or use an alias—make sure you have permission to use their name.
- It’s short and to-the-point. Granted, there’s often enough power in outreach from top-level management that the message can be shorter; but that doesn’t mean outreach from talent acquisition can’t also be concise. Remember: The prospect hasn’t displayed any interest yet; so there’s no reason to overwhelm them with details. A little praise, one or two facts about the position or the company, and you’ve said all you need to say for an initial gauge of interest. This message passes the “single-screen view” test on mobile. You’ll want to account for the fact that that’s the screen size recipients will likely be looking at.
- There’s a clear call to action. Of course, our first example (“Do you have time to jump on a call this week?”) had a clear call to action as well; but it would’ve necessitated some back-and-forth before a time got scheduled. Here, the prospect can schedule a time with just a few clicks. There’s no question of what happens next.
Subject: Your friend Nolan tells me you’ve got game
Happy Wednesday! My name is Carmen and I’m a recruiter at Range. We’re expanding our design team right now, and I’ve been reaching out to my network to find the best of the best in Austin. I met up with Nolan for coffee last week and you came up as the most remarkable UX designer he knew. I honestly can’t imagine a more enthusiastic recommendation.
I jumped into your Dribbble portfolio when I got home that evening—and Nolan wasn’t kidding! Would you be open to chatting this week about our open positions and why we’ve been named one of the Top 10 Startups to work for in Austin? My sense is you’d be a killer UX lead for us… but I also want to be clear that I’m not interested in “selling” you a job! Rather, I want to find out what your career goals are and what you’d be looking for in your next position. Of course, if your needs align with what we have to offer, we can go from there! If not, it will have been great to meet another friend of Nolan’s.
What do you say? Coffee at Magnolia next week? If you’d like, I can ask Nolan to join us.
Thanks, Terrence. I look forward to hearing from you!
P.S. Nolan mentioned your new dog?! Feel free to bring her along! The weather’s supposed to be gorgeous next week; we can find a space on the patio.
Carmen Benisty (pronouns: she/her)
Top 10 Startups to Work for in Austin
Range Scores $12M in Series A Financing Round
What this outreach does well:
- It mentions a referral. Referrals are the number one source for hires. They also have the highest applicant-to-hire conversion rate, onboard more quickly than applicants found elsewhere, have greater job satisfaction, and remain longer at their respective companies. So when you have them, call them out immediately—ideally in the subject line. Terrence is all the more likely to click in when he sees his friend’s name there.
- It has personality. For one, Carmen’s subject line (“you’ve got game”) is bound to stand out in an inbox. Of course, you can take it further if you think the prospect would be open to it. Often you can get a sense of a prospect’s sense of humor based on their social profiles. In this case, Carmen may have checked in with Nolan about the kind of approach Terrence would best respond to. Playfulness—puns, corny jokes, pop culture references, and more—offers an opportunity for real human connection.
- It isn’t pitching a job. Remember, your primary goal in an initial reach-out is to schedule a meeting—nothing more. Carmen didn’t bother giving Terrence any details about the position because this message isn’t about the job; it’s about grabbing coffee. The lower the barrier (“Sure, I’ll meet my long-time friend and his friend for coffee!”), the better your chances of connecting. At that point, you can ascertain fit and alignment.
- Carmen uses her pronouns. This is a way of affirming allyship and showing that Range values diversity. 67% of active and passive talent say they take a company’s workforce diversity into account when evaluating it. Being pronoun-forward in outreach is one of those small signals that can make an enormous difference.
- It makes the most of the signature. Carmen didn’t say much about the company or the role in her message, but she left breadcrumbs for Terrence to follow if he wants to learn more. The great thing about this strategy is that, if you’re using Gem, you can track which links are getting clicks—and which clicks prompt replies—to get a sense of what your most compelling content is.
So there you have it: Three examples of great email outreach. Of course, follow up over time with more details. You might even base the content of your next email on how recipients behaved with previous outreach. With Gem, you can get detailed campaign data and A/B test for message content and subject lines. Keep analyzing. Add touchpoints from other people in the company. Find your own best practices through trial-and-error. We hope you take delight in those experiments.