Cut & Polish

Just Out: How to Craft an Email Sequence for Recruiting Outreach

A one-and-done approach to recruiting outreach doesn't cut it anymore. Here's how to craft a successful email sequence for outreach—with plenty of examples.

In recruitment—as in life—persistence pays. The old adage is perhaps especially true when it comes to recruiting passive talent. After all, it’s no small feat to prompt engagement (let alone action) in talent that’s already satisfied where they are. Passive talent is busy with their full-time jobs. They’re likely spending more time in their work email than in their personal email throughout the day. They may only have small windows of time in which to sit with the contents of an outreach message and the idea of a career change. Add to this the inertia of career contentment, and you’ve got your work cut out for you if you hope to ever hear back from them.

Which is why it’s surprising that so many recruiters still take a one-and-done approach to cold email outreach. Studies have shown that it can take between 12 and 20 touchpoints to influence a career decision. Our own data at Gem—taken from over one million recruiting outreach campaigns—shows that a single email receives, on average, a 13% reply rate, while a 4-email sequence receives a 32% reply rate. In other words, following up means more-than-doubling (2.5x-ing, in fact) your chances of receiving an interested response from a prospective candidate. The cardinal sin in sourcing is to send a single email, letting all the work you’ve done to research, source, and craft a strong message for a handful of candidates go down the drain after that. Why not try to maximize your response rates after all that time and effort?

You likely have your template for that first email down. In brief, you tell them how you found them (proving you did your homework), mention the role you’re looking to fill and the impact it will have, mention a facet or two of your employee value proposition (EVP), and offer a call to action. But your follow-ups will demand different strategies—and maybe even a little agility as you track engagement with them. They’ll emphasize elements of your EVP that you didn’t mention in your initial outreach. They’ll add new value by shining a light on other facets of the company. They may be “sent from” other members of your organization—the hiring manager, a C-level, or even another person on the team—so it looks like there’s a community of employees who are excited about them. Collectively, the emails in your outreach sequence should be understood as the unfolding of a narrative about your company, its open role, and your prospective candidates' place in that story.

That said, we know it’s often easier to see examples of best practices in action than to read about those best practices. So we’ve put together an ebook for you, How to Craft an Email Sequence for Recruiting Outreach: Best Practices and Examples for a 4-Stage Sequence. It covers:

  • How to spread your employer value proposition across multiple messages
  • How to get hiring managers, C-levels, and referrers’ voices into your outreach for greater impact
  • How to be tactful about content that’s included as links and quotes
  • Examples of 3 full 4-stage sequences to inspire your own outreach

Below is one of the example sequences from that guide. If you want to read about what makes the following sequence so effective—and see more examples of strong, multi-stage outreach—download our Best Practices and Examples for a 4-Stage Outreach Sequence. We cover it all there.

Recruiting Outreach: Stage 1

[Subject: Looking for our next Haskell Expert in Chicago]

Hi, Javier!

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,

Chris Haskins

Recruiting Manager, XYZ Financial

Recruiting Outreach: Stage 2

Hi, Javier!

It’s Chris again. I just wanted to follow up on my email from last week and see if you’ve thought about hopping on a call so I can hear about what you’re looking for in your next role.

I also wanted to send on a blog post from one of our founding engineers, Devin Ramirez, who recently wrote about the philosophy of product engineering that we hold here. Devin wrote: “One of the most exciting things about my job at XYZ Financial is that Product Engineers own features (or products) from end-to-end—from the database to the interface and from initial idea to successful launch. We’re individually trusted to build what makes good product- and business-sense, we’ll wear any number of hats as needed, and we work one-on-one with customers to ensure we’re iterating toward the best solution. For us, that means actually jumping on the phone with customers; and this way of doing things has kept us uniquely responsive to customer needs.”

Devin mentioned she’d be more than happy to chat with you if you’d like to hear from someone on the team before hopping on a call with me. She’s free this Thursday; would that work for you?

Looking forward to hearing from you, Javier!

Chris Haskins

Recruiting Outreach: Stage 3

Hi, Javier,

My name is Erika Kinsey, and I’m the CTO at XYZ Financial. Chris told me he’s reached out to you a few times over the last week about open eng roles in our new Chicago office. I thought I’d try you myself, since I’m as excited as Chris is about the kind of experience you could bring to the table here.

Our backend team builds the underlying services, infrastructure, and APIs that power our products. Right now they’re re-architecting some of that, and I’d love to tell you where I think you could contribute to that project and what challenges I think you could help us solve. I’d also love to hear what you’re working on these days—I have a feeling your interests overlap with our initiatives quite a bit!

How’s Tuesday for you?

Erika Kinsey (she/her)

CTO, XYZ Financial

Recruiting Outreach: Stage 4

Hi, Javier,

Just checking in one last time. It sounds like you and Erika didn’t get a chance to connect last week. My guess at this point is that things are going great for you at {{company}}, and this just isn’t the time to engage in a conversation about the next phase of your career.

I don’t want to keep hounding if the timing isn’t right. That said, I know how quickly that horizon can change—so I’ll check back in six months or so and see where you’re at. (It’ll be interesting to see what our Chicago office looks like at that point!) In the meantime, feel free to keep up with our engineering blog, where the team will be posting updates about their projects, our products, and their growth.

And if you’ve got any engineers in your network who are looking to join an account aggregation software company that’s growing more quickly than any others in the industry, send them my way! I have a philosophy that good people know good people; and so I’m happy to talk to anyone you know.


Chris Haskins

The above emails are “templates”; and you can see where whole paragraphs can be used when sending in batch to save time. Indeed, this example sequence isn’t personalized so much as it is detailed in its illustration of EVPs, thoughtful about whom to send as, and tactful about the content that’s included as links and quotes. For more insights, best practices, and examples of well-crafted email sequences for recruiting outreach, get our guide here.

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Content Strategist
August 12, 2020
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