Hooked On A Template: Recruiting Email Etiquette

The sales outreach emails that land in my inbox every day have progressively gotten more annoying. It typically starts with an automated event follow-up. This one goes a little something like this.

“Sorry we missed you at XYZ conference, would you like to book a follow-up call to talk about our recruiting service?”

Harmless enough. Delete and go about my day.

The next email hits somewhere between two and five days later. The subject line doesn’t pique my interest in any way: “Did you miss my email?” Nope. Delete. Again, harmless.

This week, the inquiry escalated. This salesperson sent a meeting invite I never asked for to book a time with me on Monday. My reaction? Oh, hell no. I’ve worked in sales. In no world is it ok to start sending meeting invites. That’s how you get on very awkward phone calls that I imagine go a little something like this.

Salesperson: “I’m XYZ from ABC company.”
Everyone: “Wait, what? Why am I on this call?”

You’re high on believing if you think that’s a warm lead. 

What bothered me most about this bad behavior is the fact that this came from someone who calls themselves a recruiter. Theoretically, they should have some nuance to their email outreach.

I’m not trying to bash all recruiters by any means – I know a ton of you who write incredible emails that make candidates feel amazing. I love you for it. You’re badass. You also represent about 5% of this industry, and I think we both know I’m generous in that estimate.

Seriously, the whole “it worked one time so I’m recycling it for the 99th” is getting old. If I can recite that email, it’s not good enough – ok?

We know what happens when you give out a bunch of templated emails: people use them. The consequence is that you lose great people every single time they hit send on another terrible recruiting email.

Let’s ban these recruiting email templates altogether.

The difference between writing a good or great recruiting email will never come from tweaking a template that “worked that one time.” But you will be happy to know this. It doesn’t take much effort to write an incredible email, whether you’re selling a job or a software solution (whatever the hell that is.)

Here’s what it takes to write an incredible (and powerful) recruiting email.

  1. A subject line that says, “hey – I know you.” You can get this inspiration from any profile picture, and it doesn’t have to be super creative. “What kind of guitar do you play?” will get a guitar playing coder to respond.
  2. Spell the name right. Seems obvious but, you know.
  3. A first sentence that has nothing to do with you. It’s all about what matters to this person’s success. Which, you have some concept of because you did your research or you know something about the recruitment marketing persona.
  4. A question that shows you care. It is not a question that implies that anyone has to make a decision today. Leave the high-pressure sales tactics out of your emails. It should be a question they want to answer whether they are going to say yes or no to the ask.
  5. Three of the most persuasive details about the job to help this person say yes or no. Don’t you dare copy and paste a job description into your email.
  6. The ask. Duh.

That’s it.

Ok, fine. There’s a little more nuance here, but if you’re already writing ok emails (aka, not recitable templates) – this is a formula that can help you go from good to great.

If your recruiting team is hooked on templates, call me. I have training for that – an online version on July 29th for teams of 2 or smaller and a customizable workshop for teams. You can contact me at katrina at threeearsmedia.com  

Candidate Generation and Nurturing recruiting

Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

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