Optimizing your candidate outreach

Hiring is hard and time consuming, particularly since the best candidates will already be employed. But, we’re here to help, both in terms of finding you people, and reaching out to them. The below will give you some pointers on how to optimize your outreach to maximize your open and response rates.

Before you start

When reaching out to passive candidates, it’s important to keep two things in mind:

  1. They’re likely happy where they are
  2. They’re busy (aren’t we all)

This means that unless you give them a good reason to open your email - and once opened, to respond - they won’t. The best way to achieve this is to give people specific, actionable information, that will allow them to determine whether this could be of interest to them.

So how do you do that? Let’s begin with the subject.

The subject

The more specific you can be the better. Remember, people are busy. If they can’t tell whether opening an email will be worth their while, odds are they wont. So, be as specific as you can be:

  1. Specify the role
  2. Specify the seniority level
  3. If applicable, specify the main focus / technology
  4. Offer a hook

This may seem like a lot, but it really isn’t. Furthermore, one study has shown that the optional subject line length is around 41 characters (7 words), so go ahead and let loose. 

Don’t say: “Software Engineer”, say “Sr Ruby / Angular SE opportunity at KittenFriend - help save kittens!”
Don’t say: “SDR”, say “SDR opportunity at xCorp - no cap on commission”

You want to make sure that at all times you entice the right people to open your email, and not waste anybody’s time in the process.

It's also important to optimize subject line length for the device of your target candidate. For instance if you're looking for an iOS Engineer, craft a subject line specifically for iPhones. 

Finally, click here to scroll and see a list of SPAM trigger words that should be avoided in all subject lines.

The body

Congratulations! You successfully convinced someone to open your email. Now what? Three things: Be you, make them imagine, and answer what they really want to know.

Be you

There is no use pretending to be who you’re not. And besides, not everybody is the right fit for every culture or position. This will become apparent pretty quickly once somebody starts working, but ideally you’ll want to determine that as early as possible. The best way to do that is to open and honest about who who are and what you do.

Make them imagine

If you can, briefly describe a challenge, or a day in the life. Get people to a point where they start thinking about the opportunity and what it would be like to work with you. For that same reason, always use “you” when talking about the position.

Answer what they really want to know

We spend a lot of time at work, and the last thing people want is to feel unhappy or unsatisfied. While money will go a long way, ultimately we want to feel like we belong. It’s not enough for a potential candidate to know the requirements and responsibilities (in fact, qualified candidates can figure most of those out from just the title). What they want to know are things like:

  • What does the company do, and why should I care?
  • What will I do and what impact will I have?
  • Who will I work with, and why should I care?
  • What is it like to work for your company? (Think culture, perks, office space etc)
  • Is there anything worth noting about your company?

In conclusion

The more relevant information you give people, the better they are able to decide whether you are worth their time, and the better a potential fit they’ll be if and when they decide they want to talk to you. This in turn means that not only will you get people to respond, you’ll get the right people to respond - and you’ll be out of the gate running.


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