top of page


Mar 21, 2023

Recruiters, why are passive candidates not replying to your emails?

Recruiters, why are passive candidates not replying to your emails?

​Now you’re tasked with writing one email to send to dozens of passive candidates. But as you know, that is not enough. The email has to be personal, thoughtful, and engaging. You have to demonstrate you have done your homework by clearly articulating why the candidate would be a good fit for your role. And, you have to do it well enough that the candidate feels compelled to reply. It’s a tall task for one email.

The truth is recruitment email marketing is an art, not a science. While there are a lot of tips out there telling you what you are forgetting, it’s impossible to remember let alone incorporate them all, and what works for someone else might not necessarily work for you.

​Be patient, be creative, and don’t forget to test. As you begin drafting your intro email, keep these best practices in mind. Remember the true key to your success is making sure you have only sourced relevant candidates who are in a position to make a career change.

Grab their attention with your subject line.

There are a lot of options when it comes to writing highly effective subject lines, and I mean a lot. Instead of trying to incorporate everything, consider these best practices any time you write a new subject line and then add new elements over time.

Keep it under 50 characters: Subject lines that are 50 characters or less have been proven to have higher open rates, likely because almost half of all emails are opened on mobile. As a best practice, keep your subject line as short as possible to make sure it’s fully readable across all devices.Add a personalization token: Look up any blog on email best practices, and they will all tell you to add a personalization token for first name to your subject line. It’s been proven to increase open rates and build rapport with the recipient.

Be direct: The candidate should know what’s inside the email before they even open it. People scroll through their inbox quickly. Make sure your subject line is concise with the benefit front and center.Shorter is better.

​Do me a favor. Open up your inbox and note how many emails you received today, how many you still need to reply to, and how many you’ll probably never get around to reading. If your inbox is that bad, chances are your candidate’s is too.

​Use what little time and space you have to grab the candidate’s attention immediately. Keep your message short, sweet, and to the point. A good rule of thumb is no more than 6–8 sentences and less than a minute to read. If you can’t pique their interest while saying what you need to say in that space, chances are the candidate is already on to the next email in their inbox.

Define the opportunity. Write with the candidate persona in mind.

Think personalization at scale. Okay, that’s bit of an oxymoron, but your candidates likely share a lot of similar attributes. You might even say they share a candidate persona, meaning their motivation to take this role may be similar. Maybe they are millenials who want an opportunity to grow their skillset and have a flexible work life balance. Maybe they are senior leaders and want to lead cross-functional teams and define company strategy.

​Determining motivations and opportunities should be pretty simple after you have defined job requirements and sourced candidates for the role. Use your knowledge to translate required skills into a compelling story, placing the candidate in the heart of it all.

Note: Avoid using your limited space to talk about yourself or how you found the candidate (unless it’s through a shared connection). Remember a good recruiting email should be all about the candidate and not about yourself, the job, or the company.

Include a CTA and draw attention to it.

You’re doing a fantastic job! You have written a compelling subject line, defined the opportunity, and wrote an engaging message. Now, you have to pull it all together with one final step. You have to offer a call to action, but there are a few caveats.

​A good CTA should clearly spell out the next steps and a timeframe of when the candidate should follow up. Given that timing is everything, you want to make your instructions and next steps as clear and simple as possible.

​There are a lot of different approaches to building an effective CTA. You could include a button, hyperlink, or tell them to reply. There’s no right or wrong answer. However, if you want your email to feel personal and tailored, close with a hard ask, like “Are you available for a chat tomorrow at 1:00pm?” Whatever you do, just make sure you don’t hit send without making sure you include a CTA.

Be personal. Be yourself.

​While you should try your best to incorporate as many email best practices as possible, don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to accomplish. Remember you’re starting a dialogue that could possibly continue over weeks or even months, so be yourself.

Even if you’re sending this initial email to dozens of potential candidates, the language you use can go a long way towards making your email feel more personalized. When writing, use simple, clear language that is both approachable and welcoming. Keep your tone casual and conversational and have it reflect who you are as individual.

​There are a lot of email best practices, a lot more than what I listed. It can be overwhelming to try to incorporate every single best practice into your daily emails. That’s why I have purposely kept this list short and only highlighted what I believe to be are the must haves for any good intro email. But, they will only get you so far.

​To improve your engagement rates, continually test your emails over time. Change subject lines, tweak your CTA, even try sending your emails on different days at times. Over time you’ll identify the perfect combination of best practices that work for you.

bottom of page