An illustration of an email.

The Best Cold Recruiting Email Template for Passive Candidates

In this post, the SeekOut team shares their favorite cold recruiting email template along with some strategies and best practices for recruiters looking to maximize their candidate response rate.

As a recruiter, I’m sure you’ll agree with me on this: Finding candidates is relatively easy compared to actually engaging with those candidates.

With 70 percent of the global workforce considered “passive talent,” it’s tough creating that spark with someone who isn’t looking for a new opportunity. But, with the right cold recruiting email template, it’s not impossible.

The average candidate response rate for most recruiters hovers around a measly 20-25%. But, according to the CEO of SocialTalent, Jonathan Campbell: With a little work, you can boost your passive candidate email response rate as high as 65 percent. Here’s how to make it happen:

Make your subject line count

Ask anyone who is part of the online dating world and they’ll tell you: When it comes to getting a response, your lead-in makes all the difference.

And guess what? The same theory applies to your passive candidate emails. No, I’m not suggesting you use your best pick-up lines on potential candidates. But, I do think you should aim for your email subject lines to have a similar effect as a suave online dating introduction. A great passive candidate email subject line does one of three things:

1. Flatters the recipient

Children’s author Arnold Lobel once said that “nothing is harder to resist than a bit of flattery.” And it’s true: a study presented in Scientific American found that even overtly manipulative flattery still has a positive impact on marketing efforts. That’s why subject lines like “Impressive Resume” or “Great Profile” are still effective for many recruiters despite their widespread use. They catch your candidate’s attention by appealing to an irresistible force — their ego.

2. Shows you did your research

Along with flattery, personalization works. If you can find a way to connect with a candidate’s interests, your chance of getting them to engage increases dramatically.

That’s why we included the “Interests” search filter in SeekOut. Say you’re running a search for financial analysts in New York. I can refine my results down to those candidates who expressed an interest in say, golf:

A screenshot of the SeekOut application's Interest filter.

Then, I might make my subject line something like: “Ever played 18 at Pound Ridge before?”

Sure, I’m not reaching out looking to play golf. But that level of personalization immediately sets your message apart from the 88 emails the average person receives each day.  

3. Creates intrigue

The goal of any email subject line is to get the recipient to open the message. Period. And generally speaking, recruiters do a decent job with that. According to HubSpot, the HR industry’s email open rate is seven percentage points higher than the overall average:

A chart showing the average email open rate for the HR industry.

(image source)

But, frankly, we can all do better. And without all that much effort. If the goal of a subject line is to get a candidate to open the message, then—at the risk of stating the obvious—give them a reason to open the message. And what’s the best way to do that?

Spark their curiosity

Too many recruiters are quick to give it all away in the subject of their email. How many times have you seen an email like this one: If I’m a passive candidate who isn’t looking for a new job, here’s what I’m doing with an email like that: I can read that subject line and make an immediate decision on whether or not it’s worth my time. There’s no incentive for me to open it up unless I am interested in hearing about new jobs (which, again, the majority of candidates are not).

Instead, use a deliberately vague subject line that draws the recipient in and intrigues them enough to open the email. Something like:

  • Quick introduction

  • Schedule a call

  • Your background

Of course, a good subject line doesn’t guarantee a response—it just gets your candidate in the door. To get a response, the body of your email needs to use a combination of the flattery, intrigue, and personalization you included in your subject line.    

Personalize your emails at scale

You’ve probably seen cold recruiting email templates in the past that make a heavy push for personalization. And there’s good reason why: Personalization works.

A study from Evergage asked marketing executives if they agreed with the statement “personalization helps advance customer relationships.” 96 percent agreed.

A chart showing survey result on personalization in customer relationships.

(image source)

But, the problem with personalization is that it takes so much time.>No one has the bandwidth to research and write one-to-one messages for every single candidate.

As Bob McHugh writes on the Bullhorn blog: “Bulk email is an inevitable reality of recruiting communication, and it’s unrealistic to do away with it all together. But there are many ways you can customize a bulk email to make it as personal as one written from scratch.”

Here are a few fields that are easily customizable:

  • Name. This is an obvious one. If you’re not personalizing the person’s name...yikes.

  • City. Plug in a simple line like: “I am on the hunt for a great engineer in Boston.”

  • Day of the week. Here’s an easy one that gets overlooked by many recruiters. Say something like “I hope you’re having a good Thursday” or “I know it’s Monday and you’re catching up from the weekend, but…” Using the day of the week makes your email feel fresh (even when it’s not).

  • Job title and/or company. When you’re targeting talent from a specific company, for example Facebook, you can combine flattery and personalization with a line like: “I know Facebook has a reputation for developing best-in-class engineers.”

  • Interests. SeekOut fed you the information for their subject line. Now, use it in the body of the email, too. You can even build off the personalization you included in the subject. Take my golf subject line example from earlier. Here’s a line you might include in the body of the email: “I know from your profile that you’re a golf fan and I’ve heard that’s one of the better courses in the NYC area.”

Want to see how we bring all these personalized elements together?Check out our cold recruiting email template at the end of this post.

Responding should be effortless

According to recent data from Litmus, mobile devices accounted for 47 percent of email opens in 2017.

A graph showing email opens by device.

(image source)

That means there’s nearly a 50/50 chance that your candidate reads your email on their phone. And if you want to get a response from a candidate on-the-go, you need a simple call-to-action. Something that your candidate can quickly respond to from their phone.

So, no asking for resumes. Don't direct candidates to an online application. And don't ask them when might be a good time to talk. A passive candidate won’t have their resume on their phone. And they certainly aren’t going to apply for a job from your first email.

But even asking for a phone call might be too much to ask. Responses sent from a mobile device are 60 percent shorter than those from a desktop. So, asking a candidate to check their calendar and then pitch a few dates/times may be more than they can handle from a phone.

Simplify your requests to a one-word candidate response. Don’t ask the candidate when they are free to talk. Tell them when you plan to call and ask them to reply if there’s a time that works better. Here’s an example of a good passive candidate email call-to-action from my cold recruiting email template:

“If I don’t hear back from you here, I’ll try and catch you by phone during lunch on Wednesday at 12:00pm ET. Of course, if there’s a time that works better for a brief, 15-minute call, just let me know.”

That CTA accomplishes two things. First, it sets the stage that a phone call will be happening unless they tell you otherwise. Second, it encourages a response whether the candidate is interested or not. If that time doesn’t work for them, they need to reply and suggest an alternative. If they don’t want to talk at all, that “if I don’t hear back from you here” line encourages them to let you know. Either way, you’re getting a response and can take action from there.

Use an active (and accurate) email address

When it comes to contacting candidates for the first time, many recruiters rely on messaging services from the sourcing platforms they use. According to a report from AdWeek, 48 percent of recruiters exclusively used LinkedIn for candidate communication back in 2014.

And with a 40 percent boost in recruiter “InMails” in recent years, that number has surely increased. And yet, response rates are lackluster. Jason Webster, co-founder of OnGig and current director of strategic accounts for Glassdoor, shared some insight in a recent blog post:

“The majority of my industry contacts tell me that their response rate is between 10%-20%...Tech candidates often tell me that they are getting 5 or more InMails per week…and that is conservative. They say the messages start to look the same, and they cannot tell one opportunity from another. They say that they rarely check their InMail as it is. Yet, recruiters take to the InMail airwaves every week by the thousands.”

That’s why it’s so important to find an accurate and up-to-date email address for your candidates. SeekOut can help here in two big ways:

Find candidate email addresses on the top sites where you source

With the release of our new Google Chrome extension, you can easily access email addresses on the sites where you source candidates—including LinkedIn. Here’s an example:

A screenshot of the SeekOut Chrome extension.

Access candidate contact information directly in SeekOut

SeekOut has millions of candidate profiles available in the U.S. alone, making it a go-to tool for candidate sourcing. You can access key information like work history and educational background through our platform. But unlike our competitors, we also provide verified email addresses for any candidates you find. Take a look:

A screenshot of a candidate profile in the SeekOut application.

SeekOut makes it easy to source the right people and engage with them through the channels where they are most active.

Ready for our cold recruiting email template?

We’ve put together these best practices and a few others not included in this post to create a cold recruiting email template you can adapt to your own voice and recruitment strategy.

SUBJECT: Quick call


Hope you’re having a great [DAY OF WEEK]!

My name is [YOUR NAME] and I work on the talent acquisition team here at [YOUR COMPANY]. I was on the hunt for some great [CANDIDATE JOB TITLE] talent in [CITY] earlier this week when I came across your profile. You have a great background — I am a big fan of [CANDIDATE JOB TITLE] from [CANDIDATE COMPANY].

I know [CANDIDATE COMPANY] is a great organization and that you may not be actively looking for something new at the moment. But, if you’re open to hearing more about [YOUR COMPANY], I think you’ll be impressed with what we have to offer.

If I don’t hear back from you here, I’ll plan to try giving you a quick call during around lunchtime on [DAY]. Of course, if there’s a time that works better for your schedule, shoot me a quick reply and I’ll happily accommodate.

Looking forward to speaking with you!

Need some more inspiration?

We've put together a list of some of our favorite cold recruiting email templates from other industry experts across the web. Check out these sources for additional inspiration:

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