The anatomy of the perfect recruitment email

Carefully-crafted, impactful recruitment emails are the white Bengal tigers of the industry: they’re fabulously and unfortunately rare. We’ve all seen examples of the canned drivel that bad recruiters spam out. You know the sort. They usually include clangers such as obviously generic templates, unspecified clients, pleas for CVs/referrals and heavy usage of the word ‘rockstar’.

The perfect recruitment email, fortunately, can be achieved in as little as five simple steps. Dubious? Read on for the anatomy of the ultimate recruitment email…


1. It’s all about that subject line

Without a compelling subject line, your email is headed on a one way street to the ‘Deleted Items’ folder. It’s your opening gambit; your first line of attack; your hook. Don’t squander it with “Hot Opportunity”.

The ideal subject line is one which is personalised and recognisably relevant to the recipient. It’s for that reason that anything along the lines of “Exciting New Job” will flop harder than Paris Hilton’s foray into pop music. Instead, take a bespoke approach with something which piques interest.

You could try:

  • Recommendation from [xxx]

With this subject line, you’re not only subtly flattering the recipient, you’re also adding a touch of familiarity which encourages opens. It’s clearly a personalised email, and it still hints at its recruitment objective without reading like a trashy sales pitch. Let’s face it, we’d all like to hope that people are talking positively about us when we’re not there, and finding out more about being praised is irresistible for anyone who’s not an enlightened Buddhist priest.

  • Saw your post/blog/work on [xxx]

This line works, again, because it’s subtly flattering without being brash. We all love feedback on our work, and this subject line demonstrates that you’re specifically targeting one individual and one individual alone, based on work that they’ve spent time completing. Again, it’s all about lightly brushing against somebody’s ego rather than going straight in to shamelessly stroke it. If you want people to be interested in your email, show genuine interest in them.

  • TL;DR I’d like to headhunt you, [insert name]

Who doesn’t love a light touch of humour when wading through a sea of dry emails? With a subject line like this, you’re being honest about your purpose, but you’re doing so in a way which pokes fun at itself. Okay, some candidates won’t open this. But the ones that do will definitely be interested in what you have to say. Plus, getting headhunted is a much more appealing prospect than opening yet another email about “red-hot roles in your area”.


The bottom line when it comes to subject lines? Be different, be interesting, and above all else: be personal.


2. Get straight to the point

If you’ve got your subject line just right, you’ll win that opening click. Keep hold of the candidate’s attention by eliminating any unnecessary waffle.

So, tell them precisely why you’re getting in touch but do so in a way which links back to your subject line. For example, you could try something along the lines of:

"Subject line: Saw your post on LinkedIn

Hi [xxx]

I hope this finds you well?

I recently read your article on LinkedIn and couldn’t agree more with the points you made about the evolving nature of digital marketing jobs. I’ve since looked up some more of your online articles around marketing and am suitably impressed with your writing (I particularly enjoyed your recent piece on the use of Snapchat in business). Would you be interested in taking those skills to a new job?"

Simple. You’ve demonstrated that is no canned, spam email. You’ve flattered the candidate and shown an authentic interest in what they do. And you’ve wasted no time in getting to the point of your email. By doing so, you’ve warmed the candidate up to your objective before even revealing any details.


3. Specifics, specifics, specifics

Don’t lose the candidate now by being vague. You’ve piqued their interest, and you’ll only maintain that by offering clear, concise information. Tell them the job you have in mind, the client you’re working with and what they can offer. But when doing so, never, EVER fall into the trap of overselling.


“I have a job opening for a Content and Communications Manager which I think would be fantastic fit for you. I’ve checked out your LinkedIn profile and your experience is a great match, but as I mentioned, it’s your content creation which really makes you stand out for the role.

To give you a (very) brief overview, the job is with Social Bubble, a rapidly growing digital marketing company based in London which is especially renowned for clever content marketing. It pays £40k a year and would involve you heading up the business’s content and communications. They’re looking for someone who can make an impact with their writing, which is why I thought of you after reading your work.”

With something like this, you haven’t overegged the pudding. Yes, you’ve flattered the candidate, but you’ve done it quickly and lightly. You’ve given the candidate all the key details they need at this stage, and you’ve done it without sounding like a desperate, pushy salesperson.

4. Make your move

After all of this, it’s time to make like La Roux and go in for the kill. Ask the candidate if they’re interested, if they’re open to chat and if they’d like any more details. Just don’t be a creep about it.

For example:

“Does this sound like something you’d be interested in? If so, it’d be great to arrange an informal chat. Get back to me via email or drop me a call on [xxx] and we can have a confidential discussion about the role. In the meantime, let me know if you’d like to look at the full job specification / would like any more information about Social Bubble.”

Again, easy does it here. Let the candidate know that you want to speak with them, but leave the ball in their court. Badgering candidates has never worked in the past and isn’t going to miraculously work now. After all, have you ever replied to that persistent SEO Manager emailing you from India three times a week?


5. Sign off with a punch

The final thing left to do is close your email with panache. End on a high, reminding candidates that they’d be great for the role and encouraging them to get in touch.

Use something short and sweet like:

“I think you could really hit the ground running as Social Bubble’s Content and Communications Manager – I look forward to hearing your thoughts!”

No more is needed.

And woah, would you like at that? With a light approach and tailored touch, you’ve just crafted the perfect recruitment email. Stand back and admire your craftsmanship. 

Views: 4244

Comment by Katrina Kibben on April 27, 2015 at 6:02pm

As always - great post. Thanks for sharing!

Comment by Gerry Crispin on April 27, 2015 at 6:27pm

Love that you share what truly differentiates great recruiters from the spam pack

Comment by Roxanne Abercrombie on April 28, 2015 at 3:55am

Thanks guys!  You might enjoy the latest generic, mass recruitment email I received which drove me to write this...

"Hope you don't mind me messaging you. I work for a large essential services provider and we are looking to expand in your area, I am looking for leaders that are interested in earning some good money alongside what they already do, money motivated people that are hungry for a change and a better living, would you or anyone you know be interested?"

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on April 28, 2015 at 9:15pm

In my office, we did an experiment for a couple of months with three recruiters having identical email templates (or job descriptions) and identical lists of people to send to.  Two of the recruiters were instructed to customize and personalize every single email, and address the person by name with reference to their LinkedIn (Github, etc.) profile.

The other recruiter just sent emails that were not individualized in any way.

After two months, guess which recruiter had collected the most and best resumes?  Lol!  It was the one who  didn't write individualized messages.  This was conducted over a sampling of 65,000 software engineers.

Meanwhile, I am sending individualized messages based on one of your ideas right now, Roxanne.  I really like the idea of treating people as individualistically as possible.  Hopefully it will make a difference, although I see that in some cases it really doesn't.


Nick Meyler

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on April 28, 2015 at 9:17pm

One aspect of recruiting people is also screening to see who is really serious about changing jobs.  I have found that the more I try to wheedle and cajole people into an interview, bending over backwards for them, the more likely they are to go through the interview process and then take a counter-offer instead.  It's a hard tightrope to walk.

Comment by Roxanne Abercrombie on April 29, 2015 at 4:20am

That's interesting, let me know how you get on!

Comment by Katrina Kibben on April 29, 2015 at 10:32am

Nicholas - where's the blog post about THAT? I think we'd all love to read it.

Comment by Daniel Fogel on April 29, 2015 at 3:52pm

Roxanne - You had me at the La Roux reference.  Great post!  You should flip this post and write about the anatomy of the worst recruitment email too...  Examples like using a form letter and addressing the email to the wrong name. 

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on April 29, 2015 at 4:35pm

Hi Roxanne Abercrombie,

I was trying to compile some statistics on the experiment we conducted, and I can tell you that both other recruiters had 20+ years of experience (like me), and one of them had previously closed a deal with a fee of over $200K (which to me, indicates skilled and successful).  I've closed a deal of $151K (fee collected), so I'm fairly adequate, myself.

The two recruiters who wrote personalized individualized messages only achieved 1 recruit (in two months) between the both of them.  It was the more skilled of the two recruiters who was able to do that, while working about one-half as many hours as the other.  In two months, her individualized messages only received 2 spam complaints.  The person who worked twice as hard received about 6 complaints in two months, but recruited no one who was a viable candidate.

I was able to recruit more candidates in a few days by "impersonalized email" than they were able to recruit in 2 months combined.  What that means or tells us, I have no idea, but it was very counter-intuitive to me.  In all, I recruited about 25 candidates, at least 6 of whom were highly viable and 2 received offers.

Meanwhile, I am leading my office in billings for the second year in a row.  I am not even entirely sure why I was more successful, although using the same template job description, but I do have an engineering background and some name recognition.  Still, recruiting Ruby people has not been a positive experience for me.  I do not like it, and I honestly don't know anyone else who wanted the three retained searches, even though I tried to give them away to anyone who was interested....

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on April 30, 2015 at 1:24am

Hi Katrina Kibben,

Where's the post about what, exactly?  Give me a little more clarity on what you're interested in, and I might be able to address the question satisfactorily.



You need to be a member of RecruitingBlogs to add comments!

Join RecruitingBlogs


All the recruiting news you see here, delivered straight to your inbox.

Just enter your e-mail address below


RecruitingBlogs on Twitter

© 2024   All Rights Reserved   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Privacy Policy  |  Terms of Service