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: 4243

Comment by Roxanne Abercrombie on April 30, 2015 at 5:04am

Ahh that's a great idea Daniel...I think I could have a lot of fun with that! 

Comment by Roxanne Abercrombie on April 30, 2015 at 5:11am

And I can only say that from our experience candidates hate impersonal, canned emails Nicholas so your results are surprising to say the least! 

Definitely agree that recruiting Ruby developers is extremely tricky - especially in the IT contract space. We've started to adapt our job adverts by making bespoke animated ads to appeal to developers, which so far is garnering better attraction results...

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on April 30, 2015 at 11:46pm

I've actually gotten many, many compliments on my "canned" emails, but I do put a lot of effort into them, and tend to recruit for lucrative and extremely appealing job opportunities.  Yesterday and today, I sent nothing but personalized emails to candidates and I was almost completely ignored.  It's like fishing.... one day a certain type of bait works, and another day, it doesn't.  It's hard to predict.

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on May 4, 2015 at 8:29pm

Hi Roxanne!  For kicks I did another experiment sending 41 personalized emails (subject line included candidate's name, and candidate was also addressed by name in the body of the email)  vs. 42 non-personalized emails without any reference to the person's name.  This was a search for a Solar Power Engineer.  

Guess what the results were?  3 excellent resumes resulted from the non-personalized emails.  0 resulted from the personalized emails...  

It doesn't seem to make any difference, in my case.  Maybe it varies between different people.

Comment by Nicholas Meyler on May 5, 2015 at 6:18pm

Today I got one response from someone whose name I had accidentally confused with another person, and he was still interested.  I apologized, of course, but it didn't seem to matter terribly much to him...  Most candidates who are really serious about a job change don't really care too much, I think.  Generally, the people who complain the most about an "impersonal" approach are the ones who aren't particularly hireable, but there are exceptions, too.

Comment by Roxanne Abercrombie on May 6, 2015 at 3:53am

Ahh no, potentially that could have ended very awkwardly!

I think that's a good point, no matter how strong your email, if the candidate isn't interested they generally just are not interested - full stop.


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