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Think about the last non-work-related email you opened. Do you even remember it? If you can, what made it memorable?

The best emails start with excitement, relevancy and, a lot of the time, familiarity. They start with a compelling subject line, continue with valuable, personalized content, and end leaving the reader driven to action. The worst ones end up ignored, skimmed, or worse: instantly sent to trash.

So what makes a great recruiting email? Let’s dive right in, starting with arguably the most important part:


A legit sender name

Whenever we receive any kind of communication, we view it through a certain lens based on the sender. An email from our boss is automatically considered important. An 8th follow-up email from a persistent salesperson may get deleted. A text from a close friend will be opened immediately. The same principle applies with your recruiting emails. The more human you can be, the more likely a candidate is to open your message. Putting “Talent Acquisition” or “DoNotReply” or “Job Alerts” as your sender looks unrecognizable, impersonal and spammy (literally, it might get sent right to the spam folder). Instead, encourage recruiters to use their own names. Or, if you’re recruiting for a specific functional group, use the manager for that department’s name or even [Company’s Recruiting Team]. By bringing real names into the mix, you’re building the foundation for what could be long relationships with talent.


A standout subject line

Along with sender name, the subject line is one of the determining factors of whether someone opens your email. Mess this up, and you just might have earned yourself a spot in the trash folder. There are a few approaches to take when it comes to subject line:

  • The no-nonsense approach: Set expectations before your candidate even opens the email. Lines like “Are you our next Customer Service Rep?” or “What’s it like to work in Sales at Apple?” are great examples of this approach. By communicating the value of your email from the get go, you give candidates a reason to open the message and keep reading.
  • The personalized approach: Including candidates’ names in your subject lines is a great way to create a personal feel. Try things like “Sarah, are you our new Marketing Associate?” or “Kevin, have you seen our new office in Providence?” Subject lines like this not only clearly state the value of your email, they make the candidate feel important.
  • The lighthearted approach: If you hail from the startup world or are looking to attract millennials or creatives, you may want to try bringing humor into your subject lines. Get topical and test subject lines like “We’re looking for the Tom Brady of Business Development” or “Put Your Consulting Superpowers to Good Use.”

If done right, the subject line gives your reader an idea of what to expect in your email. The best subject lines go beyond this. They serve as an introduction to your email. An introduction to your brand. An introduction to you. They invoke a feeling – maybe interest or excitement.


An inspiring template

The format of your email is a huge part of the overall experience. Crafting the perfect email template can really give shape and direction to your emails. Including logos and company colors in your template brings your brand to life and gives the email some personality. A template not only makes your emails look better, it creates a consistent experience that your candidates will come to expect. A repeated positive experience in the eyes of the candidate means they’ll be more likely to open your future emails. The look and feel of that experience comes down to an inspiring template.


A focus on personalization throughout the email

Today’s candidates are savvy. They can smell a mass email a mile away. And no, putting their name in the greeting won’t fool them. Before emailing candidates, think about your messaging. If you need to build pipeline for your sales jobs and are sending a note showcasing your sales culture, only send that to people who have expressed an interest in sales. If an engineer gets that email, she will consider it spam and become less likely to open future emails from you. In the world of personalization, the more sophisticated your segmentation strategy, the better.


Eye-catching content

Now, the main course: email content. This will vary email to email. If you’re trying to drum up interest and applicants for a new location opening, talk about the jobs that will become available (don’t just list reqs!), provide managers’ bios and headshots, link to cool restaurants, parks and attractions around the new facility. Get people excited. If you’re just trying to show off your employer brand a little bit, let your employees do the talking. Collect and share quotes from them explaining why they love working for you. Experiment with video and see how that affects your engagement. Your candidates are getting inundated by emails all day long. The way you win is by standing out in their inbox by consistently sharing content that they want to read.

One thing to keep in mind here: To send great content, you need to have it first. If you aren’t careful, creating content to share in emails can become a huge time suck. Instead of creating new pieces every time you send an email, think through what you already have that you can repurpose. Are there awesome employee stories on your career site? Use them in email. Did you run a wildly successful social campaign aimed at college students last month? Reformat that content for email. Another thing to consider is third party content – the best pieces have all the value of original content and take a fraction of the time to find.

One last tip on content: Don’t overdo it. 5 pieces of content and an apply CTA is too much. Make your emails valuable and digestible. If you consistently do that, you’ll keep your candidates coming back for more (and your open rates will go up!). When in doubt, simplicity is good.


A specific tone and voice

Keep in mind that your recruiting emails are an extension of your employer brand. A storied financial services firm will likely communicate much differently than a young tech startup, and candidates know that. The key here is being authentic and staying in line with your brand. If you’re recruiting for a social media specialist at a startup, overly formal language won’t get you far. Likewise, writing in the tone of a 20-something blogger won’t earn you points many with senior financial analysts. It comes down to keeping your audience at heart when crafting your emails.


Writing a perfect recruiting email, like most of recruitment marketing, is not an exact science. There is, however, a standard formula you can work from to make your emails your own. Marketers have been writing great emails for years – borrow ideas from them! The best way to improve your emails is to always be testing. Don’t be scared to take risks. Over time, you’ll learn what resonates with your audience and what doesn’t. The more you test and improve, the more valuable your emails will become to your candidates. Happy emailing!

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