How to gain the interest of passive email candidates

As a recruiter, you’ve probably spent hours browsing LinkedIn and similar websites to find the perfect candidates for your company’s needs. The problem is getting those candidates interested in the position. 

Hiring people who respond to a job ad is one thing, but bringing in someone who wasn’t even seeking employment is much harder. The key is to get personal when you email candidates. By putting humor and personal details into the email, you make it more likely that the person you’re interested in will return that interest and contact you about an interview. Use these tricks to make the most of your email recruitment efforts.

Learn about the job

Gaining the attention of a passive candidate requires you to have extensive knowledge about the position. Generic information isn’t personal and won’t cause a potential employee to keep reading your recruiting email

Talk to the hiring manager of the company before you begin formulating your email. He or she can help you better understand the position they are hiring by answering specific questions, such as what the candidate will be doing while working, what results would be expected of the candidate, and why the job would stand out to someone with the proper experience and knowledge. The more detailed the information you receive, the better your email will be.

Learn about the candidate

Learning about the job itself is only one part of personalization. You also need to research the candidate you’re emailing. Go beyond a basic Google search or glance at a LinkedIn profile. Go beyond the first page of Google to get a better understanding of the candidate. 

In addition, look at his or her blogs, portfolios, and social media accounts. This not only helps you get a feel for the candidate’s personality and communication style but also makes it easier for you to craft an email that will gain attention. In addition, doing a deep dive into the person helps you determine if he or she will add value to the company or there is anything problematic about the person that could reflect poorly on the hiring company.

Factor in the employee value proposition

The employee value proposition is an important part of your communication tactic. The EVP is how you determine what worth the company brings to a potential candidate. When you email passive candidates, they typically aren’t looking for a new opportunity. This means you need to go above and beyond to show the candidate why the position you’re recruiting for is a better opportunity than the one he or she already has. Focus on unique values that are more likely to have a positive impact on the candidate. While this value typically focuses on more money, better benefits, or a higher chance of career advancement, don’t discount other factors as well. 

Remember, an increasing number of people are focused on the work environment, such as more recognition and better work-life balance, and company culture, including social and community responsibility, over simply making more money.

Use a compelling subject line

The subject line is the first thing a passive candidate sees. You need to ensure it captures his or her attention. This is where your personalization begins. After all, if it isn’t right, the candidate won’t even open your email. Use a short phrase as the subject line, focusing on something that shows the candidate your email is specific to him or her. Research shows that using the candidate’s name in the subject line increases the chances of him or her opening it by 20%. Only do this if it feels natural, though. Otherwise, it could end up reading like spam. One recruiter was simply honest. He used his subject line to identify himself as a recruiter and make a joke about being one. Having a sense of humor can draw people in who might otherwise have passed over your message.

Approach candidates with three sentences

A recruiting email shouldn’t be too long. Focus on the three-sentence approach to include as much information as possible while remaining concise. The first sentence is the hook. Grab his or her attention and keep it by daring to be different. Use humor, appeal to the candidate’s ego, or otherwise add some spice to what would generally be a boring, overly professional opening sentence.

Use the second sentence to tell the candidate what he or she gains from accepting your proposition. You can mention compensation and benefits but think outside the box as well, as the compensation package is likely on par with similar companies in the area. Consider whether the candidate will have a shorter commute if he or she works at your company. Bring up remote work opportunities if applicable, flexible work hours, and unique aspects of the company culture as well.

Finally, the third sentence is the presumptive close. Use this sentence to create a specific call to action. “Let me know if you’re interested” is vague and busy candidates often forget to ever come back to the email. 

Essentially, you’re a salesman. You wouldn’t let a customer go home to “think about it,” so try to avoid being so open with the candidate. Instead, try asking to call the candidate at a specific time within the next 24 hours or even to meet in person at a coffee shop. Being specific shows, you are serious about the candidate and not just sending form emails.

Avoid listing requirements

Nobody wants to see an unexpected list of requirements that he or she needs to meet to be eligible for your position. If you’ve done the research you should have, you already know the candidate meets the qualifications, so skip listing the required skills. Instead, focus on what the candidate will do, learn, and what he or she can become when working with the company.

Don’t get too personal

Personalization is important. Over-personalization can make a candidate feel creeped out. If your candidate has public posts on his or her social media that are career- or industry-related, feel free to ask about the post in the email to show your interest. However, don’t like the candidate’s photos or any public personal posts, as it’s likely to make him or her feel uncomfortable.

Waiting for a reply?

If you’re still waiting for a reply, here’s a detailed guide from Hunter (a solution that finds and verifies professional email addresses) on how to know if someone read your email or not.

Follow up on your email

Perhaps above all else, don’t forget to follow up. Studies show that many original emails never make it to the person’s inbox due to spam filters. If you don’t hear back from someone within a few days, try forwarding him or her the original email. Add additional text that points out that you never received a response and ask again if he or she is interested. A lot of times, you’re likely to find out your passive candidate never even received your email. Sometimes, you’ll find the candidate is interested but forgot to reply. If it does turn out the candidate wasn’t interested, though, be sure to take him or her off your recruitment list. After all, you don’t want your emails to be reported as spam. That will make it even harder for you to communicate with passive candidates.

By taking the time to get to know them before you email passive candidates, you’ll be more likely to gain interest. After all, potential employees want to know that they are individuals and not simply a number in a recruitment system. If one tactic doesn’t work, you can always try again, as long as you avoid using form emails and generic phrasing!

Maybe you'd like these too

Talent acquisition

Why candidate experience is your employer brand

By Brendan McConnell

Talent acquisition

5 ways to prevent workplace discrimination

By Brendan McConnell

Talent acquisition

Recruitee x OpenUp: Supporting mental health at work

By Sim Samra