8 Quick Tricks to Level Up Your Cold Recruiting Emails

You spent hours poring over your manager’s sourcing tips from your last 1:1, polled your friends to see which one of four recruiting emails they’d actually reply to, and even put holidays like National Cupcake Day (that’s today, by the way) on your calendar so you could have something to talk about in your LinkedIn messages. Still, your reach-outs must have an invisible “I’m not worth replying to” sign on them, because your response rate hovers at around 0%.

If you feel like you need sourcing superpowers at this point, you’re in luck. Johnny Campbell, founder and CEO of Social Talent, and his team have worked with over 15,000 recruiters to transform them into ‘sourcing ninjas’. When he joined us for our webinar a couple of weeks ago, he gave us eight quick tricks that will level up your recruiting emails today.

1) Craft emails that are 100 words or less.   

“Communication is a science,” says Johnny, “And long recruiting emails do not work.” In a study conducted by a company called Yesware, emails between 50 and 125 words had the highest response rates; any email that was either too long or too short was not as successful. If you ask Johnny, this means that emails should never be longer than 100 words.

Bottom line? Simplicity is always optimal. “Emails written at a third grade reading level get the highest response rates,” Johnny told us. “When people can better process your message, they are more likely to respond to it.”

2) Send emails in the early morning or late evening.

When it comes to sourcing, timing is (nearly) everything. Avoid sending recruiting emails to new candidates during their workday, when they are at their busiest. Data suggests that if you send an email at 6am or 8pm, your response rates are much higher, so Johnny recommends fitting your messages into the late evening or early morning time slots.

 3) Reach out to candidates repeatedly.

According to Johnny, data shows that it takes an average of four interactions to convince a passive candidate to come in for an on-site interview. Throughout his career, he has consistently seen follow-up recruiting emails generate more responses than initial reach-outs.

Why? Because persistent outreach triggers obligation. The more you follow up, the more you compel candidates to read your message. With this in mind, establish multiple touch points with every passive candidate. To do so seamlessly, Johnny recommends using recruiting tools like Lever Nurture that automate the process. “I used to write in my diary to remember to send follow-ups,” remembers Johnny. “Instead of doing that, save time. Spend your energy thinking about how to communicate with people.”

4) Modify your number of touch points in every case.

On average, women tend to require more touch points – a whopping eight, in fact. This is tied to the fact that while men only need to fill 60 percent of requirements to feel comfortable applying for a job, women need to fill nearly 100 percent to feel the same degree of comfort. Typically, female talent is less confident they can succeed in a given role, meaning they may need more convincing from you.

The number of necessary touch points does differ depending on gender, age, profession, and nationality, but you will almost always need to reach out more than once. “You don’t ask someone to marry you the first time you meet them. It takes years before you get to the point where they’d say yes,” says Johnny. “There’s a similar courtship in recruitment.”

5) Ask a question.

Every time you write a recruiting email, close it with a question. When you don’t pose even a brief one, you essentially end the conversation. Emails with 1-3 questions, on the other hand, are 50 percent more likely to get a response.

6) Strengthen your brand. If your brand is weak, it doesn’t matter how wisely you recruit.

Put yourself in the candidate’s shoes. You get one recruiting email from a company with a renowned, respected brand, and one recruiting email from a company with a negative or unknown reputation. Which one would you be more likely to respond to?

“You can write the best recruiting email and be an awesome recruiter, but if you work for a brand no one knows, you’ll have a harder time succeeding,” reflects Johnny. “Weak recruiters with a strong brand can have better results than strong recruiters working for a weak brand.” Your job as a recruiter, then, is to do what you can to empower your employer brand. If you can motivate your team to create more content and tell your company story in their networks, you can influence your candidates’ decisions.

7) To enhance your success, measure it.

If you want more responses to your recruiting emails, you have to understand what is working well in your outreach, and what’s not.

When you have industry recruiting benchmarks to measure your sourcing success against, for example, you can hold yourself and your team accountable to better results. Or, with visibility into which sources are generating your best hires, you can see which parts of your process are the weakest.

8) Try meeting passive candidates over the phone.

Yes, we’ve been talking about recruiting emails this whole post. And yes, calling candidates is intimidating. Yet when 1,000 recruiters were asked about their sourcing success, those who had candidates pick up the phone did see the highest response rates.

Calling candidates at work doesn’t have to be pressure-filled. After all, you’re not trying to convince them to leave their company after a five minute conversation. Johnny recommends giving phone calls a shot, as they can be an effective way to establish an initial connection and better understand your candidate’s career needs. [Read more: Phone Interview Questions to Ask]


A huge thanks to Johnny Campbell for giving our audience such digestible, actionable tips on recruiting emails! We truly think this is the kind of advice that both recruiters and hiring managers can implement immediately.

Armed with these tips on how to engage candidates, are you now curious about how to find them in the first place? Johnny outlined a clear strategy for uncovering diverse talent on LinkedIn, using some strong boolean search logic.

Not sure how to find a candidate’s contact information in the first place? Read our post on the best ways to find anybody’s email.