We’ve all heard the horror stories and we’ve all been guilty of sending those blatantly awful cold emails filled with generic text and uninteresting subject lines. The problems with recruiter emails are plenty… the misspellings, the emails for roles that the candidate is clearly not suited for, the ads for roles that a candidate just left. There are lots of stories out there about bad recruiting and embarrassing tales of brash recruiters, but what about the not-so-obvious things that can drive candidates crazy? What are the little mistakes that we’re all guilty of that can cause us to lose credibility in the minds of our candidates, and more importantly, how can we fix them?

We’ve combed through the stories, both good and bad, to determine what small steps we can take to improve the way that we contact candidates.

A note on personalization


Candidates receive an outreach email that feels contrived. We are always reminding recruiters to include personal information in outreach emails. This shows candidates that you’ve done your research and have an understanding of the candidate and the work that they do. We stand by this approach when emailing candidates, but it’s important not to message candidates that you don’t know in an overly friendly tone that may be seen as inauthentic.


Maintain a professional and approachable tone, while keeping in mind that this candidate has no idea who you are or anything about your offer. You have to gain a candidate’s trust first when reaching out in cold emails. Starting a genuine conversation about their role and career interests is a great way to do this.

“The quote ‘I’m looking to build relationships with talented candidates for both present and future opportunities.’ makes me scratch my head. Why do I want to build a relationship with a spammer?”

– IT pro interviewed by Tim Sackett

The importance of preparation


Under the pressure of time, you send candidates emails that lack specifics about a role or are not at all suited to the candidate’s skill set.


Preparation and research go a long way. Recruiting is plagued with tight deadlines, but avoid the urge to start sending out emails before you are able to research the role thoroughly. This may be a recruiting crime that’s frequently committed, but make sure that you are preparing yourself and have an understanding of a job’s requirements.

“I can’t count the number of times that a recruiter has reached out for a .NET or Java position, even though I don’t profess either technology as a strength.”

John Chapin,  Software Development Consultant at Capital Technology Services

Misusing common terms and jargon


Few things are as frustrating as when someone continually misuses the technical terms and phrases associated with the job you perform every day. When recruiters misuse terms in this way, it gives the impression that they don’t understand the position and causes candidates to wonder if their time is being wasted by someone who doesn’t know the role well enough to find appropriate candidates for it.


While you shouldn’t be expected to discuss the deeply technical aspects of each position, do your research to see how certain terms and phrases should be used. If you find yourself recruiting for this type of position frequently, it might be a good idea to take a free online class or two. You can try listening to an industry podcast to give you a stronger sense of the role too. For roles that you’re not familiar with, make having a detailed conversation with the hiring manager about these skills part of your intake meeting.

“If you aren’t 100% sure how the buzzword is meant to be used, don’t use it.”

– Eric Brown, Consultant at ThoughtSynth, LLC

Dropping names


Candidates frequently complain that they are contacted by recruiters who try to leverage common connections on social profiles. The major complaint is that the message indicates that the recruiter doesn’t know or remember said connection, or the candidate feels confident that the connection would not have given their name to a recruiter.


If you were referred to a candidate, that’s great, mention that in your outreach email and include details to show the candidate that your connection is authentic. If you’re worried that the candidate still may not respond to your message, ask the person who recommended the candidate for an introduction. This will help you to gain the candidate’s trust and likely improve response rates.

“I was passed your name by a mutual contact who asked to remain confidential…”

Too many people

The art of being pleasantly persistent


You might be guilty of contacting candidates too frequently and on too many different channels. Developing a follow-up strategy to stay in contact with candidates is a great idea and is an excellent way to keep talented people in the pipelines, but contacting candidates too often can quickly lead to issues.Try using multiple platforms, but remember that your cadence is key. You don’t want to be overbearing.


Use automated messaging tools so that candidates are contacted on a regular schedule. This way you can stay in contact with them an a regular basis using a predetermined schedule and a varied messaging campaign. Allow them to opt out of messaging campaigns and be cognizant of the timing. Always remember to ask yourself how often you would want to be contacted the way you’re contacting candidates.

“As soon as I open my inbox – no matter what time of the day (or night), I’m inundated with recruiter spam.”

Derek Zeller


Recruiting is a stressful position and tensions tend to run high when people are considering major career moves. It’s not easy, but no one said it would be. Incorporating authentic candidate outreach and messaging strategies into your existing process will help you source more efficiently and create better experiences for your candidates. Everyone loves a win-win.