Old habits die hard and it takes a lot of effort to alter a process that you may have been using for years. So we won’t blame you if the first and last thought of your day isn’t, “are my messaging strategies the best they can be? I should learn how to email candidates first thing tomorrow!” However, we know convincing qualified candidates to actually respond to genuinely good fits is one of the biggest challenges you and every other recruiter/sourcer faces today.

So maybe today is the day we talk about it.

For a little email inspiration, let’s think back to Maisha Cannon’s SourceCon presentation, “From E! To Google: Missteps, Metrics, and Methods.” Maisha inspired us all to become better emailers and gave us actionable steps so that we could achieve that goal. Now is the perfect time to recall some of our favorite SourceCon lessons and remember the power of a great email.

Create a funny or personalized subject line – easier said than done, we know.

Maisha’s subject lines range from “Most Interesting Man in Tech” for a tech consulting role to “Baking ‘Fails’ & Content ‘Wins’” when recruiting a Content Strategist. The key here is to research the candidate. It may take a bit of digging, but once you gain a sense of the candidate’s interests you’ll have a better chance of creating a clever subject line to grab their attention. In fact, Hubspot reported that emails with personalized subject lines had a 22% greater chance of being opened than those that did not.

It makes sense, after all, what are some keywords that make emails stand out to you when scrolling through your inbox? Your name is sure to stick out while glancing at your inbox and so are things that interest you or things you find to be comical. Hubspot also reminds us that a touch of flattery will never hurt either. When possible, boast about the candidate’s new credentials, the article that they posted on LinkedIn, maybe a 5k that they just tackled, and any other personal details to show that you took the time to learn about them.

The Message

A clever subject line is by far the hardest part, but there are a few key components that the body of your message must contain as well.

Reiterate that you’ve done your research by genuinely commenting on something that you’ve seen on their resume or social profile. This could be virtually anything from a project that they’ve completed, an award, a hobby, or even an allusion to a recent social post if appropriate. It’s important to humanize yourself in the outreach to show that you’re a real recruiter who is interested in the candidate’s career advancement; not just email blasting them. A career move is a huge decision and you want to gain your candidate’s trust while establishing your credibility as someone who understands their specific niche.

It’s also important not to sell a role too hard in the initial outreach. You can bring it up and mention the basics of it, but don’t try to pressure candidates. Keep in mind that, while they may not be looking for a position now, a positive interaction may pin you as their go-to recruiter when they do want to make a career change.

The Old Debate – To Include a Job Description or Not

It may be best to avoid mentioning a specific role at all during the initial outreach. During Mike Chuidian’s SourceCon presentation, he suggested avoiding placing job descriptions in the initial email altogether. This is a great idea as it allows the recruiter and candidate to create a relationship before hashing out the details of a role.

This allows you to get a sense of the candidate to determine if they will actually be the best person to present to a client. Do they seem to be on the same page about the function and values of the role? Are there some obvious issues that you were able to pick up on as a result of getting to know the candidate? Do they frequently mention that they are looking for a more flexible role, yet you know that the client company recently ended their work from home policy as they found it to be disruptive? Getting to know the candidate before presenting a role to them will give you more time to assess their needs and ask hiring managers if they would be willing to make any accommodations for a really strong candidate.

And as always, when writing a cold email remember:

  1. Be concise
  2. Tailor your message
  3. Don’t push a role right at the start

Effective Tools to Boost Your Email Strategy

Maisha and Mike gave us great advice for crafting standout emails, but we also learned about a few spiffy tools to help us monitor these email gems:

Kerri Mills

Mills suggested trying out the MailTrack Chrome Extension and it’s pretty cool. It tracks email open rates, how many times the email was opened, when it was opened, and the device it was opened on. This is great for determining the effectiveness of your emails and testing various subject lines. This tool can also help you to determine which candidates simply aren’t interested in the current role that you have available, so you can focus on finding other interested candidates.

Dana Meyer

Meyer introduced us to MailChimp’s segmentation feature, which allows you to identify the candidates who engage with your messages, helping you to avoid the “spammy recruiter” stereotype. This tool seems to be more effective for large-scale recruiters who rely on vast pipelines and segmented lists when reaching out to candidates.

Jim Stroud

Stroud taught us about which allows you to check email addresses to see if they are still functional. It may not be the prettiest site you’ve ever used, but it’s helpful in ensuring that you’re using an active email, so you’re not left trying to decide which account you should send your pitch to.

Stacy Donovan Zapar

Zapar’s spreadsheet of corporate email patterns is a thing of beauty that will leave you in awe. Here’s the 25 page long spreadsheet that lists out the common email address patterns of over 1500 companies. This particular link to a folder in Box is courtesy of Shannon Pritchett.


And of course we need to shamelessly plug our good ol’ Hound Chrome Extension. It’s the perfect tool for discovering any hard-to-find contact information on your candidates (like email addresses).


It seems that one of the easiest habits to fall back into when you’re crunched on time is to revert to generic inmails and emails. We know that no one wants to feel like they’ve been bcc’ed in a mass email sent to 100 other people, but we also get it… it can be much faster than customizing every message.

Still, we hope that this post was helpful to those who didn’t make it to SourceCon this year and those of us who might’ve fallen into old (less personalized ways). We can do better!