How to write cold recruitment emails candidates can’t ignore

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Tech candidates have more options than ever before, which means your company has to bring its A game from the get-go. Part of this is how your recruiters and hiring managers approach initial outreach to potential candidates. When they press send on a cold recruitment email, what kind of message are they actually sending?

Candidates can read between the lines: They know when they’re being treated like a number, or a human being, and generic messages are almost a guaranteed way to turn them off.

When your company focuses more on candidates’ goals vs. quarterly recruitment metrics, your brand builds a genuine connection. A connection that won’t just get you a hire, but a new team member excited to bring you even more success. (Not to mention, referral after referral when they experience firsthand that your company lives up to how it talks about its company culture.)

Even if the candidate goes in another direction, if a role opens up later on they’re better suited for, you’ve given them a reason to actually want to hear from you again (or connect you with tech pros that might be a good match). If they do want to continue the conversation, building a connection off the bat reduces the chances you’ll get ghosted later on in the process.

So let’s talk about how you can write a cold recruitment email or message to tech candidates that gets noticed (and not in a heebie-jeebies kind of way).

Table of contents


How to make a real connection (and give tech candidates a reason to respond)

We’re not saying it’s impossible to hire a candidate without tugging at their job-seeker heartstrings (read: treating them like a person), but creating an instant connection is crucial because that first interaction can make or break whether they agree to move forward in the recruiting process.

Here are a few ways to build connections that can up your response rate.

Research the candidate

A little research goes a long way because to drive the most responses, you’ll want to spend a couple extra minutes personalizing your message (we’ll get to that soon). So how do you learn about the candidate in a short amount of time?

Try GitHub, a social coding network where over 31+ million techies hang out to collaborate and show off their most recent code, projects and skills. (One glance at their profile can tell you a lot.)

And because it’s not uncommon for candidates to build out their online presence, run a quick search for them on the web. Personal websites, blogs and social media accounts will give you more insight into who they are both professionally and personally.

While you research, try to answer these types of questions:

  • What motivates and interests them?
  • What are their passions?
  • What accomplishments make them stand out from the rest?
  • How does their experience and goals show they’d be a strong match for the role? 

Tip: When reading up on a candidate, write down anything that catches your eye. You’ll want to keep this information on hand for when you craft a cold recruitment email message (more on that later).

Researching the candidate is two-fold: It shows you care about them as a professional (and a person), and also helps you target the right candidates for your open role and company. While it takes a little more time upfront, you’ll generally save time in the long run by limiting communication (e.g., emails, phone screens) to only candidates that are a true potential match. 

Write like a human, not a robot

People are wired to make connections with other people. While you won’t be building a deep personal relationship with candidates, you still need to make a connection if you want them to see your outreach as more than just spam.

One way to spark a human connection: write like a human. Be yourself and show a little personality. If you’re worried about coming off as less professional, don’t. You’ll simply be writing in a friendly conversational tone, kind of like how you would speak.

A few ways to keep your message conversational:

  • Use contractions (e.g., “you’re” vs. “you are”)
  • Start sentences with conjunctions (e.g., “and,” “but,” “because”)
  • Keep sentences short, simple and jargon-free

Instead of this: “I would like to reach out because I came across your profile and think you could be a good match for a software developer opening. Let me know if you are available so we can speak regarding this role.”

Write this: “I’m reaching out because your background and our software developer role at Company XYZ could be a perfect match! Let me know if you’d like to learn more and we’ll set up a good time to chat.”

At the same time, make sure your language speaks to your audience. For example, while tech candidates with their hearts set on a trendy startup won’t bat an eye at “Hey Matt,” a more professional greeting like “Dear Ms. Simmons” may resonate better with those looking for a stable traditional company.

Tips for writing an engaging cold recruitment email message

The last thing you want to do is blast hundreds of candidates without an inkling of thought or personalization. Likewise, right now you’re only trying to get them curious enough about the role and company to take the next step. Your goal is to schedule a conversation, not get a John Hancock on an offer letter.

Sending out a cold recruitment email message is a balance of writing enough but not too much, which might take some practice. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with some of the basics, so grab your notes from the candidate research you did earlier—it’s time to pull it all together.

Get matched and start engaging ASAP: Candidates on Seen have an 80%+ average response rate

Write a subject line they’ll want to open

When you reach out to a candidate already overloaded with emails, how can you pique their interest enough to avoid getting trashed before they’ve even read what you have to say? By writing a subject line that makes them want to know what you have to say.

Do: Be personal and show you did your research. Include their name. Spark curiosity. Flatter them a bit. Don’t: Be generic, wordy or boring.

Instead of this:

  • Exciting data role at Company XYZ
  • I would love to speak with you for 5 minutes about a new opportunity.
  • Looking for full-time Back-end Developer to fill opening at cutting-edge company.

Write this:

  • Coffee? It’s on me.
  • Hey Sam, chat about your GitHub repo?
  • You have the code we want, Jamie.

Write a message that drives more responses

To reiterate, use the subject line to get candidates interested enough to open the email. Use the email message to inspire a response. Follow these tips for higher response rates.

Say enough, but not too much. Because you have limited time to really catch the candidate’s attention (maybe even only a few seconds), be brief and bright. Only give them the details they care about. A message between 50 and 125 words is ideal. Anything longer than 150 words is lengthy and more likely to be trashed or ignored.

Don’t spell out what the company does. Always include the company’s name, but keep any additional information minimal. If you want to mention what the company does, for example, write a one-sentence snippet. Why? Either the candidate’s already familiar with the company or they’ll research the company on their own. As an alternative to writing about the company, link out to its website or a social account.

Personalize the message. As someone who’s sending out cold outreach, this is your time to shine—and pretty much the most important part to being successful at cold recruiting outreach.

Keep in mind that many tech pros are passionate about what they do—they want their work to have meaning. They want to make a difference. When you show you’ve done a little research on what drives that passion (e.g., skills they enjoy working with, projects they’re proud of), you spark their interest and build a personal connection. Putting in effort shows the candidate you care. That it’s not just about hitting recruitment targets, but how you can help them reach their career goals. 

Even if you follow a template, there are still ways to change it up for each candidate you reach out to. For example, basics you can change without taking up much time include the candidate’s name, and the role and company. Throw in something like, “Happy [day of the week]!”

Once you’ve tweaked the basics, write a sentence or two that ties in how their skills, achievements or projects can make a positive impact at the company. Why are they a strong candidate? (Here’s where you can flatter them a bit.)

For example, “I’m really impressed with your mobile app project and loved reading about the creation process on your blog. Company XYZ has plans to launch a new mobile app, and your expertise might be just what we need.”

And if you have some extra time, try hyper-personalization (focusing on one single detail that’s unique to the candidate) to engage candidates on an even deeper level.

Always include next steps. A clear call to action, or CTA, guides candidates to the next step. What do you want them to do? (And be specific.) Before you sign off, for example, say “If you’d like to learn more, reply back with your phone number and a good time to chat.”

Proofread for errors. Before hitting send, read your message over once or twice. Check for things like misspellings, incorrect punctuation and odd sentence structure. Make sure you included the correct information, including the candidate’s name, role, etc. Read your message line by line (out loud, even) so that you don’t gloss over any mistakes.

Crafting a customizable cold recruiting email template (with examples)

Enticing subject line? Check. Personalized message with a clear CTA? Double check. So how do you pull it all together in a way that both saves you time and attracts candidates?

Create a template you can easily customize for each candidate you reach out to. Here’s some inspiration to get you started.

Template 1

Hi [first name],

While I was on your [professional networking site, personal website, etc.], I came across your [project or accomplishment] and just have to say, the work you’re doing in [tech field] (and your passion behind it) is exactly what [company name] needs in a new [title of open role].

What do you say to grabbing coffee next week? We can chat more then and find out if it could be a match for you. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll set something up.

Best,

[Your name]

Template 2

Hi [first name],

Happy [day of the week]!

[Company name] is looking to hire a [title of open role], and your recent work developing [project] for [candidate’s current company] shows me you could be a great match.

You see, we recently [company accomplishment] and our team needs someone with your background and expertise in [tech field or skill] to help us take the next steps.

I’d love to tell you more. Do you have 10 minutes to chat about this opportunity? If so, reply back with your phone number and a time that works for you.

Thanks in advance,

[Your name]

Template 3

Hi Mr. / Ms. [last name],

My name is [your name] and I’m a recruiter at [company name]. We’re currently looking for someone with experience in [tech skill] for a [title of open role] opening. 

I saw your profile on [professional networking site] and am really impressed by what you’re doing at [candidate’s current company].

If you’d like to discuss this opportunity in greater detail, send me a good contact phone number and time to reach you. Or, feel free to contact me at [phone number].

Best regards,

[Your name]

Make every cold recruitment email count

Nowadays it’s a candidate’s market, and tech talent doesn’t have to settle. So instead of sending a message of “I’m toast if I don’t fill this role. Wanna job?,” send “Hey, I care about you and career goals. You’re going to love it at Company XYZ.”

When you place a little effort into making tech candidates feel appreciated and, well, human, you’ll be on your way to not just filling job openings, but helping people go further in their careers.

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