Email Automation Tips to Increase Candidate Response Rates by @will_ducey

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Sep 1, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

It’s 10am. Two weeks after the intake meeting with the hiring manager, and it happens: you receive an email asking when you think you will have candidates ready to interview.

In the past you would have felt a rush of panic and fear. Not this time. Last week you worked with the manager to create a compelling message and subject line. You crafted an amazing search string to identify the best potential candidates. And, most importantly, you used technology to help you gather data to improve and automate your sourcing process.

How did you do that? Let’s back up.

I am often frustrated by the difficulty in making sourcing more effective. I’m a recruiter, but I also think of myself an “automation engineer” — I’m constantly looking for ways to improve the experience for both candidates and recruiters.

Here are a few important things I’ve learned about improving and automating the candidate engagement process.

Repetition, repetition, repetition

Marketing psychologists continue to highlight the importance of brand repetition. The more people are exposed to something, the more likely they are to become a customer of that brand. I find the same is true in sourcing. If you continue to ask for a response, you are much more likely to receive a response. After all, even if you get a “no thanks”, the response will help you better manage your time in the future when deciding which candidates to reach out to.

All evidence points to the value of continuing to “ask for the sale.” However, as Talent Acquisition professionals, we have lots of responsibilities to manage in an increasingly difficult field.

How often do you stop at one contact attempt? Do you send one email and wait for a response?

Consider the underlying message to a candidate when they receive only one message and never hear from you again. “Your experience looks great. We should talk.” The candidate would be justified in thinking: well, if I looked perfect for your role, why have I never heard from you again? Why did the recruiter send me spam and not focus on me as a person?

Now think about your own behavior. Do you ever open an email with the intention of responding then never get around to it? I do, more often than I’d like. Isn’t it possible that the candidate that didn’t respond has done this same thing?

It can be difficult to continue asking because we associate a rejection with an internal rejection, a personal rejection, versus the external realities like busyness, forgetfulness, or life events.

But there’s hope!

Automating the follow-up

Today, there are a number of ways for you to follow up until you get a response from the person you are intending to reach.

There are services like Yesware, which track email opens and allows you to know when your email was opened. There is, which reminds you at a future time to complete a task or action.

But the tool I have been using most is Outreach. From using this tool alone, I have been able to determine that 90% of my messages are opened. 32% of the messages are replied to on the first email contact. After my second and third email attempt, that number jumps to a 67% response rate. Yes, nearly double! This doesn’t mean everyone is going to willingly jump into our hiring process. But it has allowed me to find out the reasons and relate the information to our hiring managers and business leaders.

Outreach also allows me to A/B test my subject line and message. I can send emails at the key time of day based on the recipient information I have.

My approach is to email people on their personal account with a very personalized message. I then automate the follow up with templates. Why would I allow my personal outreach and research to go to waste? I schedule a reply email directly to the first very personalized message I have sent. The best part is that it happens automatically, without me even thinking about it. I set Outreach to send messages until I get a reply. If they never respond, I try to figure out a different way to engage the person.

I know when they open the email. I know when they reply. If they respond, the email follow-up sequence stops and I reply on my own.

If you are looking for a quick, one-time fill, you can adjust your follow-up approach to be quicker. You can even set a notification to ping you as soon as the email has been opened. You can follow up with a call right away to catch the person when they were viewing the email.

Data-driven processes

Outside of hiring someone for the role, what I am really looking for is data that can be used to drive future decision making.

Below are some numbers from one email campaign and sequence. The list was created with a very refined and targeted approach. The results still shows that people need to be contacted more than once to increase your chances of a response.


If you can understand things like cost-per-hire and the value of great people to your organization, you can use the data you collect from sourcing to make organizational changes that would increase the likelihood more people will join in the future.

This is a new concept for our talent acquisition team and I am sure we will learn a lot in the process through experimentation. I encourage you to try it and look at the data you collect.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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