Gamifying Your Technical Recruiting Outreach Message

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Feb 26, 2014

There is a growing portion of the sourcing community that feels sourcing is no longer so much about finding candidates, but engaging them. While this is open to debate, there is no denying the fact that tools such as LinkedIn Recruiter and the rise of social aggregation services have made candidate generation incredibly simple, arguably even an afterthought in the sourcing process. Now that any sourcer can generate hyper-targeted candidates with a few keywords, the idea that one has to compete on engagement begins to make sense, and the best way to compete on engagement begins with the clichéd, tired topic of messaging. 

Failing to make a good first impression will make your chances of hiring the candidates you find practically zero, and by now we’ve all heard the Best Practices® around messaging: Personalize!™, Keep it Short!™, Include A Location!™, Can I Call You? ™, and the ever-popular Fake RE: ™. If we assume most people are using the same candidate generation tools and using roughly the same messaging Best Practices®, how are you supposed to get ahead in the new engagement war? Enter gamification.

According to Wikipedia, Gamification is “…the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts…to improve user engagement, return on investment, data quality, timeliness, and learning.” Compare the following messages:

RE: [Job Title] in San Francisco

Hi [Name],

My name is [Your Name] and I work for [Company]. We are currently searching for a [Title] to round out our team and your skills and background in [relevant experience] look like a great fit. Are you currently exploring new opportunities? If so, I would love to touch base regarding this exciting position. Can I call you tomorrow at 12PM?

This is a pretty standard outreach template and hits most of the Best Practices®. It is short, gets the point across, and is (marginally) personalized to the candidate’s background. We’ve all sent a similar message at some time and had success, but that is precisely the point: We’re likely all sending similar messages, which despite following Best Practices® are dull and boring, especially to the candidate who has received five similar messages today.

Gamification solves this problem by encouraging your candidate to interact with your message as opposed to passively reading it. For technical candidates this could literally be as simple as speaking their language.

cout<<”Hello from Company Name”;

Hi [Name]

Please feel free to compile this message.





using namespace std;


int main()


 string yourjob;

 cout<< “Describe your job or company in one word: “;



 if ( yourjob == “boring” || yourjob == “lame” || yourjob == “sucks” ) {

  cout<< “You really need a change. My company is hiring!” <<endl;

 } else if ( yourjob != “challenging” &&yourjob != “exciting” ) {

  cout<< “Why not try something new? We are hiring!” <<endl;

 } else {

  cout<< “Thanks for playing!” <<endl; // They’ll be back…


 // TODO: For more info reply to this message or visit

 return 0;



 What does all this mean for those who do not ‘speak’ C++?

First, I encourage the candidate to run this code through a compiler, which turns the source code into an application. I then ask the candidate to describe their job to my application in one word. If the candidate enters “boring”, “lame”, or “sucks” the application will tell them my company is hiring. Or, if the candidate enters any word besides “boring”, “lame”, “sucks”, that is not the words “challenging” or “exciting” it will encourage them to try something new and let them know we are hiring. However, if the candidate says their job is challenging or exciting it will thank them for playing and encourage them to visit our website.

So, even if engagement becomes the new front in the War for Talent, with Boolean mastery and other candidate generation wizardry becoming obsolete, there is still room for creativity and experimentation. The battle just shifts from tactical ANDs and ORs to capturing the hearts and minds of your candidate.

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