The Email Recruiting Campaign: The Inbox is the Battlefield in the Digital War for Talent

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Jun 8, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.


Three seconds. Count them out. One thousand one! One thousand two! One thousand three! I have Three seconds to entice you to read my email. Have I three seconds to grab your attention? Reacting a hyper speed is a core aspect of the digital era; my email recruiting success is based on an impulse. But that notion is based on data, science, and psychology. That means I have an opportunity to maximize my email recruiting results if I consider an email recruiting strategy rather than just using email as a tactic.



WIIFY (What’s In It For You)

The purpose of this series of articles is to show you how to double the results of the average email recruitment campaign. That’s right; I will show you how to move from an average open rate on emails of 20% to an open email rate of 40%. Not only that, I will show you how to increase your CTA’s (call-to-action) from 2% to over 5%.

To double your results, you will need to stop what you are doing, take a couple of deep breaths, and reconsider your current email recruiting approach. Not an easy task in our “do more with less,” under-resourced environment, but well worth the effort.

Here is what you are up against.



The inbox is the battlefield of the digital era. Winning the battle of the inbox is job number one. The encounter lasts only a few seconds. But here is what I am up against. Let’s imagine that you and your inbox are my target audience:

  • I want your time; at least a small part of the two hours that you will spend in your work inbox.
  • I am trying to stand out from the other 120 emails you will receive today.
  • I am fighting for attention along with 11 other brands.
  • I need to grab your attention during one of the 74 times you will skim your inbox today.
  • I want my email to be the one out of five (20%) that you will open. (Note the open rate on recruitment emails is 73%.)
  • I want you to respond to my call to action and be one of the four (26%) emails that they click through. (Note CTA on recruitment related emails is lower at 2.18%.)



Email is the preferred method of communication.

Unless you are an old school recruiter/sourcer that uses the telephone exclusively, chances are you are relying on email as your chief weapon in your own war for talent. That is not a bad thing since 79.2% of all candidates indicate the preferred method of communication is email contact. In this era of the social revolution, marketing professionals have determined that email is 40 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined in acquiring customers. While this sounds encouraging, the results of email recruitment indicate that only two out of every ten candidates we contact opens the email, and about one in 50 actually take any action.



Email recruiting is a numbers game.

Let’s be honest for a moment. As recruiters/sourcers we understand that email recruitment is a numbers game. We acknowledge we rush our messages out of the inbox because we are behind. Our rationalized approach amounts to “I will throw a lot of digital stuff against and see what sticks.” The majority of the email recruiting messages that I receive are hastily thrown together attempts getting my attention. We need to add some science and phycology to the numbers and make email recruiting more effective.


A paradigm shift.

The foundational principle of the social revolution is it is not about me; it is about you. Before 2007, my most effective subject line for an indirect sourcing email was “I Need Your Help.” I changed the conversation from help me to could this help you?



The 3-5-7 rule for Email Recruiting

Did I mention the world of email recruiting in the digital era is very fast-paced? The experts’ data suggests that I only have a total time of 15 seconds to grab and keep someone’s attention. I adopted the 3-5-7 rule for email recruiting. The 3-5-7 Rule breaks my 15 seconds into three phases.

  1. The first three Seconds | The email subject line.
  2. The next five seconds | The email body with the CTA (call to action).
  3. The final seven seconds | Telling the story of the opportunity.

Let’s break down those 15 seconds.



The first task is to create a subject line that motivates the recipient to open and read the email. In other words, you are teasing your audience with a “guess what I have for you” approach. You have three seconds to cause this action. Since statistically, only 20% of your target audience will “open” your email, some changes will need to be adopted to get to the goal of a 40% open rate.



The second task is to write a hook (click inspiring copy) that will encourage the recipient to respond to the call to action. In other words, you are telling them why they should want it. The goal is to motivate the recipient to visit the landing page where your offer is explained in greater detail. You have five seconds to cause this action. Since only about one in ten or one in eleven (around 2%) of the opened emails has the recipient click-through (known as CTR) the embedded link, you will need to modify your email body copy to double your results.



The third task is to create a landing page or web experience that briefly offers the pitch or tells the story of your offer. In other words, you are explaining how they can obtain it. This is the moment that you have been waiting for; informs the recipient how to get the promise that has been offered in the email. Your offer or opportunity should be explained in a brief and clear manner. You have doubled the number of people who have come to this point; now engage them.


15 seconds. Three tasks. To double your email recruiting success, just change the focus of your campaign to convey:

  • Guess what I have for you?
  • Why should you want it?
  • How can you get it?


A word about texting & LinkedIn InMails.

I am limiting this article to a discussion of email recruitment to the use of a business or personal email. While text messaging in recruitment is very promising, I do not have enough data or experience to present a broad discussion of the topic.

On the other hand, I have considerable experience with LinkedIn InMails. LinkedIn InMails with their “one and done” approach have some built in system limitations that preclude using email marketing best practices of multiple emails within a short period (which will be discussed later) which maximizes engagement. In my experience, the overall effectiveness of InMails compares favorably to email rates for recruitment of 20.73% open rate with a CTA of 2-3%. Stacy Zapar (@StacyZapar), Kerri Mills (@thejobgirl), Glen Cathey (@GlenCathey) and others have written about how to get more bang for your InMail buck; I invite you to check out their articles.

This article is the first in a series of a “how-to” guide on making the most of the 15 seconds that you have to capture and keep the attention of the talent you are targeting with your email message. Before we get to the how I would like to suggest why you should consider a strategic approach to email recruiting. In other words, why you adopt an email recruiting strategy.


The next installments of The Email Recruiting Campaign series will deal with:

  • Why you need to adopt it a strategy for the digital era
  • The first three seconds – Guess what I have for you.
  • The next five seconds – Why you should want it!
  • The final seven seconds – How you can get it!
  • Before you press send – An email recruiting checklist.



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