How to Get an 8x Response Rate to Your Cold Emails to Passive Candidates

By Manan Shah - Oct. 8, 2018
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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Manan Shah – Cofounder at Recruiterflow. His opinions are his own.
The average cold email response rate is about 5%-8%! To put that in perspective, you need to reach out to 20 people to get one response. The key part of this statistic here is “average” and being “average” is not what you want. It’s possible to be an exceptional cold emailer and get a 40-50% email response rate.
To do this, we need to understand how people interact with emails. There are hundreds of data points out there on the internet but we have to concern ourselves with just three.

How do people read emails?

Fact 1:
An average person checks their email 15 times a day – University of British Columbia (Source: Mashable).
What we can learn from it:

  • People are super distracted when they check the email and have a short attention span.
  • The notion of best time to send emails isn’t as important as it used to be. Anytime is a good time to send a cold email. Just don’t go sending out emails at 2am!

Fact 2:
Half the emails get responded to within an hour – USC Viterbi School of Engineering (Source: USC Viterbi).
What can we learn from it?
People decide whether they want to respond to email or not very quickly. The window of opportunity to get your candidate’s attention is small.
Fact 3:
50% of all emails are opened on mobile devices (Source: Litmus).
What can we learn from it?

  • Your email needs to be optimized for reading on mobile devices.
  • Your email needs to be short and skim-friendly.

How do you write a great cold recruitment email?

An well written outreach email has 4 parts to it.

  • Subject
  • Introduction
  • Pitch
  • Call to action

Let’s understand how you can crush it on each of these parts.

How to write subject lines that grab attention

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is thinking of the subject line as an afterthought. If you are not spending equal time on choosing your subject line as writing the email, you are doing it wrong!
Subject lines are the first thing readers see when they receive your email. The subject line determines whether your email is opened or not. You need to make your subject line intriguing and interesting. Nobody wants to read a subject line that sounds like it came from a used car salesman!
Generic subject lines like “I’ve got an opportunity for you” or “Openings at Acme Inc” just don’t work.
Get creative and show that you researched the candidate before you reached out to them. As most emails get opened on mobile devices, keep it short. The Gmail app for iOS shows only 36 characters in the subject line. If you limit your subject line to 36 characters, it increases your chances of having your emails opened.
Here’s a quick checklist for writing a cold email subject line that delivers open rates.

  • Write to intrigue
  • Show that you researched your prospective candidate
  • Preferably keep your email subject line shorter than 40 characters.
  • Using a candidate’s first name in the subject line can get you 16% better open rates.

Crafting your cold email message

Put on your sales and marketing hats when you are crafting cold emails to candidates. For me, I’ve seen the AIDA framework work the best.

  • Attention – Attract your candidate’s attention
  • Interest – Personalise your outreach to make it interesting for them
  • Desire – Create a desire for what you are offering
  • Action – Nudge them to take an action that is super easy to execute.

Why does AIDA work?
Attention: The subject line has already created intrigue and got your email opened. For example mentioning that you saw their GitHub profile and it impressed you and your team would immediately grab the reader’s attention.
Note – Generic lines don’t always work. For difficult and niche roles, you will have to personalize each email. Commenting on something (the latest project or the blog s/he wrote) is the easiest way to go about it.
Interest: Pique your candidate’s interest. You have their attention. One thing I’ve seen a lot of recruiters do wrong is they don’t jump right to the point. At the end of every sentence, your candidate is asking the question – “Okay, so what’s in it for me?” If you don’t deliver a value proposition soon enough, you are going to lose their interest. Give your candidate a reason to engage and read the rest of your email.
Desire: Create a strong desire in your candidate’s mind. The best way to do it is by creating FOMO – Fear of missing out. Our brains are hardwired to hurt when they miss out on something. Appeal to this primal brain and increase your chances of getting a response.
Action: Okay, so the candidate has read everything and is interested in engaging. What next? Give them a super easy way to take the next step. Generally asking your candidates to hit reply or jump on a call works best. What definitely doesn’t work is asking them to solve a take-home test or apply on your careers page!

Read: How I built a team of 40 amazing people in 1 year.

Creating masterclass campaigns that deliver results

It’s all about following up. Especially when it comes to recruiting passive candidates. It’s easy to focus on the first email and spend all your energy there, but that gives just half the results. Generic short follow-up emails get the same response as the first one. According to research we’ve done at Recruiterflow, here’s what response rates look like.

59% of the recipients have responded by the end of the third follow-up. If you aren’t well versed with statistics or are feeling lazy to do the math, here’s a quick rundown.

  • Sending two emails rather than one increases your response rates by 150%
  • Sending three emails rather than two, increases your response rates by 40%
  • Sending four emails rather than three, increases your response rates by 40%.

At the beginning of this article, I had said that the “average” response rate for a cold email is 5% and there is a way you can get to 40-50% response rate. Here’s an easy enough to follow checklist to help you create your next cold email campaign or just use these cold email templates.
Print the below rules for writing killer cold emails and post them on your work desk – lest you forget!

  • Keep your subject lines short
  • Always, always personalize your emails.
  • Remember the AIDA framework when you create your first touch cold email
  • Your email is going to be read on mobile devices. Optimise your email for that.
  • Always follow up if you don’t get a response.
  • Keep your call to actions easy and immediately actionable.

A few more resources you might want to refer to include:
6 Tips For Sending Cold Recruiting Emails That Don’t Get Laughed At
Great cold recruiting email templates

Manan is co-founder and CEO of Recruiterflow - a powerful applicant tracking system for modern recruiters. He writes regularly on all things recruiting.


Manan Shah

Manan is co-founder and CEO of Recruiterflow - a powerful applicant tracking system for modern recruiters. He writes regularly on all things recruiting.

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