Personalized subject lines increase open rates by 26%—and as our own data shows, they nearly double response rates. We recommend a short {{extra}} token in the subject line (the prospect’s first name, alma mater, current company, etc.), and a longer {{reason}} token in the body copy (a recent success, a blog post they wrote, an interest that would make them make them a great add to your company culture or a career aspiration they appear to have… whatever might inspire them to respond).

Explain Why You’re Reaching Out to Them

Let the prospect know why you are reaching out to them, specifically. What skills of theirs caught your interest? What about their work history makes you believe they are a good match for the position? You have the opportunity to connect the dots for them. It’ll also make you look instantly trustworthy.

Talk About “Opportunities,” Not “Roles” or “Positions”

“Positions” are static; “opportunities” are dynamic. 87% of millennials say professional development or opportunities for career growth are very important to them in a job. Think of this as the value proposition for your prospect. (Your mantra should be: “Upward trajectories, not lateral transfers.”) Why would top talent who isn’t even looking for work consider your open position a better opportunity than what they’ve got now? The ability to build a team from scratch? Increased organizational impact? The opportunity to learn a new skill set (and ultimately to be more attractive in the market)? Whatever it is, speak to that.

Give Them What They’re Not Getting Now

This best practice is an extension of the last: It’s one thing to speak to opportunities; it’s another to speak to the opportunities prospects aren’t experiencing in their current role. Where does their current company fall short— in terms of growth opportunities, benefits, company culture, work environment? If your company offers something more energetic, substantial, or successful, emphasize those elements—without, of course, mentioning their company’s weakness. (Your prospect will figure that out for themselves.)

Mention Company Mission and Culture

You’re not just selling an opportunity; you’re selling a daily experience. It’s worth noting that the biggest roadblock candidates face when changing jobs is “not knowing what it’s really like to work at the company.” So describe it for them. Consider work-life balance, collaborative environments, paid time off, continuing education, remote options. Make a brief mention about culture or values, and link to a page on your website dedicated to company mission or culture.

Offer Social Proof

“Social proof” is the psychological phenomenon in which people look to others to determine “right action” in a given situation. While it’s originally a marketing term, the concept is just as relevant to talent outreach. Typically, social proof in sourcing comes in the form of employee confirmation that the company culture is as dynamic and supportive as the recruiter says it is: If you’re sourcing diversity prospects, maybe you link to a blog post written by your female head engineer, for example. If you don’t yet have that first-degree connection, other strategies include media mentions and acknowledgments that others have taken a particular action with you (“Candidates whom we’ve recently interviewed have said [X]”). The point is to give voice to those people top talent most want to hear from. Indeed, in a recent study from LinkedIn, candidates said they wanted to hear employee views. So link to your careers page, your about page, or a page on company culture where employee quotes are featured—or forefront employee sentiment in the email itself.

Body Copy “Dont’s”

  • Don’t paste a full job description in the email. Remember: The end goal may be getting candidates in the door for an interview; but the goal of initial communication is an interested response from prospects.

  • Don’t drone on. You’re aiming for short and curiosity-piquing. A lot can get lost in a lengthy message. You’ll get to the juicy details once you’ve got them on the phone or in your office.

  • Don’t offer a laundry list of required skills. The professionals you’re reaching out to already know what’s required to do the work. Focus on opportunity instead.

Learn more content best practices in our Definitive Guide to Email Outreach

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