Remember that old Joe Cocker song, “The Letter?”


Give me a ticket for an aeroplane
I ain’t got time to take no fast train
Oh, the lonely days are gone
I’m coming home
Oh, my baby she wrote me a letter


Just think, if that were today and the letter had been an email, that “letter” may never have been opened!

Seasoned recruiters are very familiar with the cold call, but these days the preferred method of first contact for most has transitioned to the (electronically) written word. Recruiters are constantly reaching out to new candidates via email and other platforms like LinkedIn’s InMail messaging. But…. Are they opening your emails? Are you hearing back?

Saying the right thing in these messages has become more important than ever. In an introductory message where a lack of response is all too common, it’s critical to be as positive and concise as possible. Give yourself an edge over the competition and hook the candidates you really want with these tips to maximize who’s opening and reading your mail!

Obviously, the subject line is the first piece of the message that your target will see, so you have to make it good! Take care to pique your recipient’s interest immediately, or they may not even open the message at all.


Avoid subject lines which are:

… cliché,

You may be happy at Google, but…

… long,

I’m looking for a talented copywriter with a background in social media for a position at a

great company!

… boring,

Customer Service Opportunity at LinkedIn

… or creepy.

I couldn’t reach you by phone or email, so I’m hoping you check your InMail messages.


Try to create a personal connection and unique point of interest right off the bat. A good subject line should either refer to a personal connection between the candidate and yourself or, alternatively, present a specific opportunity or call-to-action which would interest this person in particular. Avoid making yourself (or your company) look bland, desperate or unappealing.


Instead, craft a subject line that:

… references a shared connection,

Natalie Turner suggested I reach out!

… mentions a common interest or experience,

Greetings from a fellow Francophone!

… or shows that you’ve actually looked into them.

Want to get back into UX design?

… of course, paying them a compliment never hurts!

Your background is impressive!


If you’ve intrigued a candidate enough to open a message, you’ve already won half of the battle. Spend a little time doing your homework on the candidate and try to find some common ground or at least figure out what you can do to interest them in what you have to say.

Now, for the message itself. Think of an introductory message as a cover letter of sorts. You should try to show a bit of your personality, a lot of interest in the candidate and a reason why you may work well together. But remember – make it short and sweet.



  • Forget the candidate’s name or use the wrong one. If you are sending out multiple messages at once, be careful to use the candidate’s name in the greeting. You should always double-check all of your messages to avoid saying “Hi Max!” or “Dear INSERT NAME,” if the candidate is called Caroline. This shows a lack of genuine interest and care and is often cause enough alone to justify no response.
  • Send form letters in general. If time and available information allow, strive to write a personal message to each candidate you contact. It’s usually obvious that a message has gone out to multiple recipients if that is in fact the case. Use a candidate’s profile and personal history to craft a message that will excite them in particular.
  • Include typos or mistakes. Always proofread your messages for spelling mistakes, punctuation issues and grammatical errors. This one is obvious, but some recruiters are still guilty of this.
  • Drone on. LinkedIn has reported that InMail messages in excess of 200 words receive significantly fewer responses than average, while those of under 100 words garner the highest proportion of answers. Unnecessarily long messages are never a good idea, especially if the hook is hidden deep within countless important details.


Example of a badly written message:


Subject: Did you miss my last message?

Hello ,

My name is John Doe, and I’m an executive recruiter.

I am currently on the lookout to fill a sales position for our company! I’m following up because we’re trying to fill a sales role ASAP.

Please let me know if you have any questions about the position or are interested in the role yourself. I would really appreciate it if you would share this great opportunity with your network, and I’m sure they would thank you too!

If you are interested in being considered for this position, please send me a copy of your résumé along with a few time slots during which you’d be available for a half-hour phone call.

My was considered a top ten employer by HR Magazine in 2017. They offer competitive salaries, great benefit packages, summer half-Fridays and child-/pet-care during the workday.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you soon. I hope you have a great weekend!


John Doe


John took a lot of wrong turns. The subject line is a bit creepy and even slightly aggressive. In general, the message is too long and overly detailed about all the wrong things. Another mistake was asking the candidate to share this position with their network. This makes him appear not only uninterested in this candidate himself but also asking the recipient to do his job for him.  And, we can’t forget the typos!


Example of a well-written message:


Subject: What’s your next step?

Dear Holly,

I came across your profile while searching for candidates and would love to get in touch with you about our current opportunities.

I see that you’re about to receive your BFA/Fashion Design from FIT. Congrats from a fellow alum! I’d love to talk with you about your plans after graduation.

Our company has an opportunity that I think might interest you, given your background. We’re growing our design team and searching for a talented Assistant Sweater Designer. Anthropologie is a top retailer in Philadelphia, and it’s an exciting time to join us. I think your experiences at FIT as a design tutor and Assistant classroom technician could make you a great fit.

Why don’t we arrange a time to talk about your next step? 



Recruiting Manager


When writing a message, you should try to include: allusions to a candidate’s history, the highlights of the position and only the most necessary information in order to take the next step.

In the first message between you and a potential candidate, keep in mind that the stakes are higher! Each word you write is important and should deliver your message as quickly and pleasantly as possible.

Make it easy for the candidate to respond, and they will! Ultimately, you may be buying a ticket on an aeroplane!