June 23, 2018

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Tips on E-mailing the Candidate

As a self-employed IT Recruiter, I decided to keep my options open and posted my resume to the Monster Board and Workopolis a few days ago. I have opened myself up to the world and switched roles. The hunter has now become the hunted. Beyond that, I'm a little excited. This will give me a great chance to see how my colleagues in the world of recruiting go about getting in touch with people on the job boards. Emails have been rolling in ever since and it sure has been an eye opener in terms of how the people in our business make that vitally important first contact with a candidate. There is a lot of room for improvement in our business when it comes to sending out emails.

Headhunters from all over North America are emailing me. Each one attempting to convince me that the opportunity they represent is something I should get interested enough in to make contact. There appears to be a general flaw in all the correspondence I have been receiving. It's not about me and what's good for me. The emails that I am getting are all about them. Which begs the question, why should I care?

As recruiters we face a slew of competition in terms of finding someone on the Internet and introducing ourselves as people who can get that candidate a job. In order to do that we need to find the method that intrigues or persuades the candidate who doesn't know us from Adam to hit that reply key and begin a dialogue with us.

Is our focus in the right place? Is our focus on the applicant rather than our own needs?

We've all been exposed to form letters and the spam that keeps floating around in the Internet. It's a question of taking the shotgun versus the rifle approach. Ideally, are we zeroing in on some talent and trying to get in touch with them? Don't ask me how but I have now received three emails from American recruiters telling me about great positions in the States for Aircraft Systems Engineers. They were great jobs, for anyone with an Engineering degree so I'm still shaking my head as to why they bothered emailing me that letter when my resume clearly states I am an IT Recruiter. I can only wonder how many dozens of emails these people send out each day with very poor results.

One of those letters finally set me off to the point I took some action. A rookie recruiter from Kansas City told me all about how she wanted my resume to submit to her client and all I had to do was call her up and give her permission to do so. I envisioned how 'unfriendly' the skies would become if I was hired to maintain and enhance navigation systems on 747's.

I was incensed that she hadn't even bothered to read my resume and rather than throwing it straight in the garbage can, the snippy part of me sharpened a poison pen and composed a nasty letter. It was time to tear a strip off her for being so sloppy in her trade. She had wasted my time and given all the people in our industry a bad name by doing such poor pre-qualifying work.

Compassion got the better of me and that letter remained unsent. Over coffee on Sunday morning I wrote her back thanking her for contacting me and offering some suggestions on how to improve her chances. I told her that I didn't feel her approach was working and there was a way to get more people to write you back when you get in touch with them by email for the first time. I have kept my own statistics on this and I can prove that with this approach I can get a reply from 7 out of 10 people that I contact by email indicating their interest in what I have to offer them.

When you contact an applicant, make them feel special. Begin with the title of your email. That is the first thing the applicant is going to see. What does RE: JO 37J/6 Oracle PL/SQL mean to them? Nothing. That's all about you and your needs. Change your focus and make it all about them. For example: Your background in Oracle Development is Impressive immediately let's the applicant know that you have read their resume and think highly of them. Pay them a compliment and get specific. Prove to them that you read their resume and found something intriguing that made you want to get in touch. I will write back to a person that took some time to know me, not write me a form letter. Intrigue me...all I know about Kansas is that it is flat and has several Wal-Marts. Is it a good place to live?

Simplify your language. Three-syllable words and jargon are really tough to read. The job description she gave me from her client was a disaster of business doublespeak. Keep it simple and use clear, complete sentences. Sentences must introduce and complete an action. You can't take a bulleted series of required skills and make that a sentence simply by adding a capital at the front and a period at the end. It must have relevance and include a subject and a predicate.

Watch out for run-on sentences. Each sentence should be one complete thought. Use commas only when necessary. Don't just string together a bunch of points. Read some Ernest Hemingway. That man was a genius with simple yet forceful use of English. Every word he wrote was carefully chosen for its simplicity.

When you correspond with someone for the first time your most important task is to capture their attention and get them to write you back. That means putting more effort into taking care of that person's need. They want to know that you believe in their abilities and would like to help them. Helping yourself follows naturally by taking care of your candidates.

-Jamie Neilson
Jamie is an IT Recruiter working virtually in Ottawa, Ontario. In addition to recruiting he specializes in the training and implementation of recruiting software solutions. Jamie can be reached via email at