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12 common pitfalls that recruitment teams should avoid when reaching out to passive talent

September 22, 2021

Be careful with automation

Take precautions and plan out things when you automate marketing. The example below shows how a candidate receiving a message without substituting their first name. Probably the candidate’s first name was missing in this case. When you run campaigns to make sure that the system or automation tool alerts you with such edge cases which you can deal manually. Some tools are smart enough to exclude sentences or words when the values of the variables are missing.

In the following example, the same message was sent to the same candidate twice. Such occurrences can make you look unprofessional and can indelibly damage your company’s brand reputation. Define rules in your marketing automation tool to prevent such scenarios. Another common version of this problem is multiple recruiters on the same team sourcing profiles for the same job reaching out twice to the same candidates. Pick a tool that’s built with collaboration in mind to avoid such issues.

In the below example the automation script probably picked the first name from the username of the candidate(it’s common for developers to use pseudo names). The last paragraph of the message, however, is inconsistent and tells the candidate that the recruiter has done the research. And hence the rant!

If you’re saying in the message that you’ve spent quality time checking candidate’s fitment then double-check and preview the messages before sending them to candidates.

Learn to walk the fine line between asking & giving

Outreach messages are a way to meaningfully connect with potential candidates and start a conversation. You can’t expect replies from candidates if you are going to dump your job description in emails. Most candidates know what being “salesy” is when they see it. It doesn’t have a clear definition but is more of a feeling of being icky and inauthentic.

Use social proof wherever possible. Social proof is a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. Here are 5 great examples of how you can use social proof in recruitment marketing.

Be polite and professional

Be mindful of the language you use with candidates. Eschew terms like “resources” or “Dear candidate” or “to whom it may concern”. This kind of a language can be impersonal and off-putting, particularly when your recipient isn’t a candidate yet, but a potential one. Avoid overly formal expressions and treat candidates with the respect they deserve. Remember that with passive hiring you are the one selling the job to the candidates. Your response time, the language you use, how you speak everything matters in how candidates perceive your brand.

Sell only one thing

Keep your sales pitch short. In the below message you can see the recruiter pitching multiple services at the same time(work opportunities and resume development). The recruiter has done a very poor job of elucidating why they are reaching out to this candidate specifically(an answer that the majority of the candidates expect in the initial outreach).

Focus on culture not perks

Standard perks like free lunches, movie nights, and foosball tables aren’t differentiators anymore. And not all candidates are motivated by higher compensation as well. Recruiting candidates who put money first may result in an early turnover. Compensation-focused hires are likely to immediately jump ship when they’re offered even slightly more money from another company.

A higher salary is the primary reason why employees change jobs, according to a recent Glassdoor survey of hiring decision-makers (it was cited by 45 percent, and the next factor was advancement at 32 percent).

Spray & Pray marketing doesn’t work

With a “spray-and-pray” recruitment marketing strategy you advertise your job opportunity anywhere and everywhere with everyone, hoping that candidates will notice and praying your hard work pays off. But most often what happens is that recipients toss the message directly in the recycle bin, ignore the ad or delete the without even giving it a read

Instead take time to target your audience with segmenting. With segmenting you first break down your list into special groups of candidates who you can email separately with hyper-relevant content. Study shows that:

  • Opens for segmented email campaigns are 14.3% higher than non-segmented campaigns.
  • Clicks for segmented email campaigns are 101% higher than non-segmented campaigns.
  • Unsubscribes for segmented email campaigns are 9.4% lower than non-segmented campaigns.

Try avoiding work email addresses

In general, it’s best to avoid sending recruiting messages to potential candidates’ work email addresses. You don’t know who has access to those messages. Most corporate networks are monitored. Contacting them via work email can be sensitive to the candidate, especially since it leaves a trail of evidence discoverable by the IT /Admin department, so I would advise against it. If you misspell their email chances are that it may even land in someone else inbox. My thought would be to not reach out to a candidate via their work email unless that’s how they contacted you.

If you don’t have a personal email, then make initial contact by phone. The candidate can tell you they’re not interested and if they are, then they can share a preferred method of contact. However, if you’ve only on the work email address to reach the candidate then simply say ‘Hey —–, do you have a personal email? I would love to send you some info there instead.’ It works like a charm!

Be mindful of the location

When reaching out to candidate be mindful about their location preference. Expecting candidates to move across states and countries may backfire. The best way to find the geographical work preference of the candidates is by leveraging the data available on the internet and sourcing information from social networks. Many professionals add their country, state, or city when creating their online social profiles. Boolean search can help you discover those profiles on Google.

Proofread content before outreach

Spelling errors and stilted language can damage your credibility. Focus on surface errors such as misspellings and mistakes in grammar and punctuation. Ensure that there is no grammatical/capitalization/numbering error/spelling error and inconsistency in the format of the message. A lot of recruiters underestimate the importance of proofreading and simply decide to skip this step, usually due to deadline constraints. A well-written email can make your brand look professional and also increases the chances of replies.

Stop pestering candidates

Stop sending emails when prospects mention as not interested. Use a “cooling period” and give the candidate a break before you send your next email. If your marketing sequence is on autopilot then make sure that you remove the candidate from the nurture cadence. If your tool has collaborative features ideally it should also preclude other recruiters in your team reaching out to the same candidate.

Don’t sound creepy

Giving candidates too many compliments before you meet them will make you seem fake. Excessive flattery only makes you sound like a creepy stalker. Find the sweet spot. Make them feel unique and realize that your email is specifically for them. I recommend using relevant information that makes it clear you’ve done your basic research and are going beyond the surface level information.

Here’s a lovely example of what not to do. Microsoft was mocked for its cringe-worthy pitch to recruit their next generation of engineering talent. The company promised interns ‘hella noms’, ‘the best beats’ and ‘beer pong’ for ‘bae [‘before anyone else’] interns’. The below email was signed off with the embarrassing line: ‘Hell yes to getting lit on a Monday night’.

Exclude founders & entrepreneurs

The following are examples of messages that the founders of Stripe and Webflow received from recruiters at Brex and Facebook respectively. This could have occurred because the recruiter pulled a list and sent personalized emails in bulk. Spend some time to qualify the list before blasting emails. Exclude founders and entrepreneurs from outreach.



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