Fixing the recruiting email deluge

Exciting Opportunity at Fast-Growing Startup
Hey!

We really love your experience in company X with skill Y, and we’d love to have you on board. Here’s a list of investors and founders that’s a feeble attempt to impress you, as well as links to tech press to show that we’re relevant. I’m not even vaguely going to describe the real job but I will spout as many buzzwords as I can in a vain attempt to grab your attention. Do you have any time to talk?

Re: follow-up
Hey it’s me again, just following up on my last email, did you have a chance to review the offer? We really think you’d be a great fit.

Re: re: follow-up
I know you must get a ton of emails like this every day, but I’m going to send you another one anyway after pretending to care that this is annoying you, because hey, it’s my job and I’m doing it correctly. I am, aren’t I?

Re: re: re: follow-up
Ok I’m starting to sound like someone stalking their ex, and I’m sorry to flood your inbox, but I’d really like to talk to you.

Re: re: re: re: follow-up
Alright, I guess I’ll stop my email script at about this many emails to try to lower the amount of people who mark my email as spam so I don’t get completely blocked. I bet that after being hounded this many times by me and being utterly annoyed in every imaginable way, you’ll come to see the company I represent in a great light and will totally email me when you’re looking for a job again.

** Insert GIF meme to show how young and trendy we are **


Stahp It

Every single day, endless waves of exuberant emails about the fastest-growing startup according to some arbitrary source barrage me with why I should talk to some company. Not only are these emails horribly ineffective at recruiting, they’re likely going to be my first exposure to this company and it’s going to be a bad one. After years of skimming these sad excuses for recruiting emails, I’ve found elements of a few that are not so terrible.

Dear recruiters: here’s a list of things not to do for recruiting emails, and a few suggestions for what to actually include, and how to behave. Who knows, if you manage to not be actively irritating I might even politely reply back. I’m actually a cordial person… when treated with respect. I’m not the best engineer in existence, but I’m better than some, and I value my time. I’m just asking for you to do the same.

Don’ts

  • Send more than 1 follow-up email

If two of your emails go unanswered, it’s time to move on. It means that either any further emails you send will also go into my spam folder in case the first two did, or that I have no interest in your company at this time. Respect my inbox as you would wish someone to respect the doorbell of your house. If you stop early, there is a non-zero chance I will actually reach out if interested in the future. Spamming my inbox is a guaranteed way to never hear from me.

  • Beat around the bush

The list of investors and the founders’ “pedigree” concern me less, initially, than the actual details of the job. The correct information must be presented at the correct time. Why would I care who your investors are if I have 0 idea what job I’d be doing?

  • Send obviously script-generated emails

I get it. You have tons of emails to send to tons of people to try to fish a few into your dragnet. If your target is the bottom of the bucket that is facing extreme desperation, then perhaps keep doing what you’re up to. If not though, try choosing your targets more wisely and not dropping templates with obviously copy+pasted elements. I don’t care that you saw my LinkedIn. The best way you can prove to me that I’m interacting with a human (or, equivalently, a well-performing AI agent), is to sell me on why I would be interested in hearing more about a specific position at your company.

  • Use any of these words

Rockstar
Ninja
Hacker
Guru

Unless you’re specifically looking for a guitar-playing, shuriken-wielding, computer subculture-loving Sanskrit teacher, stick to job titles that make a modicum of sense within the context of what you’re actually looking for. I will accept any of the below:

Software Developer
Software Engineer
Backend Developer
Fullstack Developer

This list is not exhaustive, but please just use common sense.

  • Attempt to use my native language half-assedly
Hola Alejandro,
Como estas?
The rest of this email will now inexplicably be in English.

My LinkedIn is in English. My resume is in English. The vast majority of what I have on the internet is in English. Do not take one look at my first name and decide to write some half-assed garbage incorrect Spanish in a severely misguided attempt to win points with me. Your other emails to people with non-Hispanic sounding names are entirely in English. So write in English. Always. Unless you write 100% in Spanish because this is for a job in a country where business is predominantly done in Spanish. Then write in Spanish.

  • Use GIFs or memes

Just stop it. GIFs may be fun at work between friends over chat or email, but unless you’re specifically looking for someone who regularly communicates over email in GIFs, just don’t. It makes you look unprofessional, and you’re assuming a level of rapport with a complete stranger that could not possibly exist. Stick to the message. It’s ok to use images insofar as it relates to the company’s work or job opportunity. Anything else should not make it into the email.

Dos

  • Prefer LinkedIn to direct email

Not everybody uses LinkedIn, but I do. Use it. Chances are I’ll be more disposed to reading about job opportunities in the context of a job-hunting site than when I’m simply trying to get through my email. Do not attempt to add me as a connection. I don’t know you, we have never met, I cannot vouch for you professionally, and I will not add you until such time as I can vet you.

  • Mention specific positions and salary ranges

Do you want a successful recruitment email? Here’s a hint: talk compensation first and company after. I’m not looking to “make the world a better place” I’m looking to make my 60s a better place. If this sounds greedy to you, you need to open your eyes to the world we live in. Hint: it’s not looking optimistic. I’m just hedging my bets.

The more I know about the job and the compensation expectations, the more likely I am to be interested in discussing it. It’s that simple. You give me the information, I lend you my ear. Or I decline, and we can both save some precious time.

  • Be humble

State what your company does and make it sound good, but stop pretending like you’re saving the world. Your company occupies a niche market and it does it well, so highlight that and suggest why I might be interested in helping and how.

Example Acceptable Email

Subject: Backend Engineer Offer at Initech Inc.

Hi Alejandro,

I’m reaching out to you today from Initech Inc. because we’re in need of a backend web engineer for a project that’s already in progress, and I see that you’ve done a lot of work in that area. Here’s the general outline for the position below:

Position: Backend web engineer
Required Language: Scala
Bonus Languages: Ruby, Go, Erlang
Salary Range: $XXXk-YYYk (negotiable)
Stock: X-Y% (negotiable)

If this sounds interesting, let’s set up a short time to talk and I can go into more details of what the job will entail, and about the company. I promise it will be brief, and it will be worth your time. If email works better, I’d be happy to discuss more right here in email. Salary and stock are of course negotiable based on your needs and skills, but I hope you find the ranges a favorable starting point for discussion.

Initech Inc.

Initech Inc. started out writing software to help with the Y2K problem at the turn of the last century, but found a niche more recently in making web services easier to write by providing a set of tools to speed up writing code and reducing production bugs. There are already many tools written, but there’s so much more that we can do, and we could use your help in building out the next generation of these tools.

Best,
- Peter Gibbons


And that’s it. Be down to earth, direct, and expressive in brief communications, and you will find more people responding to your recruiting emails, or in the worst case, people’s first, and potentially awful impression of your company, will not also be their last one.