5 Do's and Don’ts for Contacting Candidates

April 23, 2015

Keeping my LinkedIn profile current and polished has rewarded me with a nice, steady influx of messages about opportunities. However, the quality of these messages varies.

I’m not gonna lie. As a writer, I’m instinctively critical of how I’m written to. But the truth is, no matter who you’re writing to about an open position, successful wooing always starts with the right words.

That’s why I wanted to share a few recent recruiter emails that worked or didn’t work for me. Hopefully, they will inspire you to write your way to the next perfect candidate.

1. Don’t leave ’em hanging. Do courteously reply.

Last December, a hiring manager contacted me about some writing work for a cool app design company. Our great back-and-forth culminated in a “When can you start taking on assignments?” I promptly replied that I was eager to hit the ground writing and carved a generous chunk out of my schedule to be available.

Then a week went by with no word from the manager; I’d even cut him some slack because of the holiday season. Another week sauntered by without a response so I sent a “Happy New Year/checking in” follow-up. Still, crickets.

While I’ve moved on, I can’t help but think how rude and unprofessional it was. It’s simply unwise to not take a few seconds to reply. If you don’t – congratulations, you’ve not only missed out on what could have been a stellar hire; you’ve also just left the candidate with a negative impression of both you and the company you’re representing.

2. Don’t limit the conversation to a single opportunity. Do keep them in mind for others.

A technical recruiter succeeded at securing my attention with phrases like “instantly stood out” and “strong candidate.” But, what impressed me more was that she still wanted to connect and network even if I wasn’t interested in the immediate opportunity.

This is an effective way for a recruiter to build relationships and amass a valuable pool of candidates for when openings occur.

Another way to spark our attention is with lines like “I hope to continue the conversation.” My interpretation? You are genuinely interested and want to know more about what I can bring to the role.

3. Don’t underestimate the power of a subject line. Do be creative with it.

Content Writer. Content Strategist. Copywriter. One of these job titles in the subject line will get me to read the message pronto. But when you include the company name along with it, or better yet, a couple of engaging sentences that hint at the company’s culture, I’ll open and read your message even more quickly.

Here’s an example of a LinkedIin InMail subject line that especially grabbed me.

“Do you enjoy creating creative and engaging copy for a variety of highly visible projects? Well there is an exciting opportunity waiting for you.”

Let’s break it down. The recruiter managed to hook me with a question that spoke to my qualifications. Then, kudos to her for including “highly visible.” Those two words alone tell me she understands how important it is for writers to get great exposure for their work. The “payoff” sentence honestly wasn’t super exciting, but it gets the job done.

So go ahead, tap into your creativity. Treat the subject line space as a valuable piece of communication real estate in which you announce the open role in a compelling, even unexpected way. You could even test the same emails with two different subject lines and see which garners the most interest.

4. Don’t cut and paste your message. Do personalize it.

It’s easy to tell when you’ve sent me a cookie-cutter email that you’ve probably recycled over and over. I understand that this saves precious time, but I also think you stand a much better chance of attracting a quality prospect if you a craft a message that makes them feel like you’ve taken the time to do your research.

For instance:

Don’t write ...

“You could be a great fit.”

Instead write…

“Your travel industry expertise knocked our socks (and shoes) off.”

Being just a little more specific adds a personal touch and demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to thoughtfully peruse a candidate’s credentials.

5. Don’t over-exclaim! Do be conversational.

Just call me Chief of Punctuation Police when it comes to exclamation points. I advise keeping them to a bare minimum – one or none at the most – especially if this is the first time contacting the candidate.

Exclamation points don’t really add anything, and too many come across as being overly zealous, too casual, and even – dare I say – fake. A message can still be warm, friendly and conversational without your sounding like a “Dog’s Diary,” where everything is your favorite thing!



I saw your profile! I think you’d be a great fit! I look forward to hearing from you! Thank you!


Your impressive profile stuck out like a sore thumb (in a good way) and I would love to set up a time to talk.

The overall point I’m driving at is that you can become an even better recruiter if you are mindful of what candidates see when they open their email or InMail. Pay careful attention to how you communicate with them, make adjustments if necessary, and even feel free to play a little in the process. You might just chalk up more success.

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*Image by Robert Occhialini