Advice to Recruiters from Actual Prospects: Here’s How to Improve Engagement

Picture this: you’ve got an open role you need to fill and you’re starting from scratch. You spend hours prospecting, trying to find the perfect group of candidates to fill your pipeline and start moving through your process. You send out hundreds of messages introducing yourself, your company, and the role—but get few responses, creating the need to spend even more time on prospecting and outreach. Ultimately, it takes a longer time to make the hire than you want, and than the business needs.

Sound familiar?

This doesn’t have to be the status quo! We interviewed a handful of working professionals across different industries (tech, law, finance, media) to get their unfiltered thoughts on recruiter outreach: what works and what doesn’t.

So what are some winning strategies? Read on to learn how to get your outreach messages read, for higher response rates and butts in seats faster.

1. Personalization is a non-negotiable

According to LinkedIn, 70% of the global workforce is made up of passive talent who aren’t actively job searching. Top candidates have their pick of companies, and most receive dozens of recruiting messages on a monthly basis. This means an extra touch of personalization and creativity is critical to help your message stand out from the crowd, and avoid the dreaded unread/bulk-delete cycle.

When outreach isn’t personalized, clearly part of a mass spam campaign, or enough of a #recruiterfail, the message can do the opposite of what you want, damage your company’s image and potentially deter that candidate from ever considering that company.

“It’s frustrating as someone who is job hunting,” Ashley, a financial analyst based in New York City vented. “It’s a huge waste of everyone’s time when the messaging isn’t tailored correctly and the role is totally irrelevant to my expertise and interests.”

Instead, getting creative while engaging with promising candidates has much more appeal. Here’s one out of the box idea: invite prospective candidates to lightning-round talks to give the hiring team a chance to showcase the most interesting projects they’re working on. Then follow it up with a meet and greet session. A simpler, but equally effective tactic might be to include images and detailed copy highlighting the company culture (e.g. photo of a team outing).

Ashley’s advice: “Look into my profile—even if it’s just making a high-level connection between my profile and your mandate, I’m appreciative of the thoughtfulness and am more likely to respond. I’m not thinking, “Oh, you emailed every single person in my field on your list.

2. Competency is expected

Understand the role you’re recruiting for inside and out. The industry, the market, the competition, and the responsibilities.

It’s expected that they’d know the basics of what I’d be doing and be able to tell a compelling story around that,” said Jevta, an operations manager at an enterprise tech company in Seattle. This isn’t always the case, and cold outreach can often end up being a disappointing experience, especially when the right information isn’t available.

Max, a journalist in New York City, was adamant about the fact that recruiters reaching out should know their audience and be well versed in what their target candidates respond to. “So many people don’t know how to talk to journalists—we’re proud of what we do and by nature, are skeptical of management speak and overly cheery messages. Be self-aware… be human.”

3. Relationship building means looking beyond the current role

Nurture a solid base of top talent by taking a longer-term view. Whether a candidate is right for the role today or not, relationship-building by thinking about what they could add to the company in the future is invaluable in creating connections you can draw upon years down the road.

Keeping an open mind and being curious about the prospect’s interests and career goals goes a long way in demonstrating sincerity, which won’t go unnoticed. When done right, prospects can also serve as a healthy source for referrals. Ashley mentioned staying in touch with a recruiter for these very reasons.

“He took the time to talk to me, understand what I was looking for—he made me feel like I wasn’t just another number, which is why we’ve kept in touch and why I’ve referred a few of my friends to him, even though a role never worked out.”

4. Use the right channels

Ching, a data scientist hailing from Los Angeles, is passionate about recruiter etiquette and receiving outreach from the right channels.

“The era of cold calling is over—when I get a call from a number I don’t recognize, I don’t pick up. In the off chance I do, I’m on my way to a meeting or doing something at work—I don’t have time to drop everything and have a 15-minute conversation about a job that I never applied for, with someone I’ve never heard of.”

Cold calling and expecting the best candidates to proactively come to you might be on a downward trajectory, but when it comes to sourcing, LinkedIn is the preferred mode of communication for the professionals we spoke with:

“LinkedIn is the best place to reach me, pitch a role, and have a conversation,” Ching said.

Messages should be brief and concise, listing out the details of the role, and how it might be relevant to the prospect’s work history and specific skill set.

5. Follow-up and closure

Even when a role doesn’t work out, following up and providing closure facilitates a more positive prospect experience that leaves the door open to future conversations.

Niqui, a lawyer at a top firm in Washington DC, is more hesitant when it comes to engaging with recruiters. In his experience,

“Recruiters will ask you for your resume, a list of materials... then suddenly ghost you. If it feels like they’re not going to get paid for placement, they flake, which makes me ban their name from my list forever.”

If the role is no longer open, or if the prospect was not qualified—whatever the reason—a simple update would have helped avoid the negative aftereffects of these kinds of interactions. Fact: 94% of talent would like to receive interview feedback, but only 41% have actually received it in the past (LinkedIn).

Ultimately, finding a balance between getting your message out to the most qualified people in a timely fashion and personalizing for optimal engagement is the goal. Greenhouse’s CRM is one way to help operationalize more thoughtful recruiter outreach, as the technology helps operationalize quality outreach vs. the old “spray and pray” methodology.

Interested in building a strong talent network of prospective candidates? Discover how the Greenhouse CRM can help you organize your talent pool so you’re always three steps ahead of your next open role.

Jennifer Ho 2

Jennifer Ho is a Portfolio Manager of New Products at Greenhouse. She develops and executes on go-to-market strategies, reinforcing Greenhouse’s position as a leading talent acquisition suite. Prior to entering the exciting world of SaaS and HR tech, she worked at L'Oréal in brand marketing where she managed a book of business of +$30M. She is passionate about all things food related (will try anything!) and travel obsessed (lived in two continents, visited 30+ countries). Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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Candidate Experience