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Sometimes the best candidates you ever hire are ones who aren’t even actively looking for a new job. That’s why contacting cold or passive candidates is part and parcel of the recruitment process. However, it’s important to keep in mind that just as candidates have to make a good first impression when they are applying and interviewing for a job, as a recruiter, you need to make a good first impression if you’re contacting a candidate out of the blue.

Everyone responds differently when contacted unexpectedly, and what works well with one person won’t necessarily work well with another. However, there are some good rules to stick to that will give you the best chance of grabbing candidates’ attention and give them a good reason to engage with you and your organization. These include:

  1. Researching the candidate

Before reaching out to a potential candidate, you need to do your homework. They will most likely have a LinkedIn profile, so take the time to review it carefully. Look at their previous employers, the roles they have held, and what their responsibilities were. There’s nothing worse than getting a cold candidate into your hiring funnel, only to realize that they don’t have the experience you need. Not only that, it doesn’t exactly reflect well on you, or your company.

  1. Making it personal

When candidates receive generic copy-and-paste emails, they rarely respond favorably, especially if the email contains information that clearly isn’t related to them or their suitability for the role. It’s fine to use a template for the sake of efficiency, but you need to personalize it every single time. What stands out about this person? What particular skills or experience do they have that you’re looking for? If they’ve been recommended to you, then mention the name of the referrer. You need to give them a compelling reason why you’ve chosen to contact them and show that you’re interested in them and the unique things they can bring to your organization.

  1. Keeping it short and to the point

People get dozens, if not hundreds of emails every week, so if you’re lucky enough to have your candidate open your message, don’t waste their time with unnecessary information. If and when they open it, they’ll only spend a few seconds scanning it to see if it’s of interest. That means that you’ve got to get to the point quickly. Don’t write an essay, keep it short and sweet so that you’re not taking up too much of their time and so that they quickly come to the reason why you’re writing.

  1. Closing with a call to action

The goal of your email is to get the candidate to engage with you. In most cases, that means progressing to a phone call or even a meeting. Most people prefer being contacted via email first, because it gives them time to think about what you’ve sent. But once they have, and they’ve decided they’re interested, you need to prompt them to take the next step. Ask if they’re available to talk on the phone to discuss it further, and give a time frame for doing so, whether it’s later that week or sometime next Tuesday. Make sure to give them a few days so that they have time to process your initial email. And, if they are a referral, you can potentially expedite things by, for example, suggesting that you meet for a coffee.

  1. Following up

Things happen. Emails get deleted or missed or wind up getting blocked by spam filters. No response doesn’t necessarily mean a no. Don’t be afraid to follow up your email with a second one, or to make a follow-up phone call. Sometimes people genuinely aren’t interested and sometimes they’ve simply forgotten to reply; whatever the case, you’ll want to know what the situation is before you strike anyone off of your list.

Getting it right

There are no absolute hard-and-fast rules for cold-contacting a potential candidate, but sticking to a few basics will help produce results. Remember, your goal is to get them to respond, so keep it professional, tailored, polite, and to the point. As long as you’ve done you’re homework and you’re reaching out to candidates who you’re confident would be a good fit, you’ll be well on your way to getting positive responses and recruiting top talent.


How does your company approach proactively recruiting passive candidates?

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