Email Marketing for Recruiters: 13 Proven Formulas to Use on your Next Campaign

Steve Lowisz
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Apply to join our REI Recruitment Roundtable Facebook group (for practicing recruiters only)! This is a place for the community to encourage each other. A place to share ideas, challenges, tips, and tricks. And a place to receive extra opportunities for free training. It’s for recruiters who really want to ELEVATE their careers and the industry as a whole! 

When you improve your marketing and copywriting skills as a recruiter, you can increase your response rates and engagement with potential candidates. Spending more time talking with the right candidates and less time sending messages that get few responses is critical. 

Sure, you can engage your marketing department to handle your emails, or you can learn the basics of copywriting yourself! Either way, you need to understand the basics of persuasive communication in written form!

What is Email or InMail Copywriting?

In general, copywriting is the actual words you use in both your subject line and the body of your content. It's HOW you express an idea and connect emotionally with a potential candidate that causes them convert into an active candidate. 

The best emails and InMails convince the potential candidate to not only consume the entire message, but to engage with it. It might be a simple reply or getting the candidate to click on a “click here” button to get more information on your organization and its purpose.

Before we get into the key components of effective written communication, keep these general attributes in mind:

• Brevity – Keep it short 
• Persuasiveness – Focus on Why and not only What 
• Emphasize the connection between the subject line and the action you are seeking 
• No fluff - No unnecessary information 

When you write a recruiting-specific copy you need to start with a singular goal. Are you looking for an immediate response? Are you looking for the potential candidate to click a link to your company page? Are you looking for a referral?

Regardless of the focus, every word should drive the candidate closer to fulfilling the singular goal.   For instance, if you want a potential candidate to follow a link to learn more about your company, focus on the “WHY”. What problem does your company solve for them? How does your company help them achieve their goals?

When done correctly, connecting with potential candidates through proper copywriting can increase your positive response rates exponentially! Once you add this skill to your toolbelt, you can earn a return on every message you send. Remember, it's about building trust from the beginning and making the best use of your target candidate’s time.

1. Write a Great Subject Line – A poor subject line earns your message a direct trip to the trash can. With the number of messages every candidate receives daily from recruiters, they are simply too stimulated to waste time. Although subject lines do not follow a specific formula, you first must understand what stimulates your specific audience. For example, a software developer may not care that your company won best place to work in Iowa! 

2. Write, Read, Repeat – After you write a message to your target candidates, let it sit for 24 hours. Then go back and reread it. Does it make sense? Is it compelling? Is it clear? Is it short? Is it too short? Is it too long? Waiting a day will allow you to come at with a fresh set of eyes and new perspective. It's helpful to put yourself in the shoes of your target candidate – would you respond to your own message?

3. Be Relatable – It's about the emotional, not just the practical. Repeat this mantra five times before you write your message: Candidates buy emotionally and justify rationally. It's important to show each target candidate that you understand how they might be feeling. What pain they might be experiencing.Large text.

What does your target candidate fear? What bothers them in their current job?

Maybe you are recruiting for a specific type of senior software developer from a big company that is tired of being a cog in a wheel within the organization. Demonstrate empathy for the audience and show you understand the challenges they might be dealing with.

4. Focus on the WHY and not the What – The what of your position is boring. Touting the position title, responsibilities, or location just isn’t enough any longer. Focus on the WHY – the impact this position has on the organization, other team members, or your clients. What is the purpose of the company beyond just profits? How does this relate to the individual you are reaching out to?

5. Keep it Short (KIS) – Emails and InMails should not go on forever, especially on the first communication. Get to the point quickly and clearly. Lay out your call to action or request next steps and hit SEND.

If possible, limit the amount of scrolling your target candidate must do. If they are reading on a laptop or desktop, try to eliminate the need for scrolling all together.   

6. Make it Brief – Keep each paragraph short and to the point. Focus on conveying one idea per paragraph. Keep the reader moving by making it simple to digest.

7. Write in 2nd Person - Be sure to write your message as if you were talking directly to your candidate, face to face.  Instead of talking about past candidates, talk directly to the candidate about the candidate. Kind of like I am talking to you right now.

8. Don't Include Irrelevant Details – There’s such a thing as too much information.    Your potential candidates don’t need to hear about all of the awards your company has won. Unless it helps address specific pain there are feeling.   

9. Personalize – Almost every message platform allows you to personalize your message. Use your target candidate’s name as well as their current company name as appropriate. As a rule of thumb, only use the candidate’s name once or twice – like in the subject line or greeting, and reference their current company name and title at least once.

10. Choose Descriptive Words – Keep in mind that word choice really matters! If you wanted to describe your work environment as “fun,” consider replacing it with something more impactful:

• Gratifying 
• Personable 
• Action-packed 
• Delightful 

11. Tell a Short Story – Stories trigger emotions and you connect with your target candidate.

A short story could be a personal anecdote, a conversation you had with a member of the team you are supporting, or a recent client success supported by the team you are recruiting for.

Story telling has been used since the beginning of time to communicate and relate with one another. Stories are so effective because the candidate can easily see themselves as the hero within the storyline!

12. A/B Test Your Message – Send one message to half of your target candidates and a second to the other half. Change just one variable.

Try changing just the subject line. Try changing just the call to action. You get it……. When you conduct enough A/B tests, patterns will emerge. You will figure out what subject line works better for what type of candidate. Or what candidate profile responds to a more direct or indirect call to action.

Your messaging will improve when you spend the time to find out what works! 

13. Focus on Action – Anytime you are writing messages to potential candidates, use language that encourages action.

Consider these two action requests: 

• I would love to hear from you...
• Respond to this email with a time that works on Friday…

Which of these is more action focused?

Which encourages the candidate to respond, even if not interested?  If you want a potential candidate to do something, ASK THEM!


Creating compelling messages doesn’t come natural for every recruiter. Some are more adept than others, but you can learn it just like any other skill. 

Think about it this way. If you received an email from yourself, would it encourage you to reply? Does it sound different from the hundreds of emails you receive from other recruiters? Is it concise? Its it personal?  

Is it focused on a singular goal of getting the candidate to respond? Or are you selling something the candidate doesn’t need from message number one?