How to get candidates and clients replying to your emails

Man-frustrated-at-computer-e1517591793284-1024x542 How to get candidates and clients replying to your emails

You’ve phoned your decision maker twice today already. It went straight through to voicemail. That makes it 6 calls this week!

That superstar candidate you interviewed yesterday won’t be on the market for long. All you want to do is have an opportunity to sell them for the job.

And this is a decision maker that actually wants to work with you!

The fact is, it’s gotten harder to get through to people. In 2007 it took on average 3.68 call attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 attempts.

Why? There are 3 main reasons. The rise in smartphone usage, the increase in channels and the explosion in content.

In 2012, 39% of the adult population had a smartphone compared to 85% in 2017. This gave us access to content when and where we wanted.

And we took full advantage. We now spend a whopping 4 hours 43 minutes online per day compared to 1 hour 40 minutes in 2005.

The knock-on effect was a huge explosion in content.

As you can see from the graph, in 2011 there were 348 million published websites online compared to a staggering 1.3 billion now.



Every minute there are over 149 million emails sent, 29 million whats app messages and 3.8 million searches on Google.

Consequently, the world has gotten smaller, faster and noisier! We filter out messages we don’t want to read, and unfortunately for consultants, that will also mean you!

So how do you compete to be heard over all this noise?

Well, email is a great channel to help get people on the phone. But you have to be able to write good copy! Here are a few pointers to get more people responding to your emails and setting up calls.


Be hyper-relevant


What do I mean by ‘hyper-relevant’? Well, If the person reading your email thinks it could’ve been sent to anyone else, it’s not hyper-relevant.

Clearly, in some situations, this is easier than others. Writing a one-on-one email promoting a candidate or job role will naturally be more tailored. But be careful you’re not rehashing old templates that could make it less relevant.

Man-frustrated-at-computer-e1517591793284-1024x542 How to get candidates and clients replying to your emails

So, what about when it comes to mass email marketing then? Should you even be doing it anymore?

The advent of marketing automation, inbound marketing and of course GDPR, means it certainly needs rethinking, especially in recruitment (I’ve written a blog post on this recently!)

Indeed, on slideshare, Hubspot go further by suggesting what they call focused one on one prospecting. Essentially, this involves researching your prospects first and really personalising the content.

Don’t get me wrong, I love what HubSpot does. And there’s no doubt this will be more effective. But they have a much longer, more involved sales cycle compared to recruitment.

Mass email marketing is dead for sure. But there is an in-between, and still room for highly focused campaigns, created by consultants rather than marketing teams, targeting small groups of candidates or clients (assuming it’s GDPR compliant).

Segmentation is always the key. Group people together based on common factors. With a good CRM in place, you should be able to build targeted lists.

An example might be marketing decision makers you placed within the last month. Or candidates you phone interviewed 3 months ago with a certain skill set.

The tighter you are with your segmentation and groupings, the more hyper-relevant you’ll be able to make your messages and the better your response will be.


Does your writing pass the ‘so what’ test?


I’ve been writing campaign emails and templates in the recruitment industry for nearly 10 years now. The ones that get the higher click-through rates or responses are those that sell benefits and add value.

We all know the Jodan Belfort ‘sell me this pen’ scenario made famous by the film The Wolf of  Wall Street. The Yesware blog has a good post on how to answer it.

But at its heart, it teaches two points. Firstly, to identify the customer needs before trying to sell the pen. Secondly, focus on benefits of the pen rather than it’s features.

This is something most good recruitment consultants understand. That is until they start writing email or web copy!

Look online and you’ll see most recruitment websites write about the steps of their recruitment process rather than what it helps achieve for their clients.

Man-frustrated-at-computer-e1517591793284-1024x542 How to get candidates and clients replying to your emails

The very nature of recruitment makes this all too easy. There’s a process to follow – reviewing applications, reading CV’s, phone screening, face to face interviews, presentations, feedback, resignation and onboarding.

But ‘so what’, what value does this offer your client? How will it help them achieve their goals? (do you know what their goals even are, not just their recruitment ones?)

Writing compelling copy that gets people replying to emails is about focusing on their needs and offering solutions.

Next time you are writing an email, put yourself in the candidate or client’s shoes. Read it back and as yourself, ‘Is this something they will find useful or will they shrug and say, ‘so what’?


Write for mobile first


According to a 2017 report by Litmus, 56% of emails are now opened on a mobile device.

Look at the screenshot below. This is what we see when we review our emails on a mobile. 3 key pieces of information – the person it’s from, the subject line and the first sentence.

Man-frustrated-at-computer-e1517591793284-1024x542 How to get candidates and clients replying to your emails

We scroll down and don’t even bother opening emails anymore. A shame if you spent a long time crafting that perfect message!

Regardless of the relationship you have, you are fighting for their attention in a busy inbox.

There’s little you can do about who it’s from. They either know you or they don’t. If they do, it’s more likely to get opened. If they don’t, you might want to consider emailing warmer prospects.

Next, think about your subject line. It should create intrigue and curiosity. Think about the relationship you have and the purpose of your email. Ask questions. Personalise where you can. Make it as relevant as possible. Experiment with humour. Don’t use your company name. Most of all, keep testing.

So what about your first sentence?


Get to the point


Don’t start your emails with ‘I hope you’re well’. Let’s be honest, you don’t care. And they know you don’t care!

As we’ve said, you have 3 valuable pieces of information to get your message across. So don’t waste your first line

with words that don’t help you convey your message.

Man-frustrated-at-computer-e1517591793284-1024x542 How to get candidates and clients replying to your emails

A lot of people also use email notifications which show up on the bottom right of their screen. Your first line can be a powerful tool in getting them to open your email.

Writing in this way will help you focus your message. Think about the main point of your email. How can you write it in as few words as possible?

On average we spend 8 seconds reading an email. That includes the subject lines and opening it. You don’t have long to grab someone’s attention, get to the point.


Write short sentences


Many people write complex sentences because they think it makes them more credible. It only confuses their message and lowers their chance of getting a response.

People are busy, and scan read their emails. So, don’t waste time getting them to overthink their meaning.

Man-frustrated-at-computer-e1517591793284-1024x542 How to get candidates and clients replying to your emails

You want to be as clear and concise as possible.

According to Boomerang, the sweet spot for email length is 50 to 125 words.

This generated a 50% response rate, compared to longer emails, and as it happens, shorter ones.

There are some great tools out there that can help improve your readability. Look at the Hemingway Editor (which I’m currently using to write this blog post).

It highlights in different colours lengthy complex sentences, common errors, specific words that could be shorter, weak phrases and passive tone of voice. A very handy tool for writing good email copy.


Don’t use complicated words


Your aim is to make things as easy for people to read and understand as possible.

Verbose emails, with sophisticated vocabulary and complex language that require significant interpretation by the user, are unlikely to stimulate engagement.

Man-frustrated-at-computer-e1517591793284-1024x542 How to get candidates and clients replying to your emails

Sorry. I mean use fewer words. And make them easy to read. The Hemingway Editor went crazy highlighting that last sentence in red. It’s too long, overly complex and difficult to understand.

According to Boomerang, emails written at a 3rd-grade level (7 to 9-year olds) generated a 53% response. Emails written at a college reading level a 39% response.

We have so many distractions now we don’t have long to read emails. We want our information short, simple and easy to understand.

If you can do this, you are much more likely to get a response.


Avoid corporate jargon


This is one of my pet hates.

I don’t mean phrases like ‘blue sky thinking’ or ‘raise it up the flagpole’. These are now often used to deliberately highlight ‘corporate speak’

No, I mean those extra sentences people use in emails to make themselves sound more ‘professional’.

Man-frustrated-at-computer-e1517591793284-1024x542 How to get candidates and clients replying to your emails

Phrases such as ‘Further to our conversation please find more information below’.

Or finishing an email with ‘If I can be of any further assistance please don’t hesitate to contact me’.

You’ve built up a great relationship with a decision maker or candidate on the phone. Then it’s undermined by this strange, impersonal ‘professional’ language.

When have you ever said this in a conversation? What value does it add to your email? It’s all rather obvious.

And you’ve already used 23 of your 150-word email. Avoid overly corporate or business language at all costs.


Include a call to action


Every email should have a focus, with one or two very clear call-to-actions. So, think about what you are trying to achieve.

Man-frustrated-at-computer-e1517591793284-1024x542 How to get candidates and clients replying to your emails

It could be to get someone to read some information you’ve sent. Firstly, try and send links rather than pdf.

Web pages are far better designed, interactive, less text heavy, mobile friendly and often tracked by your email system.

Make sure your link works. Don’t include too many as it could trigger spam filters. Don’t include the full link but rather hyperlink key parts of your sentence. Think which ones make sense.

That’s the obvious part. The one I’ve never understood, and you see all the time in emails, are people sending statements.  If you want a reply, surely you need to ask a question.

Consultants are trained to use open questions to fact find on calls all the time. So why not in emails? If you want someone to reply, use open questions and continue the conversation.

If you want to find out more about improving your email marketing, please call 0203 488 0234 or sign up to our blog.

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