6 Tips to Triple Your Candidate Response Rates

Meghan-Maher by

When it comes to recruiting passive candidates for high-impact roles (something tech recruiters do everyday), it’s been assumed that a 20-25% response rate is good. It’s not.

According to Jonathan Campbell, CEO of Social Talent, a 65% or higher response rate is more like it, with top recruiters gunning for something greater than 2/3.

Sound like a challenge?

Recently, Campbell shared six tips during his keynote presentation at SourceCon in Seattle that can help you achieve those kinds of numbers and become a more efficient, successful tech recruiter.

1) Medium Matters

Quick stats

  • InMails are easy to tune out: Most recruiters are using LinkedIn and sending InMails to engage talent, but only 6% report a high response rate.
  • Pick up the phone: Conversely, very few recruiters are still using the phone, but those that do report a 50% response rate.

Campbell isn’t saying you should call every candidate at their desk and try to phone interview them, but he does suggest finding ways to be different. Don’t reach out to candidates the way everyone else is doing it. Be one of the few, not one of the many.

2) Timing Matters

If you are going to call a candidate, call first thing in the morning. Typically, they have more time to chat as projects haven’t piled up yet.

Still don’t want to call? Fine, here are the best and worst times to send an email:

  • Best: Believe it or not, it’s 6am. Think about it — you wake up and the first thing you do is grab your phone and check emails and social. Candidates are much more likely to read and respond to a well-crafted email first thing in the morning.
  • Runner-up: 7-10 pm is the second best time. If you can’t get your messages out early, wait until your candidates are commuting home or winding down for the day.
  • Worst: 10am and 3pm are no-man’s lands.

Remember, you don’t need to be up at 6am to send out an email at that time. Just schedule the send (unfortunately, this feature has not been added to LinkedIn InMails just yet, however).

3) Structure Matters

According to Campbell, there are four secrets to crafting a good pitch:

  • Nail the subject: Keep it short. Make it clear. Candidates open emails for three reasons: utility, curiosity, specificity.
  • Hyper-personalize your opener: Most recruiters start with information about them: “My name is Meghan and I work for..” Instead, include a minimum of two details unique to them in the first sentence. Whether you call out their skills, current employer, college, tenure, common connections, etc. the goal is to make candidates realize your message was sent to them, in particular, not a giant email list.
  • Get right to the sell: Tell them what’s in it for them in the second sentence. Explain how the role will provide autonomy, mastery, and purpose, and why it’s integral to the company’s mission. Those are factors that lead to better performance and personal satisfaction.
  • Establish clear next steps: Remember the purpose of your pitch — getting a time on the calendar to talk and confirming it. It doesn’t have to be about the candidate’s interest in the role right now. To do that, be sure to include a time-specific call-to-action. Instead of, “When are you free to chat?” ask, “Are you available tomorrow at 8am or 4pm?”

4) Language Matters

Campbell argues that the recruiter’s challenge is transitioning passive candidates from a “fast” frame of mind to a “slow” frame of mind. Here’s what he means:

When we’re operating in a fast frame of mind we’re able to do something without really thinking about it. Ex: You have been driving for 20 years and it’s more or less automatic now. You can talk with your passengers and think about other things at the same time.

When we’re in a slow frame of mind we’re much more aware and actively focused — think of when you were first learning to drive and took much more time and care. Not only is it easier to leave a lasting impression with people when they’re in a slow frame of mind, it’s also easier to influence them.

How do you get them there? By asking a question.

Campbell suggests this makes them an active participant, and turns your outreach into a conversation, rather than a one-way broadcast. You should fill your messages with “you,” your,”, and “yours” rather than “we,” “us,” and “ours.”

You should also convey sticky ideas by utilizing concrete images. Ex: “We have 35 people in Boston, right on the channel, overlooking the water.”

5) Influence Matters

People tend to make rash decisions based on key information. For example, they may respond to your message because your profile has a picture, you share connections, or they liked your summary.

According to LinkedIn, profiles with a photo get 14x more views, and people with 2,000+ connections get 10x responses than those with less than 500.

Never underestimate the power of social validation.

6) Curiosity Matters

Candidate engagement is about being creative and getting back to basics.

Often, during tough searches, or searches with high volume, we may be tempted to “cheat” by sending mass emails in hopes of getting a response. At the end of day, however, people want to be treated like people. They want to believe that they are the candidate for the role, not just a candidate for role.

Take your time to tailor your outreach and target candidates in a way that will warrant a response, interested or not.

Photo by: Ally Schmaling

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Senior Talent Manager, Engineering