email checklist

Checklists are boring.  Same goes for email checklists.  They inherently stifle and limit creativity. They seem like an unnecessary distraction to the real work that I need to do. 

I felt that way for years. Then, a few years back, my boss told me to make a checklist before I reached out to a candidate. It eliminated a ton of mistakes. It forced me to completely re-evaluate some of my processes.

Weirdly, I then got interested in checklists. You may have seen this deep dive in The New Yorker years ago, but a doctor at Johns Hopkins — Peter Provonost — implemented a simple five-point intensive care checklist that ultimately saved over 1,500 lives.

This cold email outreach checklist won’t save 1,500 lives, no — but it will save time and effort, and those are crucial to the recruiting function. Nothing on here is rocket science, either; but it’s valuable to have it in one place and think through it. It’s also all based on our data.

Cold Email Outreach Checklist:

1. Use the name in the subject line

At recruiterflow, we analyzed over 50,000 cold emails sent to prospective candidates over a three-month span. On average, an email where the first name is mentioned in the subject line gets 16% better open rates.

2. Send as the hiring manager, not as the recruiter (i.e. you)

Our data suggested that hiring manager/founder/CXO emails got 29% better response rates compared to emails sent by recruiters.

3. Make the whole email less than 170 words

Smart people have great bullsh** detectors that get triggered if your pitch is littered with vanity metrics.

Let your pitch contain the impact you’ve made: the number of happy customers, revenue, or just plain number of users. Sell the Org. Don’t clutter it up. 170 was the magic number in our data for effectiveness in terms of open and response.

4. Always be following up

Our data suggest that follow up emails get 3x the responses of the first email. (Makes sense around timing issues, etc.) And good news: you can completely automate this with tools like Yesware or Recruiterflow.

5. 3-to-1 ratio for “you/your” as opposed to “we/our”

It is easy to fall into the trap of the first-person perspective. With each word that you write, you need to be conscious of the fact that the person receiving the email doesn’t care what you want or need. Your email needs to appeal to them and make it easy to act on. Our golden data ratio is 3-to-1 or higher for “you/your” in terms of open rate.

6. CTA better be dead simple

Time to think like a marketer.

My favorite call to action is to jump on a short, 15-minute call.

I like it because it’s a logical economic tradeoff: 15 minutes isn’t that much time, and the candidate isn’t yet invested in your company or the role. He/she can trade 15 minutes.

Don’t ever ask your passive prospects to go and apply on a careers page or, even worse, solve a take-home test. I tried that once. It failed miserably.

What other elements have you added to your own checklists? Let me know in the comments.

Manan Shah

Manan Shah is co-founder and CEO of Recruiterflow, recruitment CRM and ATS that helps businesses automate their candidate outreach and organize recruitment process. He previously worked as Head of Growth at Inshorts, India's highest rated news app with more than 2 million monthly active users. Follow Manan on Twitter @mananshah212, on Medium, or on Linkedin.