Passive Candidate Emails – Not the Usual Advice

I really wish the internet would purge all guidance for building potential passive candidate email templates published before 2020.  Any intelligence preceding to this year on the subject is all moot. I’m not just saying that because of the effects of Covid-19. Although, that has the distinction of making us all reconsider our talent acquisition practices. I’m saying it because we all have matured in our consumerism.

Oh yeah, and we really have a hard time trusting anyone on the internet anymore. Don’t get me started.

I am a big fan of those who have taken on the responsibilities of recruitment marketing (RM). As talent professionals, we would still be using “I came across your LinkedIn profile” if the RM pro’s hand not intervened. It is the same RM professionals that are urging Recruiters and Sourcers to change their antiquated ideals of marketing and candidate reach-out collateral. Why can’t we listen to their advice and understand times have changed?

Candidates today are evolved, woke, and disappointed in talent professionals.  The time to be transparent with our customers, as candidates, is now. If I look at this from a scholarly view, my problem statement would center around the psychology of change. What makes Recruiters and Sourcers so steadfast and resistant to new information regarding the candidate experience when it is so glaringly around us? Are we oblivious?

Why don’t we simply just look at ourselves internally and send out recruitment marketing emails we would want to receive? We still try to hit candidates over the head with job announcements? Use impersonal templates for texting and emailing? We still think one email or text template fits them all? Why are we boring?

So here it is, for the 97th time: My suggestions to talent acquisition professionals on progressing to content that is fit for the potential candidate (and consumer) of today.


Advice #1.

For the love of all things holy, toss all your old text and email templates.  Right now.  Just send them to the trash.

Start over. Clear your mind. To be honest, I used roughly the same email template to passive candidates for ten years.

Knowing you have a problem the first step to a new life.


Advice #2.

Trust recruitment marketing professionals.  Accept you know nothing, but you are ready to learn.

Read the white papers that are put out by the many solid recruitment marketing companies today.

Did you know that the weekends are a ripe time for email replies? Or that the best email is less than 150 words? Do you know what qualifies as a great subject line?  What words will trigger a spam filter?

I have my favorites, but I try to stay vendor neutral on which RM organization I use most. Google it for yourself and get educated.


Advice #3.

Here is the email I sent to potential candidates that garnered an 80% response rate, via email (as a reminder, a 10% response rate to passive emails is average).

Feel free to edit and make it your own. Sadly, we have come to a time where candidates are getting splashed with emails and content that is not relevant and insincere. It is a sign of the times, but this works.


“Hi Sally,

I wanted to let you I am a real person, not a chatbot, and this message was not sent as spam. I am contacting you today because I am genuinely interested in your background as a Mechanical Engineer…”


Advice #4.

Think like the candidate. Some of us were raised to be ultra-professional in our communication. Others bred to be casual and chummy with candidates. I don’t find either tactic works.  There should be no gimmick or pretense.

Be forthright. Without color or flowery expression, explain to the potential candidate who you are and why you are reaching out. Don’t hide your company name or contact information (per anti-spam laws, addresses are required).

If you were a passive candidate receiving this text or email, what would make you respond? For most, it is genuine sincerity. “Salesy” emails no longer work. Hello and Welcome emails outperform Sales emails three times over.

I read it in an RM whitepaper, so it must be true. Think. Like. The. Candidate.

I’m going to refrain from giving you any more examples of templates. I guarantee the candidate has probably seen all the versions out there. It is not about being creative or thinking differently. Candidates will respond to indisputable authentic connections, period.

Write the email or text as you would as a human being. Know who I am. Earn my response.

Happy Hunting.

Christine Hampton

Christine is a Doctor of Business Administration candidate researching talent sourcing strategies in healthcare. This is Christine's 29th year in Talent Acquisition, with the last 9 years focusing on sourcing and recruitment marketing.